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Thursday, February 27, 2014

Aesthetically Pleasing Bird Netting

It is a fact: if you garden, you will be in a constant battle with the birds. Years ago, when I began gardening, I did not want the birds to touch a single piece of fruit in my yard. We had a peach tree, and when I would see a bird in the tree, I would run outside and chase it away. That year I was in the best shape of my life from all that running, although my wife was constantly perplexed as to why I would bolt out of the door in the middle of dinner. I tried using bird netting, and the birds would figure out a way to get in. And then they would get stuck and inevitably die in the netting, and I had dead birds to deal with. So I started talking to farmers and avid gardeners and asked what they did. The response: most farmers don't worry about the birds. They accept the fact that birds will get some produce. They do what they can to deter the birds, but birds are part of nature, and they eat many of the bugs that we don't want in our gardens, so we accept that they are part of the ecosystem.

ALWAYS work with a helper
That being said, I still get hopping mad when I've been waiting for the perfect moment to taste a succulent fresh strawberry only to have some feathery jerk with wings pick it off  before me.

There are many things that can be done. I have a friend who puts old socks on her pomegranates as they ripen to keep the birds from bothering them. I didn't know why she had so many socks on her tree the first time I saw it. I thought that maybe she had found a sock tree, so I started looking for some new argyles. Alas, she was not growing them.

So socks are one option, but I wanted something to cover my strawberry patch that would also be aesthetically pleasing. The solution: copper pipe bird barrier.

Total cost - approximately $50, although I had many of the pieces/parts already in my workshop
Total time - 30 minutes to 1 hour
Materials (for my specific garden bed) - Three 10-foot sections of 1/2 inch copper pipe, eight 1/2 inch elbows, two 1/2 inch tees, bird netting

Spin the tube cutter around as you tighten the blade
I started by creating the general layout (which will vary from garden to garden). Based on the size and shape of my garden bed, I decided that I needed one support in the middle and a support on each end. The copper pipe creates the frame for the netting so it is not resting on the strawberries. Because strawberry plants do not grow very tall, the vertical pieces only needed to rise about 18 inches above the plants, with about 6 inches going below the soil to secure the pieces (so we add the two, carry the one, and come up with 2-foot sections for the vertical pieces). I do not like to have waste, so I cut five 2-foot sections from one piece of pipe. I then determined the horizontal runs, again based on the size of my garden, and cut those pieces as well.

For years I used a hack saw to cut copper pipe. It was tedious work and created rough edges. A few years ago, I discovered this pipe cutter. It is an absolute breeze to cut copper, the cuts come out perfectly, and there is no cleaning of burrs needed. Awesome! Some of you may be suffering from deja vu, as this is pretty much the exact same experience I had with a PVC cutter.

Center support
Once everything was cut and ready to go, I assembled it. The elbows created the transition from the vertical run to the horizontal run. In the corners, I used tees to create an additional horizontal run (see pictures below if the description makes no sense). The fits were tight enough that I did not use any adhesive. This will allow me to disassemble it if needed and store it easily. If you wish to use an adhesive, a dab of hot glue will keep it in place and still allow you to disassemble it.

Next, I secured the bird netting to the backside of the copper piping with zip ties, and then used screws in the raised bed to stretch the bird netting taught across the copper frame. This allows me to lift the bird netting from the front to harvest strawberries.

Tee creates an additional vertical run on the corner.
Added bonus, the netting also prevents my not-quite-two-year-old son from "harvesting" the strawberries prematurely, an activity he recently decided was almost as much fun as trains and fire trucks. So I guess I could have called this Baby Netting. Get around that, ankle biter.







Covered strawberries waiting for harvesting
After a couple of days the pipe is already starting to patina.

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