Protecting Fruit from Animals and Birds

One of the big problems faced by homeowners is protecting fruit from animals and birds. These are serious economic problems when faced by commercial growers and birds and rodents can create havoc in the fields.
So without further ado, here’s the short version of things I’ve done and would recommend in the home garden. I’ve also included some notes on things I wouldn’t do.

What Not to Do

Don’t spray with a noxious substance to make the fruit foul-tasting (so animals won’t eat it).
I suspect you’re laughing as hard as I was when I first read that little nugget online.

The fact is, if you spray something foul tasting or smelling on the fruit – you won’t want to eat it either.

And no, you can’t just spray it on the leaves as you’ll never keep it on the leaves with small fruit.
Having said that – black pepper -has been recommended by some gardeners to be dusted liberally on the plants; and has been seen to deter squirrels and chipmunks quite nicely.  (And no, it doesn’t blind the squirrels – that’s an Internet myth)
You can wash the fruit (you had better wash the fruit) to eat it yourself.
Not foolproof by any means but doable (some fruit with cracks and crevices may require extra “cleaning”).
Not recommended for fruit but as an alternative or as a last resort, you can try it.

Controlling Slugs

There are two options here.
The first is to use a noxious product containing a bait with Iron in it. There are several kinds of “Iron” being used but it’s all toxic to slugs. They eat it and die. This might take a lot of bait if you have a large patch.
The old saucer full of beer works but here’s the drill. The lip of the saucer or container has to be at ground level.
And the beer or yeast-water-mix (both work equally well) has to be about a half-inch to inch below the rim of the saucer.
Use a glass jar and sink it appropriately instead of a saucer).
If the beer or yeast is at ground level, the slugs will simply drink it without falling in.

Controlling Squirrels and Chipmunks

This is a tough one.
Squirrels are territorial and all have and protect this area from intruders. There is some overlap at the edges and they seem to accept neighbors at those overlaps.
Which is to say that your garden is probably an overlap area (well stocked food areas are almost always overlap areas) and will be used by several squirrels (always the same ones) as a food source.
So think of it as having a half dozen extra residents hanging about. I know it seems like more but the resident squirrels who own your garden will chase out invaders.

This is why if you trap a squirrel another will move in almost immediately to occupy that territory.

You can’t easily drop the numbers because of the high numbers of this animal in almost any urban environment.

If you trap and move an animal, all you’re doing is moving it into an area that’s already occupied and where it won’t have any protection from predators. It’s a slow death for most moved animals.

If you use a light bird-fence, a squirrel won’t even hesitate to chew it’s way through.
I’ve seen them try to chew through window sills (I had to shoot it) and one did chew its way through my aunt’s back door one summer (what a mess in the kitchen when they returned from holidays)
So we know that fencing doesn’t work. We know that foul tasting sprays don’t work.

What works?

Feeding them. Just about the time the fruit starts to ripen, pull out the big bags of corn or sunflower seeds and establish a feeding station for squirrels to keep them busy and out of your fruit.
They’ll feed themselves, stuff their nests and generally refer to you as the great gardener. But they’ll leave your fruit alone.

Controlling Rabbits

Rabbits are relatively easy to control next to squirrels.
We’re talking a fence with 2-inch holes at a maximum – with the bottom 6-8 inches of it buried in the ground and a board along the bottom to deter digging and lifting.
The normal style of chain-link fencing is fine for this purpose. This regular stuff won’t keep baby bunnies out (those guys seem to fly) but it will keep adults out of the penned in area.
Doors are a weak point and are often where you’ll see a 3-inch gap where any self-respecting rabbit can easily squeeze through.
Do not use plastic fencing – rabbits and rodents chew their way through that using the fence as dental floss for your fruit.

Controlling Birds

Birds are controlled by using bird netting. This thin plastic netting is draped over supports to keep it off the fruit and the birds away from the fruit.
You really have to make sure there are no entrance holes because if there are, a bird will find them for sure and you’ll return to a crazed bird poking holes in the netting or worse, a dead bird.
Confirmed fruit growers have been known to make full adult-sized frameworks in their gardens – covering them with netting (think greenhouse covered with bird netting) in order to protect their fruit.
Some gardeners recommend hanging old cd’s in the garden to rotate and throw shadows so the birds won’t stay.
You’re going to find all manner of bird-scare devices out there from a plastic snake (doesn’t work) to a noise-cannon-banger (really, really annoys the neighbors and by-law enforcement officer).
Let us know what you’ve used in the comments.

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One thought on “Protecting Fruit from Animals and Birds”

  1. What about raccoons in the cherry tree? Haven’t had any for the last two years as they have cleaned the trees out and have done a lot of damage in the process!

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