‘From the Archives’ series

Article and Photos: Robyn Power (Canberra Organic – Winter 2012)

The net was slit open down the middle of each side for extra access and the sides pegged

Last year our home at Kaleen and our community garden at Kaleen were badly hit by Tomato Grubs. Growing larger heirloom varieties with softer skin made the tomatoes a target by the grubs, and we even found them burrowing down into the stems of the plant This was only evident when a whole branch of a healthy plant would suddenly die for no reason. We have had these grubs before but never as badly as last season. Our losses in the first few months of the tomato season were as high as 70%.

This season we purchased a lightweight but strong fruit fly exclusion netting from Green Harvest The size we purchased was 3m x 2.8m for approx $20 plus $9 postage. We bought several and used them on small fruit trees as well. We found this size went over a small fruit tree (Angel Peach) and it was pegged at the sides and tied around the trunk of the tree. There are larger sizes available but this size suited us well and I even joined 2 to cover our tomatoes and the wire they were tied to at the community garden.

In our home vegetable garden we put in supporting stakes at each corner and in the middle of the rectangular box. The net was slit open down the middle of each side for extra access and the sides pegged. This was used for tomatoes and egg plants. 

I even joined 2 to cover our tomatoes and the wire they were tied to at the community garden

Results

Fruit tree

We found that there was a lot of brown rot on the Angel Peaches but feel that this was due to the amount of rain we had. The net also protected against hail storms and wind that would have damaged the fruit. In several places the branches managed to grow through the net and these holes will have to be repaired for next year. On the whole we found it worked very well with the Angel Peach, although the netting would be better if it was on a frame as the growing branches created quite a dark interior, excluding sunlight. It was handy that the fruit was caught in the net and didn’t fall to the ground becoming more damaged. No earwigs or fruit fly to damage the fruit. We put the net on after the flowers started to die. 

Tomatoes

At home, the net worked very well and we had very few losses amongst the tomatoes this year. There wasn’t any fungal problem and the incidence of tomato grub was down to about 2 tomatoes attacked. There was no fruit fly attack and no vegetable bugs got in. Very pleased with it. 

At the community garden the net was very open to the wind and we had to tie it down well at the back of the wire so it wouldn’t take off. We also placed bricks around the front edges to secure it. This made it more difficult to pick fruit and basically you had to undo the pegs at one side and walk in between the plants and the net. I found that I only picked when there were quite a few ripe ones, but it really wasn’t a problem. The greatest advantage of the tomatoes being under cover, apart from stopping pests, was that they could be left to become a deep red before picking. This was evident in the increased flavour of the fruit. There were also a couple of tomatoes with the grub in them at the garden (goodness knows how they got in), but the losses generally overall were almost negligible. 

The photo below was taken recently after the first frost that hit most of the tomatoes. They weren’t affected at all and some are still growing and flowering under the net. It obviously won’t stop a heavy frost, but will help if there is a light one. 

We also found that the net does stop a bit of rain so you need to be aware that they may need watering even if it has rained. 

The net has been removed at home and rolled up and put away for next year. It is extremely tough and doesn’t appear to have deteriorated. I consider them to be a good investment for easy pest control. We are trying to work out how we can use them next year on our espaliered cherry tree to stop the earwigs that had a wonderful time munching on our beautiful fruit. They also act as bird nets. Visit the website www.greenharvest.com.au for further information.