Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Lovely Creatures of the Wild...Go Eat Somewhere Else!

See those grapes up there? They're Ruby Red Seedless grapes. I have a vine in my backyard.  On a good year, I'll get over 30 pounds off of this one vine.

Don't believe me? Here's one day's harvest from a couple of years ago.

They're really delicious and that's both a blessing and a curse.   

It's a curse because all the birds, possums, and raccoons in the neighborhood also know it.

It's a battle to keep all the grapes on the vine until they ripen. If I don't do anything, the critters will strip the fruit bare. This is the perfect time of year to do something about it.

Above is our grape vine as of this early March morning. You can see it's at the peak of it's dormant phase. If I want to work on it, now is the time...I expect I'll have bud break next weekend.

I need to put in barriers that will allow the plant to grow but block access to our animal friends.  For the ground varmints, like Mr. Opossum above, we installed this permanent chicken wire cage around the bottom of the plant that blocks access from below.

It's pretty straightforward...get a long enough piece from your local hardware store, wrap around the bottom of the trunk, tie the ends together...and you have a critter denial cage.

From above, we get the birds and squirrels. The mockingbirds and scrub jays particularly find our grapes irresistible.

This is the part that requires a bit more work.  I need to cover the vine with netting but if I do, it hinders the vine's growth and production. If I wait until the grapes are on the vine, the twigs, leaves, and fruit make it impossible to drape over.

What I need to do is put it on a little bit and just have it ready for later. Here's how we do it. First, I get some wildlife netting. Any good garden center should have some. It's not expensive.

The netting is very catchy and clingy. It even adheres to the surface of the bricks in our wall. This makes it impossible to easily get on. My wife, who we nickname "Momgyver" for her mechanical problem solving skills, comes to the rescue. 

She brings out an old sheet, spreads in on the patio, spreads the netting on top of that, then rolls up the sheet with the netting inside.

This makes it very easy to slip in behind the plant.

We unroll the sheet up the wall behind the vine...the netting is on the other side of the sheet in the photo above. With the sheet, it's a piece of cake.

Next, we pull up the sheet at the bottom a bit to expose the bottom of the netting and use some twist-ties to secure it to the chicken wire cage.

Here's another look at the twist-ties.

Finally, we remove the sheet and drape the excess netting over the back of our wall.

There it will sit until the grapes start to ripen, usually in July, weighed down by a couple of bricks. At that time, we'll take the excess, drape it over the front, and secure it to the other half of the netting. Then, the entire plant will be encased in it, allowing the fruit to finish ripening and blocking access to the animals that love to eat them. At the end of the summer, we should have some very tasty grapes to show you.

Copyright 2013 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved.

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