Skip the Delicate Plastic Bird Netting in Favor of Sturdy Sheer Curtains
by Rebecca Rockefeller
We’re lucky enough to have berries and cherries in our backyard, but that means we also have hungry birds waiting to share in the summer bounty. Now, I’m a big fan of birds but I don’t like to give them the best of our home-grown fruit, so we need to cover our plants and trees with bird netting.
We started out using conventional plastic bird netting, the sort available from home and garden stores. It works, but it’s also quite fragile and ours always photo-degrades into brittle pieces within a season or two. Then we’re left with bird netting that has holes more than large enough to let the birds through, and no way to turn the unusable netting into a recycling facility for a next life; it’s a cradle-to-grave product.
I discovered a more durable alternative a few years ago when a flock of Cedar Waxwings descended on my just-ripe raspberries and started gulping them up. If you’ve ever seen a Cedar Waxwing in action, you know that each bird can swallow a berry whole in less than a second; if I couldn’t cover my raspberry canes, I was going to lose my entire crop in less than 30 minutes. I couldn’t find enough official garden netting in my garage, so I ran into my daughter’s room and snatched the sheer curtain panels that were about to transform her bunk bed into an ethereal fort. Instead, they transformed our garden in a magical land (the kids love to play under the netting outside) and preserved our fruit from avian harm.
These curtain panels turned out to be even better than the standard garden netting, and we picked up enough of this sort of fabric to cover our blueberries, cherries, and beans (some birds love young bean plants). It may look like we’re decorating the garden for an avant garde wedding, but the fruit ripens beautifully through this lightweight netting, birds can’t get even the tips of their beaks through, and at the end of the season it can be washed, line dried, and folded for many more seasons of use. We’ve had ours in heavy use for over two years now, and they’re still going strong.
You can find finished curtain panels at places such as Ikea, raw fabric at your local craft or fabric store (check out the inexpensive tulle; that’s less supple but can still work well), and from thrift shops and garage sales. I found two round bed nets that work perfectly on our young sour pie cherry tree and bean trellis – The netting doesn’t weigh the branches or vines down, and it’s easy for humans to find the overlapped sides at the opening and slip right in to pick the fruit.
Since this fabric is 100% polyester, this isn’t plastic-free garden netting, but it is durable and when it’s finished it can be turned into a local textile recycling bin for transformation into a new life.
For more garden reuse and upcycling inspiration, click through to our Trash Backwards app. Our curated collection of ideas will help you harness the power of the important Rs – Reduce, Reuse, and Rethink – to improve or begin your own garden, whether you’re growing flower for fun or food for your family. Click through via the photo below for a few Farm & Garden ideas right now.