Ask Gardenerd: Protecting Blackberries

We got a good one from Ask Gardenerd this week: “Hello, our blackberries are thriving this year, probably because of all the rain we got in SoCal, but I am afraid the birds will get them before us, like they did with our blueberries. Do you have any tips and tricks for proper bird netting installment over blackberry bushes? Any brands or techniques you could recommend? – Micky

Good question, Micky. There are several approaches and bird netting is one of them. You might want to try tying strands of shiny Mylar bird tape to your fruiting canes first to see if you can save yourself the hassle of covering the whole thing with bird netting.  The tape reflects light, making it difficult for birds to land. It scares them away. If you have a few old CDs lying around you can use those too. The link for old CDs also shares other ideas like windmills and plastic owls.

birdie_CD

If those fail, then it’s time to construct a bird netting cage. It’s better than just throwing netting over your berries, which will get tangled and unbearable in no time. Get 6-8 six-foot rebar stakes and anchor those in each corner, and in the middle on either side (if possible). Put tennis balls or plasic cups over the top end of each stake, then drape netting over the top of all the stakes. Pin it down to the ground on the ends and in the middle, but leave yourself an easy way to lift the netting in the middle to access the berries.

You might want to zip tie the bird netting to a piece of wood or PVC pipe at the bottom so the netting is easy to lift as a curtain. See below for an example in a more extravagant PVC cage we built for a client’s tiny garden.

She can access her new garden from the sides or the front.

Here is an example of using PVC at the bottom of netting so it’s easy to lift.

If you have problems every year with birds, it might be worth the investment of time and energy to build a full enclosure. If this seems to be a new thing, try to shiny tape first. Then move to more drastic measures if the problem persists.

Oh – and make sure to tip prune your berries to prevent them from growing through the netting. That’s a mess you won’t want to deal with. It’s hard to tame nature, but this is the best method for keeping the harvest for yourself. Thanks for writing in.

Hey gardenerds! Do you have a solution that has worked for you? Post your ideas below to help Micky out.

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