Protecting the fruit that you are growing from birds, animals and the weather is no insignificant task. No one likes to see their hard work (or money) going down the pan, so here at First Tunnels we’ve put our heads together to compile our best advice to help you to protect all of your hard work.
Keeping your fruit safe starts before you’ve even planted it. Preparing your garden is crucial to growing successfully. The first step is to make sure that your soil is in as good condition as it can be. Most gardens have adequate soil for growing fruit, however adding some extra soil at this point will only help you to have a bountiful crop!
The next crucial step in protecting your garden is to choose the areas where you will be planting as wisely as possible. Certain fruit work better in wetter, boggier conditions like cranberries for example, but waterlogged soil is a very difficult base for growing fruit. The same goes for dry ground, which is also a very problematic growing ground. Both of these problems can be solved by good irrigation. Aside from making sure that your soil will work for growing fruit, you also need to make sure that you plant in an area that gets plenty of sun and some shelter from the wind whether it’s from planting against an existing wall or fence.
Drawing up a plan of your garden (no matter how small your garden is) will help you to maximise the amount of space available, so that you can grow bumper crops of anything that takes your fancy. By allowing plenty of space between your plants and following our advice about making your sure your soil is in good condition and ensuring that your plants get plenty of light, you’ll soon have a huge crop of apples, pears, plums, cherries or figs! Even beginners can successfully grow fruit such as these as well as apricots, peaches, nectarines, raspberries, grapes, kiwi berries, blackberries, blueberries, currants, gooseberries, and strawberries.
That’s all very well good in the pre-planning stage, but how do you go about protecting your fruit once it has started to grow? One of the best ways to protect your fruit crops is to use a fruit cage. Fruit cages are a brilliant way to ensure the safety of your harvest. They come in a huge variety of sizes so there’s a fruit cage suitable for every garden. As everyone knows, birds are of course a major threat to your growing soft fruit. A fruit cage will help to keep them at bay as well as preventing your crop from even the blight butterflies. First Tunnel fruit cages are supplied with ground staples to position the net into the ground with mesh sides. Another way to make sure it is only you that reaps the rewards of your hard work is to grow fruits that are less attractive to birds, such as, yellow cherries.
Aside from pests like birds, rabbits and butterflies, you also need to protect your growing fruit from cold weather. Luckily in the UK, our winters don’t get cold enough to harm our trees. In the first few weeks of spring, when the mornings and nights can still be very cold. Flowering plants are susceptible as well as fresh buds and fertilised flowers, so it is recommended that protection should continue for over two weeks after flowering. Of course, in the pre-planting stage you presumably chose to plant in the areas in your garden that are the least prone to frost. If this was not possible due to the size of your garden, then cover your soft fruit bushes and small fruit trees with horticultural fleece.
It is important to roll up or remove the fleeces during the day in order to allow the daylight and sun’s warmth to nurture the plants, but remember to re-apply the fleece at night to keep them protected during the cold nights. Apply mulch to help radiate heat and protect your blossoming plants. If you leave in a cooler climate then look at planting some of the more robust, frost-tolerant plants.
Finally, it is also important to protect your plants from disease outbreaks. There’s been a lot in the news lately about the impact of chemical sprays on gardens, so if you want to avoid chemicals then try feeding plants with a seaweed extract to boost their natural defences. All of these approaches combined with one of First Tunnel’s fruit cages will ensure that you have a bumper yield next harvest season.