garden netting tips

Bird Netting – How to Protect Your Garden from Birds

Bird netting is an essential tool for gardeners looking to protect their hard-earned fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants from damage caused by birds. Planting a seed and watching it come to life is one of the most exciting things to us gardeners. Coming back the next day to find that your seedling has been snatched up by a bird can be disheartening. As a gardening enthusiast, I understand the frustration that comes with discovering your prized plants have been feasted upon by our feathered friends. That’s why I’ve created this comprehensive guide on bird netting, to help you make informed decisions and effectively protect your garden.

Bird netting not only offers a safe solution to keeping birds away from your garden, but it also provides numerous benefits, such as maintaining the quality and yield of your crops, safeguarding your plants from diseases spread by birds, and contributing to a more enjoyable gardening experience. Netting is sometimes needed to keep seeds, seedlings, and even mature plants safe from birds. There are many methods to choose from, and varying sizes and quality of netting. A netting system set up well is the surest way to keep birds from eating our plants.

From a birds-eye view, your garden looks like a buffet, and we don’t want that. Birds have plenty to eat elsewhere and you deserve to harvest the fruits of your labor. In this post, I’ll be covering various types of bird netting, installation tips, alternative bird deterrent methods, and practical advice for using bird netting to ensure the success of your garden. Check out these garden netting tips to keep the bounty of your garden safe from hungry birds, and open to beneficial pollinators.

bird netting tips

Bird Netting Tips

When it comes to garden netting, it’s helpful to be informed on how to pick the right netting, how to set it up safely and effectively, and some extra tips and tricks to make it all come together smoothly.

Read ahead for general tips to help get you started.

Tip #1 – Protect Specific Plants

When using bird netting, it’s advisable to focus on protecting particular plants that require defense, rather than opting for a blanket approach. The reason behind this is that certain birds are actually beneficial to your garden and contribute to its overall health and productivity.

Several bird species serve as natural pest control agents, consuming insects that might otherwise damage your plants. Examples of these helpful species include sparrows, bluebirds, cardinals, and grosbeaks. Some birds, like orioles and hummingbirds, are renowned pollinators that help facilitate the growth and reproduction of various plants. Additionally, birds such as finches, towhees, and sparrows contribute to weed control by feeding on weed seeds, thus reducing their spread in your garden.

Given the advantages that these birds bring to your garden, it’s essential to strike a balance between protection and promoting a thriving ecosystem. Start by identifying the specific areas that need safeguarding, such as your vegetable garden, fruit trees, or ornamental plants. By concentrating on these vulnerable spots, you can prevent unwanted bird damage while still allowing beneficial birds to access the rest of your garden.

Implementing targeted protection strategies not only conserves the ecological balance in your garden but also reduces the amount of netting material required, saving you time and resources. This thoughtful approach to using bird netting helps you maintain a healthy, flourishing garden while minimizing the negative impact on its natural inhabitants.

bird netting tips

Tip #2 – Get Enough Material

Securing sufficient netting material for your specific requirements is crucial to effectively protect your garden from bird damage.

Begin by identifying the precise area you want to safeguard, including any plants, trees, or garden beds that require coverage. Measure the dimensions of this space and calculate the square footage to determine the amount of netting you’ll need. Remember that netting is typically sold in rolls, measured by the foot.

It’s wise to purchase a little extra netting to account for the edges and any adjustments needed during installation. Having a few additional inches at the borders allows you to pull the netting taut and secure it properly where it meets the ground. This ensures optimal protection and prevents birds from finding their way underneath the netting.

Moreover, having extra netting on hand is beneficial for future repairs or expansions. Over time, your netting may suffer wear and tear or accidental damage, and having surplus material readily available allows for prompt repairs. Additionally, if you decide to extend your garden or protect new plants, the extra netting will come in handy, saving you time and effort in acquiring more.

Tip #3 – Get Good Quality Netting

Choosing the right bird netting is essential for effectively safeguarding your garden from birds and preventing potential damage to your fruits, vegetables, and ornamental plants. There are several types of bird netting available, each with its own advantages and drawbacks. The most common types include polyethylene, nylon, polypropylene, and stainless steel.

Polyethylene netting is a lightweight and durable option that’s perfect for covering large areas. This UV-resistant netting can withstand sunlight exposure for extended periods without deteriorating. Its cost-effective nature makes it an ideal choice for gardeners on a budget seeking a reliable solution.

Nylon netting is known for its strength and flexibility, allowing it to conform to various shapes and structures in your garden. Although more expensive than polyethylene, its durability makes it a wise investment for long-term use. Nylon netting is also less visible than other types, which can help maintain the aesthetic appeal of your garden.

Polypropylene netting is another lightweight option that offers excellent resistance to weathering and UV damage. It’s less expensive than nylon but still provides great durability. This type of netting is suitable for gardeners seeking an affordable yet effective solution to deter birds.

