by Michael Genthner

Growing fruit and vegetables can be a satisfying and rewarding pursuit. First of all, there is the satisfaction of cultivating delicious and wholesome food. Second, there are the aesthetic rewards: The sheer beauty of the plants themselves – think of a cluster of fiery blueberry bushes in fall or an apple or peach orchard in full bloom – can enrich our surroundings.

However, as anyone who has grown fruit and vegetables can tell you, quite a range of critters are also attracted to our plantings. There are a number of possible strategies for protecting your fruit and vegetable plantings from predation – auditory or olfactory repellents, visual deterrents, trapping, etc. Frequently, however, erecting a physical barrier is the most effective means of protection.

Barrier Options to Protect Fruit

Smart Net Systems of British Columbia is the manufacturer of commercial grade agricultural and horticultural netting for a variety of applications. OESCO, Inc. in Conway, MA, is the Eastern distributor for Smart Net Systems products and provides product support for several types of netting designed to protect fruit, vegetables and other high-value landscape plantings from predation. What sets Smart Net Systems netting apart from a lot of competing products is that their netting is knotted or knitted – not extruded – which both makes it more durable and generally easier to install.

Smart Net Systems Deer Exclusion Netting is a strong, UV protected 2 in. mesh product available in 8 x 100 or 8 x 250 ft. rolls. The netting is an unobtrusive black color and because it is knotted netting with a great deal of “give,” it conforms easily to uneven terrain. It is typically bungeed to trees in wooded settings or can be tied to wood or metal posts, spaced 15 to 25 feet apart in a backyard or open field situation.

Smart Net Systems Row Crop Insect Cover is strong, tightly knitted netting useful for protecting blueberries, strawberries, grapes or brambles and is available in 7’ X 100’, 12’ X 300’, and 15’ X 300’ sizes. The finished edges have buttonholes every inch for securing or joining netting. This type of netting provides an effective barrier to birds, Japanese beetles, grasshoppers and stink bugs and it has the added benefit of protecting tender fruit from hail.

Smart Net Systems Tree Bags offer a similar suite of protections (bird, insect and hail) for apple, pear, peach and cherry trees. The material, while similar in texture to the Row Crop Insect Cover, is an unobtrusive gray, making it suitable for residential and commercial applications where there might be aesthetic concerns. The Tree Bags come in two sizes – 12’ X 12’ X 12’ or 17’ X 17’ X 17’ and are most easily installed by inserting a T-post fashioned from PVC pipe up into the top of the bag and “walking” it into position around the trunk of the tree. A flap cut into one side of the tree bag facilitates installation.

Smart Net Systems products will be on display in the OESCO booth at ELA’s Annual Conference. We hope you will stop by and talk with us about your plant protection needs. We will also have our usual lineup of top-quality hand tools for sale, offered at 10% discount to ELA Conference attendees.

About the Author

Michael Genthner is a graduate of the Crop & Soil Sciences Dept. at Virginia Tech, where he was employed as a field soil scientist and research associate. He subsequently provided technical support and produced documentation for a scientific software product. In 2007, Michael joined OESCO where he works in sales and manages the company website. You may reach Michael by email mgenthner@oescoinc.com or phone (800) 634-5557.