Friday, June 09, 2006

What's Growin' On: 6/9/06

Wild Black Raspberries

Realization Of The Day (well, yesterday really):
There was definitely a sweet side to yesterday's hot, sweaty, and exhausting Hay Pick Up Day #1. The black raspberries along the edge of the hayfield have begun to ripen, and it looks like there will be enough this year for several handfuls of the sweet and dainty fruits. The majority weren't ripe yet, but I did manage to find a few perfect ones to pop into my mouth.

I'll be back out picking up bales again tomorrow and will definitely be checking on their progress. I'd never even heard of black raspberries until I moved to Missouri. Then it was so many years before I actually saw some that I was beginning to doubt their existence. Boy was I missing out. Since we don't tend the bushes at all, our harvest is always small. Just enough to really, really enjoy these once-a-year, exquisite little treats.

Out Of My Inbox:
Bird Netting Question From A Reader

Melissa at Flatlander (who did the opposite of what I did--moved from the Midwest to California) sent me a gardening question that I am ill-equipped to answer--thank goodness! Birds are (knock on wood) one of the few pests that don't manage to help themselves to an ample portion of my precious garden bounty each year (though I think they do dine on the black raspberries). But she has a problem with them and is desperately trying to find a rational solution. I told her I couldn't help, but that I bet some of you would be able to (especially after receiving so many suggestions on what to do with my lemon thyme--thank you!). And perhaps those of us who haven't been attacked by The Birds yet will be able to store this knowledge away for when the inevitable happens. I'll let her explain the situation:

I have a gardening question for you. Last year, I had problems with the birds eating my tomatoes. I don't want to use any "scare" techniques because I'm happy to have birds in my yard (just not in the tomatoes), so I've purchased some bird netting to defend my garden. I've been scouring books and the internet, but I have yet to find informative instructions or advice on the best way to install the netting. I'm sure there must be a good way to set it up so that I can still access the plants.

Here's what I'm thinking so far: I could make a frame for the netting, cover the garden, and install some type of door or flap on one or two sides (which I could open and close) so I could get inside the netting & access the beds. The beds (there are 3 side by side) are about 6' x 16' (total size). And I think staked tomatoes (I have indeterminates and determinates) get pretty tall, at least 5' right? But my concern is that the frame would be ridiculously large, but maybe it wouldn't be. I think I'd have to do some sewing with fishing line, and maybe attach the netting to the frame with zip-ties? I'm not really sure what would work best, but I am sure that I don't want giant holes being ripped through the netting. I'm also wondering the best way to anchor the netting to the ground. Anyway, those are the possible problems I'm imagining.

Do you have any advice or suggestions or pictures of what's worked for you? ANY information would be well received!

I think her frame idea sounds good but awfully complicated (and possibly expensive), though I have seen photos of a fairly large blueberry patch that had a wire cage built around the entire thing. (The blueberries were a cash crop, so all precautions were worth the trouble and expense.)

Your ideas? Suggestions?


  1. Oooooh, black raspberries! I love them and they are so hard to find. Black raspberry pie is the best.

  2. Here's a couple of things I've done that worked:
    The old fashioned foil baking pans tied to a stick with a string. The birds don't like that banging them in the face while they eat. The breeze moves it. All things reflective deter animals. Maybe they think it is a gun.
    Also I have used tomato cages and wrapped net around the whole thing. The thought here is the tomatoes don't grow out the top (usually) on a tall plant.
    Good luck!

  3. My neighbors have their blueberries enclosed in a chicken wire and timber cage, it is pretty ugly but they've been getting beautiful berries for about 20 years I hear.

  4. Black raspberries are the best. I have planted tons of them. They are great fresh and by themselves but best when sugared lightly and left to juice up and then served over melty vanilla ice cream. Yum.

  5. I know an organic farmer who puts a radio under a small (foot-tall) shelter in the middle of his garden, and leaves it on a talk station. I always forget to ask him if it works well, but this is the second year I've seen him use it.

