Don’t Let Your Blueberries Go to the Birds!June 10, 2013
Having trouble keeping birds out of blueberries? Yep, it’s about that time when the fruit begins to turn from green to pale gray and then suddenly dots of deep purple-blue cover the shrubs. And, we humans aren’t the only ones watching for the day those sweet orbs are ready to devour. All sorts of wild birds are out there keeping an eye on our crops, too.
Fortunately, it’s relatively easy to keep those hungry winged beasts out of your blueberry patch. All it takes is a bit of temporary netting. And now’s the time to wrap your shrubs in this simple, near-invisible material.
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Here’s how & when to work with it:
Although netting could go up earlier in the season, when shrubs are in bloom, we tend to wait until the fruits are a bit more formed. Blooms tend to easily break free from the bushes under the simplest touch, and without those flowers, no fruits would form. Not-quite-ripe berries, on the other hand, are usually more tightly attached to the shrubs, and while fragile, don’t seem to break off as readily. So, that’s when we put out the netting.
Covering a blueberry bush in netting is fairly simple. Unroll (or if you’re recycling last year’s netting, untangle) your netting, so it will roll out relatively easily. You don’t want to be struggling with it a lot as you’re putting it over the delicate branches and fruit.
Carefully drape the netting over the entire bush or patch, taking care to tuck the edges of the fabric around all of the fruit. If possible, cover the plant all the way to the ground or some wily birds will hop under the netting and gorge themselves from underneath.
And, that’s about it.
Keep an eye on the patch and the netting. Some dingbat birds — especially new fledglings — may still try to get to your fruit, tangling themselves in the netting along the way. We caught a young robin in our netting a few years back and were able to set it free. We have heard tales of other gardeners finding dead birds strangled in netting. Such is the cost of living in the great outdoors, I suppose.
When your fruit is ripe, and you’re ready to harvest, carefully lift the netting away from your fruit to pick. Or, duck under the netting as you go. As the fruit becomes more ripe, its attachment to the branch also weakens with the intent being to release the seed-filled fruit to the soil where it may form a baby plant. So, try to disturb the netting only minimally to reduce the risk of breaking off ripening fruit.
After your harvest is over, you’re free to remove the netting and store it for the following year. Or, move it from the finished blueberries to other fruit that ripens later — perhaps a late season blueberry patch, goji berries or even your blackberries. If you don’t get to removing the netting right away, don’t worry about it. It’s easy enough to take off your plants when you’re raking up leaves in autumn.