Consequences of netting

Most decision in farming (and gardening) involve weighing up the pros and cons, and this even applies to netting. You’d think it would be a no-brainer – put on the net and save the fruit, right?

Well here’s one of the downsides, which becomes obvious when you take the drape nets off.

A peach tree bent from the weight of the net
A peach tree bent from the weight of the net

It’s a great lesson in why it’s best to remove the nets as soon as you’ve picked the fruit, and while the trees still have leaves on them.

This is a 4 year old peach tree, which grew very well this year and yielded a lovely crop of peaches.

It was netted it in plenty of time to save the fruit from the birds, and what should have happened next was the removal of the nets. But, things got busy, it never quite got to the top of the ‘to do’ list, and you can see the consequence in the photo above.

Abi and Hugh removing nets - in winter!
Abi and Hugh removing nets – in winter!

All the growing tips (or “leaders”) at the top of each limb have grown bent over. If they’ve been held down by the net for too long while they’re flexible and growing strongly, they may have permanently taken on that bent shape and won’t spring back into shape.

There are two things we can take from this:

  1. It’s not difficult to correct – some careful pruning at the top of the limbs will usually remove most of the bend and this will help the limbs continue their growth in a mostly straight line next year.
  2. Notice how easy it is to influence the way a tree grows, so if you’re aiming for a particular shape of tree (espalier, for example), it’s not difficult to encourage the tree to grow the way you want it to. Find out more about how to create espaliers, vases, and other fruit tree forms in Pruning by Numbers: A Guide to Pruning Deciduous Fruit Trees.

That’s the silver lining in this particular cloud!