Covering the berry crop to keep the birds from the fruit

Fresh ripe raspberries.

Fresh ripe raspberries.

COLUMN: For years, the raspberries have fed us well, providing us with a year-round supply by producing plenty of berries to freeze as well as eat fresh.

In return I provide them with seaweed or horse manure and fresh mulch every winter. The last couple of years though, if I had written them a school report to take home to their parents, it would have read something like, "could do better", or "not applying themselves fully".

The fruit supply just is not what it used to be.

Aside from seasonal variations I think the main reason for the shortage in production is that the bird netting is past its best. I have patched it each summer for the past few years, but it has got to the point where no sooner do you fix one hole than you find another. That is, if the birds have not beaten you to it.

They make such a fuss when I chase them out, particularly the blackbirds, which I do not think is particularly fair when they have sneaked in through a hole to pinch my fruit.

There are those who may say the birds have to eat something. Where we live, there are plenty of other food supplies for the birds; they just like raspberries as much as I do.

Picking raspberries at Jones' Berry Farm in Blenheim.

Canon summer photo competition

Picking raspberries at Jones' Berry Farm in Blenheim. Canon summer photo competition

I would not be surprised if they have the avian equivalent of those pie eating competitions you see in comedy movies, with several lined up scoffing as many berries as they can find. They can certainly clear the crop quicker than I can chase them out.

Our solution is to change things around. We would have had to rebuild the netted enclosure this season so it is a good time to pull it down and start again somewhere fresh.

Our new raspberry patch, also along a fence, will have more space, as it is a longer stretch of fence, so the boysenberries will have room to stretch out a bit more too. Of course, I expect payment for the extra space – more fruit.

We will use wire cordons again, attached to the fence, to support the raspberries. I use these cordons to tuck canes behind, wrap them along, or to clip canes to when they are growing vigorously and I want to constrain their height to keep them within the bird netting.

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I am of the opinion you can never have too many raspberries. We devour plenty fresh off the plant in summer, and frozen berries are great to add to chocolate brownies, to drop into a smoothie, or any kind of fruit dish featuring pip fruit like apple or pear.

While we will not be providing a forwarding address for the raspberries, I am sure the birds will figure it out pretty quickly, so the other half has strict instructions. He has free rein over the structure he creates for the plants in the new spot, but it must be bird proof.

 - The Marlborough Express

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