Without money to spend on nets, I decided to go lo-tech. I borrowed some stuffed animals from my kids (anything with eyes) and hung them in various branches of my cherry trees. It was amazingly effective. I highly suggest any cat-like stuffed animals (I had a stuffed tiger and the birds sounded their alarm chirp when I perched it on top of the ladder). Another specific thing that might have helped was a motion sensor "snore bear" that makes yawning and snoring sounds when disturbed. This year, I got to pick berries for a week (and counting) compared to the one day of lame picking last year.
You can buy large nets to put over the tree. If the tree is large, you can just drape it over the top. The birds are fearful of the netting (getting caught in it) and will avoid the tree--or at least the part with netting. If your garden store doesn't have it, look at a store that has koi pond products. (The netting is also used to keep leaves and herons out of ponds.)
Q: Any suggestions on how to keep birds from eating the cherries before they are ripe? We have a HUGE cherry tree and have never had any ripe cherries left to pick. I tried pie plates and streamers when it was smaller to no avail. It is too big to net.
Hardiness Zone: 6a
Betty from Middletown, NY
Because your tree is so big, short of a propane cannon, you'll probably have to rotate among the usual arsenal of scare tactics. You might try setting large (plastic) birds of prey (owls, hawks, etc.) or several scarecrows among the branches in your tree. You'll have to move them around to keep the birds from getting used to them. There are also balloons with large eyes painted on the sides, plastic snakes, or reflective materials like CDs or silver-colored flash tape. I've also heard of people hanging plastic fruit in their trees before the fruit ripens to condition the birds into thinking the real fruit is inedible. One home remedy I've read about is to mix 6 packets of grape cool-aid (no sugar added) with a gallon of water and spray it on the cherries as they are beginning to ripen. I have no idea if it works, but it sounds interesting. If you try it, test it out on a small part of the tree first before covering your whole tree-and let me know if it works!
By Steve Roberts
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