Keep the birds out of your raspberries.
If I tried to count the number of times in my life that I have braved a thicket of briars to pick wild raspberries with my dad, I'd lose count in a short time. The irresistible taste of a fresh raspberry is hard to beat but sometimes the punishment that you endure to get them can just about get the best of you. In recent years it has become increasingly difficult to find good raspberry patches in our area because of cleared or neglected land. It seemed that you used to be able to find raspberries in just about every fencerow or at the edge of every field. Now that many fields are badly overgrown and fencerows are mowed clean, the raspberries have dwindled in number. Many folks in our area are now resorting to growing small plots of tame raspberries in order to have fresh berries each year.
About four years ago my dad was offered some starts for tame raspberries that were said to be heavy bearers and delicious. To a berry picker from way back that sounded like a great combination so dad got the starts and set out to raise a tame crop of berries. After setting aside a space at the edge of a garden that was about 100' x 8', we planted two rows of raspberries. We planted the rows about three feet apart and placed black plastic in the bulk between the two rows and along the outside of each row to keep weeds from growing near the berries. We covered the plastic with wood chips that were given to us by a local tree trimming company earlier in the year. They were glad to find a place to dump their refuse. To support the plants as they grew we placed metal fence posts every eight feet and strung three strands of heavy duty galvanized wire between the posts. The rows looked great and the berry plants were doing wonderfully.
Finally the first year that the plants were to bear fruit had arrived. As the little green berries began to swell and ripen, the bird population rose significantly in the vicinity of the tame berry patch. Birds of many varieties were so pleased with the berries that they helped themselves daily, and it didn't take long for us to notice. To remedy the bird problem we used landscaping netting that was purchased from a lawn and garden store. The netting's intended purpose is to hold straw in place after seed has been sown on an area. It is very lightweight and comes in rolls that are 7' x 100'. If you pay close attention at your local home and garden store you can sometimes find the landscape netting on sale at the end of the growing season. We have found it for as cheap as $3/roll.
Before we put the netting over the berries we created an arching frame over the rows using some tubing from a discarded trampoline. The tubing fit over the tops of the posts. We unrolled the netting lengthwise and tied it to each arch. When we completed the job we had a handy walkway down the middle of the rows that was protected from the pesky birds. It was amazing how well the netting worked.
After the berry-picking season ended we removed the netting and stored it for use the following year. The process is simple and the netting is easy to handle. Since that first year we have continued to use the netting method and our troubles with the birds getting the berries are gone. Sure it takes a little time and effort, but when you get to sit down with some fresh raspberries and ice cream, I'm sure you'll agree that the labor is worth the reward.
Jarrod is a schoolteacher, farmer and freelance writer. His first novel Family Field Days can be ordered from www. oaktara.com/Jarrod_E.html
JARROD E. STEPHENS