Stainless steel netting is the most robust and long-lasting option available, designed to withstand harsh weather conditions and resist rust. While it’s the priciest option on the list, it’s an excellent choice for gardens that require heavy-duty protection against persistent bird problems.

Tip #4 – Use A Sturdy Frame

A strong and reliable frame is crucial for supporting your bird netting effectively. The frame serves as the backbone for holding up the netting, ensuring it remains secure and functional. Typical materials used for constructing bird netting frames include wooden stakes, galvanized steel, PVC, or sturdy, flexible wire.

When choosing a material for your frame, prioritize quality, durability, and stability. Although repurposing materials can be economical, it’s essential to ensure they are up to the task of supporting the netting. Bird netting is generally lightweight, so you don’t need an overly heavy-duty frame, but it should be robust enough to withstand wind and weather.

To enhance the stability of your frame, be sure to anchor the PVC, wire, or wooden stakes firmly into the ground. A depth of at least 5-6 inches is recommended to provide a secure foundation. Keep this in mind when determining the length of each piece required for your frame.

Tip #5 – Small Gauge

Netting comes in different gauge sizes. This refers to the size of the gaps formed by the net. Netting is available in a wide variety of gauges. For bird netting, you’ll want a small gauge, as small as 1/4 inch. Don’t go much bigger than an inch or an inch and a half.

While a bigger gauge may ultimately keep birds out, they run the risk of being a hazard to them as well. If they can get their beak and head in comfortably, but not the rest of their body, they can get stuck or injured. They may also be able to reach your plants through a wide gauge.

Keep Birds Away From Your Garden

Tip #6 – Ensure Proper Netting Security

Securing your bird netting appropriately is crucial for effectively protecting your garden and preventing harm to both birds and plants. Properly staked netting to the ground or firmly attached to its frame ensures that birds cannot penetrate the barrier or get trapped, which could cause injury to the bird and damage your plants.

To weigh down and secure the netting, you can utilize materials readily available around your home or yard, such as scrap lumber, bricks, or rebar. Garden stakes are also an excellent choice for anchoring the netting. Ensure that all corners and sides of the netting are weighed down or staked firmly to maintain a taut and impenetrable barrier. Once the netting is secure, trim away any excess material to prevent loose edges that could potentially entangle birds or be an access point for them.

Tip #7 – Chicken Wire

While plastic netting is preferred by many gardeners, chicken wire can be used as netting too. It is a little more difficult to work with due to its sharp edge points. Be sure to wear gloves when handling chicken wire.

Like plastic netting, make sure the gauge on the chicken wire is small, no more than 1.5 inches. Also, chicken wire will last longer if you store it in a protected area while not using it.

Tip #8 – Leave Enough Room

Sometimes it can be hard to gauge how tall or bushy your plants will grow. It’s always a good idea to keep checking on your plants to make sure the netting isn’t getting in the way of their growth.

While many plants can grow through the gaps, it can still stunt their growth and make harvesting more difficult for you.

To prevent any stunting, or the need to make a bigger frame, take into account how big the plant(s) you are protecting will get. Add an extra foot or two to your estimation to leave room for plants growing bigger than you expected.

garden netting tips

Garden Netting Methods

There are several ways to set up your bird netting. Most are fairly simple, and all are effective if set up properly. There are ways to protect long rows, wide beds, container plants, and even fruit trees. Let’s take a look at some common netting methods that you can implement in your garden today.

Tip #1 – Hooped Row Cover

One common method is the hooped row cover. This entails using PVC or strong, thick wire to make arcs along your row or garden bed. Then, netting or garden fabric is draped over the arcs, pulled taught, and secured to the ground with garden stakes or a weight. This is a great option for bigger rows or where you have dense planting.

It is also easy to remove the cloth and check on plants when needed. Make it portable by using two-by-fours as the foundation.

Here’s an insider hack: buy cheap hoola hoops and cut them in half to get ready-made, sturdy arcs in place of PVC or wire.

Tip #2 – A-Frame Cover

Another option is to make an A-frame. Simply place two sturdy sticks or poles at either end of the space that needs protection. Then, drape the netting over the area. The sticks on either end will keep the netting elevated and off of the plants.

Pull the netting outward away from the plants, making an A shape, then stake or weigh down the netting to hold it in place. For longer rows, add another pole in the middle to support the netting from sagging.

Tip #3 – Multiple Post Cover

The third option is simple as well. If you have a garden bed with adequate space between plants, secure bamboo poles or sturdy sticks upright in between plants.

Depending on the size of the plant you’re growing, you’ll want these poles to be at least 2.5 ft in length. Then, place overturned, small flower pots on the tops of the poles/sticks. This creates a solid structure for you to then cast your netting over. The pots keep the netting from slipping down the poles.

Secure the loose netting to the ground with garden steaks.

Keep Birds Away From Your Garden

Tip #4 – Use a Cloche

For individual plants or containers, consider purchasing a garden cloche. A garden cloche is a sturdy covering, though they are usually only big enough to protect one or two plants.

