CO-Horts Blog

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Protecting our precious fruit trees from ravenous squirrels!

 A guest blog by Adams County Colorado Master Gardener Heidi Stark 

This has been a magnificent fruit year on the Front Range—peaches, apples, plums—so many luscious varieties that tempt the backyard gardener. However, those darned squirrels have figured out that my fruit trees are a smorgasbord for their summer dining. We have covered our trees in the past, but the trees have gotten rather large, and I wasn’t sure if my mesh netting would adequately cover the peach tree.

About five years ago, I purchased a bolt of wedding tulle. It was 25 yards long and about 54 inches wide. Since I am a sewer, I unrolled it, laid it on the grass, and cut it equally into four lengths, then sewed it together in an oblong. I had hoped it would cover my trees and keep the critters out. This year, I watched the webinar Carol O’Meara gave on April 30, “Protecting Gardens from Animals” (link for this recording is One picture on the Power Point was a tree using an umbrella frame as the support structure for the cover. Since I had recently acquired an old patio umbrella, I removed the canvas. We pounded a 10-foot piece of conduit into the ground right next to the tree trunk and placed the umbrella frame over it. It stands about 12 feet tall. We lashed the pole to the tree trunk with a couple of bungee cords.

Getting the mesh cover over the tree is tricky. It’s a little easier with three people lifting the cover up using additional long poles and even our pole pruner. Once we had the cover draped evenly over the canopy, we clothes pinned some sections of green bird netting to the mesh to make sure the cover reached the ground. Using garden staples, we tacked the netting down to the ground.

The mesh netting did tear at the apex where it sat on the umbrella frame due to the wind. Next year, I will reinforce this area to prevent this from happening. The opening did allow birds to enter and damage some of the fruit, but no squirrels were able to get into the cover (goal success!). We had a spot at ground level that was relatively easy to un-clothespin to allow access to pick the peaches as they ripened. The tree even survived a hailstorm that occurred on August 19. I watched the hailstones bounce off the mesh. In total I harvested well over 100 pounds of peaches off my backyard tree. Nothing says local like a fresh, juicy peach from your own backyard. 

We have now transferred the mesh cover to our Honeycrisp apple tree to keep those pesky squirrels out of our treasured apples. Within a couple of weeks, we will harvest the crop and the cover will go back into the garage for the next year! 

1 comment:

  1. What great information - not just using a patio umbrella as a frame, but about the netting standing up to hail and moving the netting as different fruit ripens.
    Thanks for sharing!