A few weeks ago, a board member, Betsy, of City Fruit inquired about the possibility of netting her apple tree. Every year, her tree produces HUNDREDS of pounds of large, delicious apples that over the past few years have unfortunately become more and more riddled with pests. Many of her neighbors have come to anticipate the harvest of her giant apple tree. Each year, a larger slice of the harvest goes towards cider to make the best of her new, pesty reality. When asked if netting was a possibility for her tree, I was a bit apprehensive due to its large size. I figured it would take 5-10 people, 3-5 hours, and a few hundred dollars' worth of netting to even have a shot at pulling off this undertaking. After thinking it through, we decided that the much more realistic option would be to net just a portion of her tree instead of the entire thing.
When I arrived at Betsy's house last Friday, our first major decision was to figure out what part of the tree we should net. Her tree is Y shaped so our first thought was to net the smaller half of the Y. This is generally a great option (another good option is net the lower sections as that is what you'll be able to reach!), but for this tree, the splits face east and west whereas the majority of the fruit grows on the south side. Thus, we took the slightly trickier route of netting a portion of each half. The section we decided to go for was a square shape and thus our first step was to cut the 19.7' by 100' net in half and then rolled and zip-tied the edges to make a 38.4' by 50' net.
After aligning the net with the tree, I jumped into the middle of the tree and Betsy and a friend stood at each side on the ground, and using large bamboo poles, pushed the net up the tree to a point where I could grab it and weave the net through the branches that we wanted to net. From here, zip ties came in real handy. Even within the netted section, there were a few branches that were too tall to get over. I pruned a few of them but the branches I left, we needed to zip tie around tightly to seal the netting. We then took the sides of each net and zip-tied those together to seal the entire net. Instead of costing hundreds of dollars and tens of hours of collective personpower, three of us were able to strategically net the part of the tree that produces 80 percent of the apples in only 3 hours.
Netting a tree is always a bit of challenge, but the satisfaction of completing the task and the enjoyment of the anticipation for beautiful pieces of produce to come to fruition is worth the work! If there is one tip I'd give, it's just that there is no one way to net a tree and as long as the portion you net is well sealed, you should consider it a success!