Bird Netting to Protect Grapes

For those of you who do have fruit this year and are looking forward to a harvest, you should be considering protecting your fruit from loss to birds.  The birds naturally know to start eating the fruit by the change in color.  And, since many of you are already seeing some berries and/or clusters starting to change color, you may wish to employ your protection sooner than later.  As most of you know, the only sure protection is achieved by using netting.  Reflective scare tape, scare balloons, plastic owls, and the like, do not really work...at least not in the long run.  The birds tend to become familiar with them, and then they are no longer effective.  If you are interested in using netting, I recommend AviGard Easy Fit, which is good quality and reasonably priced.  It is also what many of my friends and clients are using, and also what we install when requested.  

Also, I have developed a technique for improved "draping" of the netting over your vines, which I will happily share with you in a separate email.  I will also post it on the website.  Why drape your netting?  Well, if you just put netting on your vines without making some effort to drape it, the birds will land on the netting and stick their little heads in and peck the fruit.  The idea is to get the netting as far from the fruit as possible.  It is also necessary to stake or pin your netting to the ground to prevent those birdies from getting under the net and getting to your fruit...although once they do, they tend to get stuck under the net.  Neither result is any fun for you or the bird.

One other thing before you net.  If you have not been doing so already, you should be pruning your vines to prevent shoots from growing too far away from the vine itself.  Many of you have seen those "runners" that can travel 20, 30, and 40 feet down a trellised row!  Not good.  The vine is spending a lot of precious energy on those runners, and also putting its growth energy too far away from the primary zone of the vine, which can result in problems next year.  So, if you have a trellised vineyard (end posts, wire, etc.), don't let any shoots travel more than 8" higher than the top catch wire.  And, keep your trellised vines well managed by keeping shoots and canes trellised properly on your wires.  

So, when you are ready to net, you want to have your vines pruned properly, otherwise your netting will be all over the place.  Also, because the net will be in place for more than a few weeks, the vines will naturally send young shoots through the netting and also wrap some new tendrils on the netting.  When it's time for harvest, and your are rolling up your nets, care should be taken to remove shoots and tendrils from the netting so that the netting can be properly rolled up and stored for use the next year (properly cared for, your netting can last for years of repeated use).  

For those of you with "staked" vines, you also should be pruning your vines to prevent canes from hitting the ground or growing over to the other vines.  Netting them is similar to the above.