The reward for taking the time to grow you own fruit and veg is all in the eating, but unfortunately us humans are not the only creatures partial to a bit of pick-your-own! To ensure your produce ends up in the right stomach, it is important to protect your crops from airborne attack. The best way to do this is to cover your crops with netting.
To do this successfully, you will need to construct a framework to support the netting.
For low growing crops like strawberries, a system of hoops can be sunk into the ground.
For taller crops, you will need to construct a cage.
There are of course plenty of bespoke kits that can be purchased for this purpose, but a thriftier approach is to create your own cages. This can be done using bamboo canes, or wooden stakes for larger constructions, plus lots of twine/rope or purpose made connecters, to secure the joins.
Also, commonly used, as a thrifty alternative are blue water pipes, which are cut to the desired length. To secure them, you half bury a short garden cane into the soil, then slot the pipe on top of the exposed part of the cane. Bend the pipe into a hoop-shape, then slot the remaining end over a second, half buried cane.
Netting comes with various different hole sizes, so it's important to make sure that you use a size that is small enough to keep the pest in question out.
Cabbage white butterflies
All members of the brassica (cabbage family) should be protected from cabbage white butterflies. Cabbage white butterflies are notably active from around June onwards. They lay their yellow eggs in clusters on the underside of brassica leaves. Once hatched, the caterpillars can quickly munch their way through your crops, contaminating what is left with caterpillar poo (frass)
Net size: No greater than a 7mm hole size, or use a fine mesh
Birds love the berries, so consider netting for your strawberries, raspberries and any of your currents.
Net size 19mm is ideal as pollinating insects still have access. If you use a smaller net size, then wait for pollination to occur before you net. The presence of developing fruit indicates pollination has occurred.
Carrot fly lay their eggs around the developing carrots and once hatched, the larvae start to bore their way through the root, leaving rusty brown scars and rendering the carrot inedible. Carrot flies are also partial to parsnips, celery and parsley too.
Net size: a fine mesh is required to keeps the flies at bay. This can be draped over a framework, or constructed as a 70cm high fence, which is higher than the flies can fly.
Securing the netting
Netting needs to be secured, so the net is taught. This helps prevent damage to the net from the wind, and importantly stops birds from getting tangled up in the net. It is also crucial to secure the net to the ground so that there are no gaps that persistent birds or insects can find their way through, and they will persist! Tent hooks are really useful for securing nets. Special pegs (below) are available for fleece and mesh