They are typically bell-shaped, with a wireframe and study chicken wire used as the netting. These are nice because they are easily portable and will last a long time.

Tip #5 – Simple Drape

Some gardeners do away with the structural aspect and simply drape a thin garden cloth over their row of vegetables. This is a viable option as well but only works with garden fabric, not plastic netting. If the netting is directly on the plant and not elevated, birds can still access the plants.

Make sure to use designated garden fabric. It will look like a very fine mesh, and be lightweight. This allows for air circulation and sunlight to reach the plant while covered.

Tip #6 – Protect Seeds Too

Mature plants aren’t the only thing that attracts birds. Birds can start having a feast in your garden before plants have even emerged. They are smart creatures, and I’ve seen them swoop down on a row that I had just laid seeds in. To them, seeds are just as good of a snack as a leafy green.

To protect your seeds, you’ll need to use garden fabric or row covers. A row cover is any thin, lightweight material that you place directly on the row or garden bed that has seeds in the germination process. Simply lay the fabric, or row cover, directly over where you planted your seeds. Secure all sides with garden stakes or weights to ensure the cover doesn’t blow away.

This row cover serves a dual purpose. It helps to keep in moisture, which is essential for good germination. Note that it’s important to remove the row cover as soon as your seeds start to germinate.

Keep Birds Away From Your Garden

Tip #7 – Protect Fruit Trees

Fruit can be very attractive to birds. As fruit trees can get quite large, some forget that you can use netting on them as well. With a little effort, you can protect the abundance of fruit from getting eaten by birds.

All you need is some soft PVC and small gauge, plastic netting. Similar to the hooped row cover, you will arch 3-5 pieces of PVC over the tree, spaced about 2-3 feet apart. Then, thread one piece of PVC down the middle and zip-tie it to the top of the arches.

Now you’re ready to drape the netting over. Be sure to leave some extra netting at the bottom to stake or weigh it all down. You can still easily harvest the fruit by removing the weights or stakes from one side and lifting the netting.

protect fruit trees

Tip #8 – Protect Seed Flats/Trays

Freshly sprouted plants in seed flats/trays are just as attractive to birds as baby plants in the garden. I kid you not, I have come home to a seed tray that had been completely stripped of all the seedlings that had emerged only days before. If this has happened to you, or your planning to start your own seeds this year, it’s a good idea to protect your seed trays.

To protect trays with baby plants in them, you will mimic what you will be doing/have done in your garden, just smaller.

Seed trays are typically rectangles, 10inX20in. You’ll want to get thin pieces of lumber and cut them a couple of inches larger than your seed tray and screw them together, making a frame that can be lifted off your seed tray.

Next, you will need strong but flexible wire to make into arches across your frame. Drill holes on either side of your wooden frame to house the ends of your wire arches. Now, drape netting over the arches and staple the sides and ends to the frame, making it taught, cut away any excess netting.

Tip #9 – Store Netting

It’s a good idea to store your netting, as well as any materials used for frames, in a protected area when not in use. While netting is made of durable plastic, it can be affected by the elements and will last longer if stored indoors.

If you are using lumber or wooden stakes for your frame or weights, be sure to store these too. Lumber won’t stay sturdy for long if left out in the rain.

Wait, Is Garden Netting Safe?

Some gardeners and landscapers have concerns about the safety of bird netting and urge people against using it.

These concerns come from incidents where wildlife has been negatively impacted by netting. People have found various animals entangled in their netting including snakes, hummingbirds, and raccoons.

While this is unfortunate, it’s usually due to improperly set up and secured netting systems. If you have a bundle of extra netting on the sides or ends of your rows or garden beds, this creates the main hazard for wildlife.

That is why it is so important to make your netting taught and weigh/stake down the sides and ends. If you have a lot of excess netting around the sides or ends of your protected area, trim the netting back. Also, be sure to store any unused netting in a shed, garage, or somewhere protected from wildlife.


What About Scarecrows and Other Methods?

Sometimes the netting method may seem like too much effort, and the next common go-to method is scarecrows. But are they really effective?

Scarecrows work if you move them regularly, but even that’s not guaranteed. Birds are smart, they will catch on to the fact that the “person” in the garden hasn’t moved an inch in several days. If resorting to a scarecrow, opt for one built on a stake that you can easily move around.

It’s certainly not as reliable and effective as netting, but it doesn’t hurt to try, and you may even have fun making one!

Some other methods include decoy owls, shiny streamers or CDs, and colorful plastic snakes. Similar to the scarecrows, decoy animals won’t be effective for very long once the birds realize they aren’t actually moving. CDs and shiny streamers make reflections that birds don’t like. But these may only work in a very limited space and can be an eyesore to gardeners.

In Conclusion

Bird netting is the only sure way to keep birds away from your veggie garden and fruit trees. With a small gauge, high-quality netting that is properly secured, and sturdy frames to hold it up, you will surely keep your produce safe.

Take the time to protect your garden, and you will be happy you did come harvest time.

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