The Must-Have Product That'll Save Your Tree's Fruit From Falling To The Ground

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It's every gardener's worst nightmare. Crushed avocados dot the lawn. Wine-red mulberry stains cover the driveway. Fallen apples lie rotting and wasted on the ground, left to the critters instead of gracing pies and fruit bowls. No gardener worth their compost wants to wake up to a fruit harvest failure, especially after all the months or even years of work you put in to help your trees supply fruit. If you don't have time to harvest your crop before it starts dropping from the branches, the answer is simple: affix a harvest net — also called a tree bag or fruit collector — underneath.

These nets are typically made of durable, waterproof, UV-stabilized polyethylene mesh. They work similarly to the "shake and catch" method of harvesting, where orchardists spread a tarpaulin under a tree and shake the trunk to dislodge ripe fruit. It falls into the tarp for easy collection. A harvest net's obvious benefit is saving fruit from bruising or rotting when it hits the ground. But it also saves you time (as you can harvest all the ripe fruit in one go), prevents stains, protects lower branches from hungry deer and other determined herbivores, is easy to clean, packs away small for seasonal storage, and can be used for many years. One poster in an online forum on harvesting tall fruit trees said installing nets under their walnut trees ensured they got 90-95% of their 2018 crop.

Net ready

Using netting with holes 0.1 inches wide or less is vital. Birds feasting on your apple tree may get caught in nets with larger holes, suffering injuries or death. Amazon has a 26.2 by 13.1-inch fine mesh harvest collecting net by Ez4garden for $68.99 (four larger sizes are available). Fruit Shield sells five sizes of fruit catchers — the smallest, an 8 by 8-inch net, goes for $66.00. An alternative style sits on the ground underneath your tree, propped up on a frame rather than hanging from the lower limbs. A ready-made example is The Original Fruit Collector, $79.00 from Greenhouse Megastore. Measure your tree at its widest points to determine what size of net you need to buy.

After the fruit sets, attach your net to the lowest, longest branches of the tree with garden ties. Walmart has a roll of environmentally-friendly BioStretch ties for $15.95. Use a ladder if your fruit tree is tall. Drape the net slightly so the fallen fruit collects in the center. If the net you purchased doesn't have a slit, cut one into it so it fits around the trunk of your tree. You could also drive some posts into the ground or build a frame around your tree using any sturdy poles — we suggest pressure-treated wooden posts if you're concerned with aesthetics. Attach the net over it; again, cut a slit in the net for the trunk if that's missing, then attach the net to the frame.