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Apple Pouch

Protecting crops through exclusion

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JUSTIN RUSSELL spends an afternoon using the exclusion technique to protect his fruit trees from marauding pests.

Admit it: some gardening jobs are pleasant and satisfying, others are pure drudgery. Whipper snipping is one I loathe, for example, but what keeps me in the game is the fact that there are so many gardening jobs I love. Pruning, digging, sowing, and exclusion are some of my favourites.

The final job strikes my gardening friends as an unusual choice. Exclusion is a newish gardening term, so it’s still misunderstood by many, and those gardeners who know what it is imagine it to be the most repetitive task imaginable. Well, it’s not. It’s actually strangely satisfying, in the pit-of-your-guts way that jobs like harvesting and planting induce feelings of security and well being.

I spent a happy afternoon last week with my wife Kylie covering stonefruit with various exclusion fabrics. Some got the full trees treatment, by being completely encased within a fine weave net. A few pegs close any gaps, and voila, fruit fly and other pests are literally fenced out. Fruit within the nets ripen beautifully, and without the use of toxic pesticides.

Other trees had individual pieces of fruit covered by exclusion bags. This year I’m using a combination of waxed paper bags, which are specially designed with a drainage hole in corner and a metal twist tie to secure the bag on a branch, and so called “apple pouches”. In reality, these are simply nylon sockettes that you can probably pick up at any discount store. They slip over fruitlets, are secured with a twist tie (or a knot if you’re dexterous enough) and allow room for expansion. My Anna apples got this treatment and are looking good. I’m expecting to eat clean, perfectly ripened fruit by Christmas.

So for what it’s worth, here’s my advice: give exclusion bags and nets a go. You’ll need to invest a bit of money up front, but the nets will last a decade and I still use some waxed paper bags purchased in 2010 – this is their third season. Best of all, exclusion works. I can’t imagine a more elegant solution to protect home grown fruit from insects, birds, flying foxes, possums, rabbits and all of the other creatures that enjoy home grown goodness as much as I do. When I slip on a bag, or throw over a net, I almost feel as though I’ve tucked my kids into bed and kissed them goodnight. Grow well my beauties!


NB:- Exclusion bags and nets are available from a range of mail order suppliers. Try Green Harvest for a wide range of exlcusion products, and Netpro Canopies for netting.