However, extending this success to other larger trees and even that same apricot as it grew – despite my summer pruning purposely to keep all of their heights low enough for me to pull the netting across – ultimately resulted in gaps in coverage and tears in the netting when removing it, especially during those years that I had delayed too long to remove it and branches had woven themselves through the netting. So I ended up with bits and pieces of irregularly shaped netting intertwined with broken branches and leaves. What a mess! In frustration, I stuffed the unwieldly mass of netting and leaves and branches into a container in the garage.
The next year, I tied opaque grocery-store plastic bags (that’re now banned) around small groupings of fruit, figuring that the critters couldn’t visually determine when fruit color had changed and therefore the fruits were ready to munch, and hoping that fruit fragrance wouldn’t be a giveaway. Besides, tying the bags on the branches was really easy, compared with the netting catching on every twig. The new technique apparently worked, since I did harvest my fruit as it became ripe.
The following year wasn’t nearly as successful, as many bags were ripped and fruit gone.
Three years ago, I determined to reuse those bits and pieces of netting from the garage. This time, I chose pieces that fit individual groupings of fruits on single or closely located branches, tying them securely at their branch bases with “Ag-Tyes” from Peaceful Valley Farm Supply, http://www.groworganic.com/ag-tyes.html . Once the netting was in place and tied, I created a “harvest hole” by ripping a small hole (just large enough for my fist holding one or two fruits) at an outer location furthest away from the branch and in open space – so, theoretically, the squirrel couldn’t support himself on a branch and reach around to enter through my purposely-made hole. To harvest, I reach in with my left hand to feel which fruit is ripe, and then with my right hand clip the stem with my handclippers through the existing 1” netting hole space. This works really well, especially with fruit that individually ripens over a long time period, like persimmons – last year’s harvest lasted for three months, and I got every single fruit when I wanted it!
This technique has worked well each year since. The reapplication of netting onto individual fruit bunches does take some time, but I have to net only those portions of the tree with fruit. I do try to remove the netting as soon as the last of each fruit group is harvested, but I don’t worry any more about ripping if I delay. When I reapply it the next year, my previous “harvest holes” either aren’t apparent, or I place them in space or tie them up.