In urban areas it is common to see fruit trees protected by netting to minimise damage caused by native animals. Unfortunately, many backyard fruit trees and vegetable gardens are protected by netting which is unfriendly to wildlife. Hungry animals can easily get caught in ‘bird netting’, which has a mesh size greater than 1cm square.
Bats, lizards, snakes, birds and sometimes possums are the main victims of inappropriate netting. They can get tangled in large mesh netting and can’t free themselves. In their attempts to free themselves, they can get more entangled and cuts can become deeper, which causes greater distress.
What is appropriate netting?
Whole trees can be protected with densely woven nets that will not trap wildlife. The netting should be white as this is best seen by animals at night. The netting should be no more than 1cm square; if you can fit a finger through the mesh, then it is too big. Most netting has a minimal impact on shading so your fruit will still get the sunlight needed to thrive. When fitted, the netting should be gathered tight around the trunk of the tree so animals can’t climb up inside the netting.
Using supporting frames is a great way to protect your trees from the weight of the netting. Secure the netting to the frame and peg it into the ground for full protection, ensuring there are no gaps for animals to crawl in.
Ground vegetables can be protected using tunnel frames and densely-woven mesh. Make sure the netting is tight along the ground.
Remember to remove your netting after the fruiting season to prevent damage to new growth.
Individual fruits (or bunches) can be protected with small netting bags. These bags slide over the fruit or branch and tied in place with string. The netting bags allow for fruits to be shared with wildlife and some saved for your own use.
The Tolga Bat Hospital demonstrates three different netting techniques on YouTube.