Using Fruit Cages to Protect your Crop – Growing Guide

A fruit cage is a great solution for keeping pests off bushes and trees. Many cages have enough height to stand in. They consist of a tall cage with netting or mesh which will help keep your tree well protected and away from animals and birds.

Birds love fruit, and hate fruit cages!

A wide range of small fruit trees and bushes can be grown in a fruit cage. Popular fruits include redcurrants, blackcurrants, strawberries, raspberries, small cherry trees and gooseberries.

They are designed to keep out birds who often feed on blossoms and buds, and they can also deter squirrels. However, they are not considered fully squirrel proof.


What is a Fruit Cage?     

Fruit cages are a enclosures clad in mesh and are used to grow fruit and protect the crop from pests.

They are available to buy in various sizes and styles to suit your gardening needs. It is important to choose a cage that will provide the best coverage for your bush or tree. It also needs to suit your own garden environment. 

Fruit cages, sometimes referred to as crop cages, differ quite dramatically in size and style. They start small, often sold as a pop-up cage that is light and easy to move if and when required.

Then you get a medium-sized fruit cage that comes with rods you put together to build the frame. The biggest ones on the market are very spacious and the gardener can move around inside at full height. Size range from a modest 0.5 metres tall to one that’s bigger than the average person.

Some companies will design cages to order meaning you have a bespoke fruit cage made to your own requirements. There are advantages and disadvantages to the different types of cages so it is important to explore your options carefully. A lot of your decision will be down to garden size too.

Within your fruit cage, you can grow whatever you like and be assured of protection from common garden pests. All sorts of berries can be grown under the netting, and you can also pop salad and vegetable plants inside.


What Pests Does a Fruit Cage Keep Out?

The idea of a fruit cage is to offer your crop protection from some of the more common garden pests.

Birds, for example, feed on the blossom, buds and the fruit of trees. Their attention can affect the success of your crop annually. This is especially problematic if you get flocks of birds like pigeons and blackbirds who feed in a large mass.

Fruit cages also help to deter butterflies, such as cabbage whites,  from laying their eggs in the tree or bush. Although squirrels and rodents can potentially still gain access to your plants, it does make it less convenient for them, thus slowing them down. This means they may instead look for easier food sources.


What can I Grow in a Fruit Cage?

Almost anything garden related can be grown in the different sizes and types of fruit cages.

Whether you want to protect your raspberry bush or are keen to help preserve the fruit on your patio cherry tree, you can find a cage to suit your needs. They can even help protect ornamental trees and bushes which you value for their spectacular displays.

Inside a fruit cage you can grow:

  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Redcurrants
  • Blackcurrants
  • Blackberries
  • Cherries
  • Peaches
  • Apples
  • Gooseberries
  • Mulberries
  • Plums
  • Medlar
  • Ornamental cherries

Types of Fruit Cage

Steel

As you would expect with a steel product, steel fruit cages are built to last and are highly durable.

A good quality steel fruit cage will be protected with rust-proof powder or paint. Steel cages are big and can be used for larger growing areas.

This type of frame needs to be placed carefully as it will be heavy and not made to be moved around. All the fittings and netting will be included and the space inside will have enough height to allow a person to stand and work inside it.


Aluminium

Aluminium walk-in cages are robust with a height of 2 metres which allows plenty of space to manoeuvre inside whilst gardening.

Your aluminium cage will include the frame, door, nets, ground pegs and all the fittings required.  Nets are strong and will withstand the elements and offer all-important protection from garden pests.


Wood

Ideal for a more natural and rustic look, wooden fruit cages will fit in nicely with the garden ambience. Wooden structures will be sturdy yet not unsightly, with the timber providing adequate protection from pests.

With different sizes available, wooden cages can suit most requirements, and some companies are offering bespoke designs.


Pop up Fruit Cages

Pop up fruit cages are made from mesh or net, and are lightweight and so can be moved to different locations.

