How can I protect my espalier fruit from critters?

My espaliers are along a 6 foot high wooden fence.
I enclosed my espaliers in a “rabbit” fence, put Organza bags on each of my apples and wrapped the branches bearing fruit with bird netting and the critters still got all of the fruit.
Anybody have any ideas how I could prevent critters from taking my fruit?

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Can you show pics? I may have missed something from your explanation.

Build a welded-wire enclosure.

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Full blown cages?

Hoop tunnell for line of trees


Why try to grow trees in espalier form in your environment? In our region many places have almost no mast in the woods this year so wildlife is starving- there was enough food early on but gradually is was used up and our wildlife has become desperate for sustenance.

The season before was exactly the opposite, not because there was so much food but because wildlife was starved out the winter before, which I assume will occur again this winter.

I’m hoping this isn’t going to be a biennial cycle, in the past, starvation seasons have only occured about once every 5 years. However, at many sites the critters will take all the fruit every year from unprotected trees.

Give up on espalier production and grow trees with at least 5’ of trunk before first branches so you can baffle out mammals and also net out birds when necessary. Or, as is suggested, grow your fruit under chicken wire (which chipmunks can squeeze through- even 1") that is buried into the ground and adequately supported to withstand heavy snow.

@alan I wish I did not have to use espalier but I have no room for growing fruit trees otherwise.
As far as starving critters in the winter, someone in my neighborhood feeds squirrels peanuts and birds and chipmunks get fed seeds, so I doubt that they will starve. (I think my fruit were taken by chipmunks and/or squirrels.)

@Richard Thank you for your suggestion. Unless someone has a better idea, I will do as you suggest and try building an enclosure. I will need to figure out how to build an enclosure that will be least noticeable.

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Make sure nothing can burrow under and thus into the enclosure.

This thread is especially apropos this morning.

Our security cam caught a black bear in our vegetable garden enclosure just outside our back deck.

It seems it half climbed over and half pulled down our 6’ welded wire fence so it could get to the Rubinette espalier.

I haven’t inspected closely yet but it looks like damage was minimal considering a bear broke in and out for the apples.

It didn’t touch the Gold rush, and ignored the H118 persimmon in the open with branches that droop down to within reach.

I’d upload the 6 second video, but MP4 isn’t a supported file type here.

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I had a T-shaped support structure for apple espalier, so I just used a cover made from insect barrier hanging from it and attached on the bottom to wood frame. It seems to help from both - maggots and squirrels, though it makes aphids somewhat an issue.

Could you attach vineyard type netting to the fence and then drape it over the trellis and perhaps mount it to weighted 2x4’s laying on the ground? Maybe bricks or blocks holding it down.

I took a picture but one can barely make out the espalier because the trees need considerable pruning and weeds have grown high ion front of them. This is because I simply gave up on them.
They are supported by wires attached to a 6 foot stockade wooden fence

I don’t think that would work because because the critters would be able to burrow underneath the netting. Also, they may be able to chew their way through the netting. This is what happened when I covered my strawberries with netting.

.410 #6 shot

I am very new to backyard orchards and discovering the pest battle is a large part of the challenge. My espalier is only 1 year old.

Anyway I ran into this video while researching defense strategies. They use insect netting draped over a top wire

Any thoughts from those with more experience? I certainly have squirrels, what sorts of pests would this help control? How would pruning be handled?

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The netting isnt left in place year round, so you wouls prume without it being an obstacle. It should stop birds , deer and squirrels. Probably raccoons.

I do not believe that type of netting will stop squirrels, opossums, groundhogs or raccoons.

That netting will stop insects like maggot flies, Oriental Fruit Moths type. Squirrels, raccoons, et al can easily chew through that net. At least, they have done that to my netting.

I suspect @mamuang is right: that netting will not stop most critters. I have wrapped bird netting loosely around each cordon but critters got to all of my apples. I am thinking of building a large cage, attached to the wooden fence and covering the top and front (parallel to the fence) and buried into the ground. I will use hardware cloth supported by PVC pipes or lumber. I need to figure out how to make it so that the trees will be accessible for pruning. It will look ugly but I hope it will work.