Once June turns the corner toward July, one question burns in the mind of gardeners: How much is a sweet, decadent cherry pie worth? With each day the harvest grows closer, having you — and the birds — dreaming of the first tree fruit of the season.
But it comes at a cost; we have to protect those cherries. So we try netting using the unfurl-with-a-snap approach, the two person banner toss, and the death defying fling from the ladder, all to no avail. There’s no dignified way to do this, and we’re left performing the Dance of the Seven Veils trying to get the net on the tree while the neighbors drag out the lawn chairs to applaud.
There has to be a better way, and finally, we have one.
“I started out with a full sized Montmorency cherry tree. Every year my dad, son and I would struggle to put netting on it,” said Ray Hauser, inventor of the Netbrella tree netting tool. “I tried leaving the netting on one year, but that was a bad idea; the branches grew through the netting and I had to cut it off of the tree the next year.”
Battling robins for the fruit that fills his favorite dessert made Hauser turn his inventive mind — he holds 22 patents already — toward thwarting the feathered bandits, who start pecking the fruit to test for readiness before people are aware it’s ripening. “This was first invented to hold a heavy tarp to protect the tree from frost. But that didn’t work out too well, so I tried it with the netting.”
Hauser designed a simple tool that makes placing bird netting on fruit trees fast and easy. Called Netbrella, it consists of a wheel with spokes attached to a center pole. When the bird netting is wired to the rim of the wheel, the structure resembles an umbrella, which you lift above the canopy and tie to the trunk of the tree.
Laying out the netting in the backyard of his one-acre property in north-eastBoulder, Hauser demonstrated the simplicity of setup for the tool. “It’s all in the fold. You do it right and one side will fall one way from the wheel, the other falls the other way.” Hoisting the wheel upright, Hauser walked to a dwarf Northstar cherry, centering the netted wheel above the trunk of the tree and securing it with soft rope.
Unfold the netting from the top of the Netbrella and it drapes around the branches, protecting the fruit. “Make sure you stake the netting securely to the ground every eight inches, or those robins will crawl underneath and make themselves fat on your cherries,” said the 84-year old chemical engineer.
The time to net a cherry tree is now, protecting your fruit before it begins to change color. Birds start their inquiries into cherry ripeness once the fruit blushes yellow, pecking at the unripe fruit instead of waiting until it’s fire engine red like the rest of us.
This nifty gizmo works well on dwarf fruit trees, but isn’t the solution for those of us with semi-dwarf or standards; we’ll still have to struggle through the tribulations of netting our fruit. But those who have smaller trees can get them netted in a span of a half hour, instead of an entire day.
Netbrella is sold as a modest kit that contains custom pipe fittings, rope, and twist ties used for attaching the netting to the wheel. You’ll have to purchase the PVC pipe for center pole and spokes plus flexible pipe for the rim, but Hauser includes detailed instructions for assembling. The kits come in two sizes: small for trees up to seven feet tall and wide ($12), or large for trees up to 10 feet tall and wide ($18). Netting is also available from him ($34), or purchase your own.