Bagging entire trees, or dancing on the rain slick precipice of madness


#1

To consolidate discussion of bagging entire trees, experiences/results, etc.

I first attempted to bag some entire trees last year. This is my second year at this and I am no expert.

Here is a little bit of my final review for my 2020 cherry bagging project on Juliet cherries.

Bottom line… I feel like I had huge success. We had a couple days of solid rain right when I had originally planned to harvest and that resulted in some splitting and a little subsequent rot, but I lost probably only a couple dozen to fungus total. The splitting affected maybe 10% of the crop and it was no real loss because I just used them in jam.

Example of rot

General fruit quality was very high.

I think Juliet is a real winner in my area and could be grown organically with netting. The late rain and the associated splitting/rot was my only issue really and as fruit problems go was minimal.

edit:

I just want to add to make this somewhat more scientific that almost adjacent to these Juliet cherries were some larger Carmine Jewel bushes that I did not bag but did treat a couple times with Bonide Plant Guard:

https://www.bonide.com/products/insect-and-disease-control/view/2011/fruit-tree-and-plant-guard-conc

I got good results from the Carmine Jewels but had a lot more PC issues despite the sprays. It isn’t fun when you are cooking your jam and worms float up to the top… (generally I can spot infested fruit but apparently not always…)

Next year I plan to go 100% bags.


Standard cherry trees vs. SWD
#2

I am in Fairfax County VA, just outside of DC, Zone 7A.

I have been growing bush cherries for several years but they were always Carmine Jewels before this year.

Because I am growing in a backyard and am not really concerned about cost or return on investment the bags have worked well for me this year and last.

The biggest drawbacks I have seen so far are:

You have to keep the trees small enough to fit. (not a problem since I am just growing for fun and don’t need maximum yield)

You have to buy the bags, and they aren’t super cheap depending on the size. (300"x300" is $113, though that is really quite big)

Agfabric

Insect Barrier Netting Bag with Zipper

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Despite trying to cinch the bags tight around the trunks of the tree I have still caught a few birds each year and had to release them. The bags also catch all dropped fruit and general refuse creating a potential disease issue. (meaning I have had to repeatedly open and close the bags to free birds, remove dropped fruit, etc, I may not be spraying but the bags are not effortless.)

You have to be as disciplined about putting the bags on as you would spraying. If you don’t get the trees covered before the PC arrive you will close them in. (I have done this.) Of course if you spray inside the bag at least one application will solve the problem.

I have seen dramatically increased aphid issues inside the bags (lack of predators?), but they don’t appear to have caused any great harm.

The bags have constrained the growth of the trees, resulting in them growing to the shape of the bag… not sure if this is a big problem yet.

Your neighbors may think you are nuts.

The benefits are pretty obvious:

I have gotten much prettier, cleaner fruit using the bags than trying other approaches.

Bags protect against both insects and birds, so if you are going to use bird netting anyway you might as well just use insect barrier netting.

Other than getting the bags on promptly at petal fall they are more forgiving in terms of weather/scheduling. You don’t have to worry about a rainstorm washing away Surround right as the PC are arriving.

Things I still don’t know:

I don’t have long-term results basically.

I don’t know about the durability of the bags. I am on year 2 so far.

I don’t know whether disease issues will become greater in the future. That the bags would create an ideal environment for disease was my primary concern going in and that hasn’t been the case so far.


#3

I have been having luck bagging entire plum trees and cherry bushes with insect barrier netting.

Of course this isn’t a perfect solution but I have been succeeding in getting some pretty fruit without spraying. (other than some dormant copper and some myclobutanil right at the start of the year)

At some point I plan to do a more comprehensive post on the results of my experience with the tree bags.

Early Golden plum inside bag… yes I should have thinned these more but too late now.


#4

bagging my cherries this year for the 1st time. do you bag them as soon as the fruit start to color or before that?


#5


Close-up of trunk.


Not today…


Group shot, plum trees.

Next year I may apply a fungicide/insecticide spray at the time I net. Basically I would spray the trees, wait a few hours, and then net.

My primary goal isn’t actually completely organic fruit obviously, but just getting pretty fruit with minimal effort or spraying. One spray in the spring, months before harvest would leave the fruit effectively organic at least in terms of residue, etc.


#6

I bag them as soon as the petals drop, and if you can manage it I would try a framework because the weight of the bag will pull the cherry branches down. That is something I hope to explore next year.


#7

i plan too. my trees are still young and are top heavy already so I’m afraid if i don’t give something for the netting to rest on, i might break a tree.


#8

Where have they been for the past 15 years? I just put six in my wish list! They are out of stock.


#9

Fungicide this spring but otherwise no-spray.


#10

What size tree does the 300 in x 300 in cover? Hard for me to envision what 300 x 300 means.


#11

I don’t have any that large but I would assume it is a pretty good sized tree. I think maybe mine are 120"x120"? I would need to check.


#12

I think I’ll plant my stonefruit grafts all considering, now. I was gonna sell them but this opens up a whole new world.

If you put a layer of Tanglefoot around the trunk under the bag and above and inside, that’ll stop all the crawling-critters.


#13

Dax,
As you may know, it is not recommended to smear TangleFoot right on tree bark esp. on young trees. Trees can be girdled and die that way. One should wrap a trunk with a plastic band or some material tightly and smear TangleFoot on that surface. Remove the wrap after harvest.


#14

Thanks for posting this. I would say the main drawback is the trees will grow and it can get hard to keep it fitting. I was covering my figs in the winter and every year I needed a bigger cover and it got harder to prune to fit and eventually I gave up.

Other than that it looks like a great idea. On top of the bugs it will deter squirrels birds groundhogs deer etc which is my biggest problem these days, not the bugs.


#15

Yes, trees getting bigger is certainly an issue. With bush cherries, beach plums, etc, I can see it working for a fairly long time.

In any case I like that I can get some pretty fruit, even if on a small scale. This is just a hobby for me.