Here is result of using MrClint’s homemade metal screen fruit protector. I made couple hundreds more of bags. I tried metal screen and plastic screen material both . I would say both are doable. Here is my comments on both material. Cost Wise, plastic a little cheaper, but not much for a back yard grower with small amount of trees, I use pet resistant screen. From application point of view, plastic bag is more user friendly, easier to handle, less of scratch on hands or fruits/tree branches when install or uninstall the bags. The metal screen bags’ edge is kind rough and ravels a bit. The metal screen is tougher than plastic, seen less damaged bags. But I don’t think animal can chew enough of big hole to steal the fruit inside in large scale. One thing I really like the metal screen is its lighter weight. After the tree is loaded, the weight can be a added issue, with hundreds of bags hanging on the tree branches.
Both material served me well this year. First time in 5 years, I harvested about 90+ reliance so far and 100+ unripe July Elberta are still hanging on the tree. I would recommend people with few trees to using bagging method to protect fruits from small animals, way more economic, less of hassle , just invest more time to put bag on and take it down. We pick fruits each day so the labor is spread into over a week or so, not really big deal to pick 10 fruits a day.
Another good thing of use bag is that you can let the fruit drop into the bag and not worried about hit the ground and damaged the soft fruit. 100% tree ripe, uhm, it tastes sooo good.
I am thinking about use them on my Asian pear since it is getting ripe and will draw squirrel’s attention sooner or later. But in the past, I picked the pears before they are fully ripen so plastic bags worked too.
I tried making these screen fruit protectors for a few years about 3 years ago. But my trees were(still are) young and I ended up with the protectors on the ground, fruit spur or branch still attached. I know the local ground squirrels will chew through the plastic mesh (plastic hardware cloth) since they’ve done it plenty of times where I’ve protected vegetables (in containers) with it. I’ve never heard of “pest resistant screen material, that might be easier to use that what I’m currently using, aviary cloth (1/2” chicken wire).
This year I found something that worked…I’m making protector baskets out of aviary cloth and stabilizing them with metal tubing (EMT pipe from Home Depot), so a squirrel can swing from the basket all he want, and won’t be able to pull the fruit spur/branch off the tree.
Jbclem are you covering the whole tree with the baskets? I can’t tell from the pics. I used to do something very similar with some stone fruit I grew in pots. I literally built a wood frame and covered it with chicken wire and ran drip to each tree. Each frame had a door and everything. Man what a project!
It’s easier and more economical to build a structure around the whole orchard. Put a door on it and there’s no work other than opening and closing the door. Plant the trees closely on dwarf stock or multigraft on larger trees. I had a structure like this once about 20ft by 20ft. Mostly for grapes and nectarines. Full protection from birds and hail. I even tried covering it with carpet during spring freezes but that was questionable at best even with a flat top. Wish I had a picture. Covering was half inch galvanized hardware cloth.
Yes I caged each tree individualy and wished I had done the whole area instead. I tried the screen bag years ago too. I stapled the mesh over a zip lock and did each fruit. Worked great first year. See on year squirrels ripped off the whole bag many times over. I am going try this again though in my new place and make the bags larger like I see in the pictures. I hope I can make that work.
One of those trees actually has 3 baskets and the one behind it has one basket. They are in a cramped area with other plants/trees in containers, so this is much easier(and way cheaper) than trying to cover an entire tree.with a nicely made cage. It’s ugly but seems to be effective.
Here’s a photo of a young in-ground pear tree with 3 baskets. The cage around the tree is for deer, and is made from stucco wire. Stucco wire is made in the USA, identical to chicken wire except in it’s quality (much better quality) and cheaper (150’ x 36" roll for around $54) than the chinese chicken wire you buy at Home Depot.
Here’s an alternate way I’m trying this year to protect the fruit. Electric fencing. This photo shows two young plum/pluot trees inside a stucco wire cage with an electrified wire and a ground wire just above the stucco wire. The wire cage also works as a ground. I have these cages around all of my young trees, and I’ll electrify a few more next year.