    My father used all kinds of tricks to keep the birds out of his blueberries and nothing ever worked for long. Finally he had enough blueberry bushes to feed both us and the birds and we didn't have to worry about heart attacks from hearing his "air cannon" suddenly go off. I'm going to try the radio or the foil pans if I begin having problems.

  6. Why couldn't the netting just be draped over the tomato cages or possibly make "hoops" (creating a tunnel over the tomatos) with light weight pvc pipe then drape the netting and secure with twisty ties to hoops. Usually tomatos are nestled between the leaves so if the netting is draped over several plants then I would think the tomatos would be protected. Or what about a light weight row cover instead of netting? Then this could just be draped over the tomatos without all the bother of building a frame.

  7. Yes, bird netting is a pain, but sometimes necessary. I am going to try "opposite birdcages" on the plants (basically the plants are on the inside and the birds on the outside. But as you mentioned Flatlander is in CA, she might also want to try adding some water for the birds in the garden. Many times, birds are looking for water in our dry summers, and they've learned to peck at tomatoes and stone fruits to get it. I added 3 bird baths and they stopped pecking at my nectarines. But with all the quail that are in my garden, berries are a favorite treat of theirs.

  8. MMMMMmmmmmm! Yummy raspberries! I bet the turtles are wishing they could jump.

  9. Next May, look under those berry bushes for Morrel mushrooms. They seem to like growing right among the bracts. The pain of the picking is worth the harvest.

    I've never had a problem with birds and tomatoes, but I know the aluminum pan will scare them off other fruits - for a while. Grackos and Blue Jays are cheeky buggers that don't scare easily, at least for long. Good luck!

  10. Speaking of critter problems, a coworker just asked if I have any suggestions on what she can do about groundhogs invading her garden, eating her seedlings, etc. I have no clue! So she wondered if I could post the question here since there are so many friendly and helpful gardeners. Any recommendations!?! She's about ready to catch and cook the groundhogs, which recently expanded from one or two to include a family of four kids!

  11. Thanks for the helpful advice! I opted for vicki's idea of draping the netting (instead of building a big frame like I was thinking of doing originally). It was good to hear from coastalcagardener that tomato-eating-birds are a consistent garden visitor in these parts. I already have a bird bath, but I only have room for 1 since I have a relatively small yard. I like paintbrushpoet and sally's idea of the baking pan cacophony & laurie's suggestion of a radio, but since I live in a condo with many strict association rules, I'd worry about complaints from neighbors if I tried either of these methods while I live here. I've decided to try pinwheels for a moving reflective object; I used tinfoil streamers last year, but they kept falling down in the wind. I think someday I'll try teree's method of a more permanent canopy structure. Thank you so much for all your help! Hopefully this year I'll get a chance to eat more tomatoes than the birds!

  12. Have you heard of Vella Dry Monterey Jack? If not, is a Jack cheese made here in Sonoma and dried so it's grateable like a Parm or Romano. Anyway, the Vella family, decades ago had a creamery on the square, right where Sam Sebastiani's place is now, and they made the most wonderful black raspberry ice cream. It's been years since I've been able to find it anywhere, but I will never forget it. What a perfume. Lucky you to have the berries growing there.


March 2013 update: My apologies for the inconvenience - I know word verification is a pain - but I've had to turn it on to help stop the ridiculous number of anonymous spam comments I've been getting every day. Thanks for your understanding.

Welcome to! Thanks so much for taking the time to write. While I'm not always able to reply to every comment, I receive and enjoy reading them all.

Your feedback is greatly appreciated, and I especially love to hear about what's going on in your own garden. I know, too, that other readers also delight in reading about your garden successes, failures, helpful tips, and lessons learned. Feel free to leave comments on older posts!

I try my best to answer all questions, but sometimes it takes me a few days to get to them. And sometimes, I'm sorry to say, they fall through the cracks, and for that I sincerely apologize.

I look forward to hearing from you and hope you enjoy your visits to my kitchen garden!