They are simple to put up and work well, deterring many of the pests gardens can be plagued by. You can buy small pop up cages or purchase one big enough to stand in, complete with a door. Perhaps not as long-lasting as some of the other varieties. it may need replacing some years down the line.


Strawberry cages

Strawberry plants can spread vastly but the crop can be heavily affected by garden visitors such as badgers and squirrels.

Buying a purpose-built strawberry cage provides that extra reassurance while your plants grow and develop. They come in an abundance of sizes too and will therefore suit all strawberry patches. Strawberry cages are typically made from aluminium which makes them a strong and sturdy solution.


Fruit Cage Netting – What Size do I Need?

Purchasing the correct fruit cage netting is as important, if not more so, than the framework itself as it is the netting that will be keeping garden pests at bay.

For this reason, it is important to understand the different types of netting and how the sizes vary.


Bird Netting

When considering bird pests, it is vital to remember that although you want birds to be unable to enter, you still need pollinators to be able to do their job.

This means striking the right balance between keeping birds out and still letting the bees in. The smallest you will want to go is a mesh size of 19mm and for larger birds such as gulls 75mm.


Insect Netting

Insect netting needs to be a lot smaller if you wish to deter garden pests such as caterpillars and aphids.

The netting comes in fine mesh material, coarse mesh or a fly screen – all of which help protect your fruit bushes.


Netting for Other Fruit Pests

It is possible to buy different types of netting for other pests such as extra heavy duty netting (useful if your garden attracts an abundance of wildlife).

You can also look at fruit sleeves rather than netting itself or a tunnel design instead. Some types of netting have been designed to deter butterflies and smaller insects. Plastic mesh with holes no less than 20mm will keep out larger animals such as cats, foxes, rabbits, and badgers.


What Size of Fruit Cage Should I Get?

Below we share the all-important do’s and don’ts when it comes to purchasing a fruit cage as it can seem a little daunting to begin with and it is something that shouldn’t be rushed into.

  1. Never be tempted to purchase one without researching your needs first. Has your bush or tree reached its maximum height and spread for example? If it has then you can measure its dimensions and purchase the appropriately sized fruit cage. On the other hand, if it is a young bush then you will need to determine the eventual height it will reach.
  2. Don’t be tempted to rush into a sale item without researching its material, reviews, and durability. Sale items aren’t always cost-effective and some fruit cages are sturdier than others.
  3. Know your garden environment, climate, and how exposed the fruit cage will be. If your garden often gets a lot of wind, for example, a pop up one will be less suitable and you will do better with a more permanent structure.
  4. IF you suffer from mobility issues then be sure to take this into account when selecting your fruit cage. You may need one tall enough to accommodate your height or you may be looking for one you can move around as and when required.
  5. Know roughly the length of patch you want to protect and if you are unsure, choose a cage that you can be added to as time goes on. This means your level of protection can expand as your gardening patch does.

FAQ’s

Perhaps you still have some niggly questions unanswered? worry not, as we tackle them below in our fruit cages FAQs section.

What size should a fruit cage be?

The size of your fruit cage will be determined by two factors – the pests you want to deter and the plot of land you need to cover. Netting sizes will vary depending on the pest involved and so will the overall frame size as it depends on what your requirements are. If you are unsure about how big a space you will need to be covered then it is best to buy one that you can add to over the years.

What size mesh will stop butterflies?

To keep butterflies off your fruit and vegetable patch, you will need a fine netting with 4-7mm mesh which will keep them out. You will need to ensure the plant or tree isn’t escaping through the mesh – make sure you buy larger than the overall size of the bush or tree.

Can a fruit cage double as frost protection?

Fruit cages can be useful during cold weather snaps as well as deterring insects and birds. As well as using the netting, you can also drape over some fleece or blankets during particularly frosty evenings.

How do bees get in and out of fruit cages?

By removing the roof during flowering time, you allow access for the pollinators to carry out their work. If this isn’t doable due to the risk of birds getting in, then instead make sure the mesh has adequate space for bees to get in and out.

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