I mentioned the other day that the deer had eaten all our gooseberries. I know it was the deer, because I caught them in the act, brazenly eating them in broad daylight. With the ripening blackberries right next door to the gooseberries, I knew we had to do something to protect them. The blackberries are planted in a single row about 30 feet long, adjacent to our asparagus beds. The asparagus is surrounded by some dog fencing that was there when we bought the place. It’s only about four foot tall, certainly not deer-proof, but it does limit their access and keeps them (mostly) away from the asparagus. I considered making a temporary fence using wire fencing, but decided it would be too hard for me to get in and pick the blackberries. After a little research, I settled on a solution using bird netting.
The netting I have been using for several years now is made of UV-stabilized high-density polyethylene (HDPE), and is green in color with a 3/4″ square mesh. It is lightweight and flexible, and I use it to cover my cold frames in summer as well as for protecting newly planted seedlings. I get it from American Nettings and Fabric, and they have a good selection of netting materials. To protect the blackberries, I got some that was 15 feet wide. I needed about a 60 foot length so I ordered a 100 foot roll which will give me some leftover for other uses around the garden. It’s pricey but it should last for many years, since I only plan on having it in use for perhaps two months of the year or less. Considering that fresh homegrown blackberries are priceless to me, the netting was money well spent.
I decided on a setup not unlike what I use to support my pole bean trellis. I sank metal t-posts at about 10 foot intervals. Then I ran a length of braided polypropylene rope along the top of the t-posts, securing the ends to the existing t-posts for the asparagus fencing. The rope serves to support the bird netting, which we ran vertically around the perimeter of the blackberries. I looped the rope around the other t-posts, and used wooden clothes pins to secure the netting to the rope.
The netting is secured to the ground using landscape staples and rubber disks. To be sure, the netting won’t stop a determined deer, and it won’t keep out rabbits, groundhogs or squirrels. And it’s not designed to keep birds out, since the blackberries are uncovered on top. But it will keep the deer from having easy access, and in my experience that is often all it takes to keep them away. I will spray the netting with Bobbex or Liquid Fence deer repellent, which should keep them from even nosing around too closely.
The whole project only took about an hour from start to finish, with my wife helping me put up the netting itself. The berries are ripening, and you can see in the below photo there are lots of them on the plants. We have two thornless varieties planted, Natchez and Apache, with Natchez ripening right now with Apache not far behind. I think it is safe to say there are several gallons of berries on the plants, certainly enough to keep us and the freezer full of them.
As the season progresses I’ll let you know how the netting is working. As long as the berries keep coming in I will view the project as a success!