These long days in Northwest Montana are my favorite! I absolutely love mornings, windows open, fresh cut hay, early morning watering of the garden, my coffee and the sounds of birds flitting around finding goodies for their young……. WAIT! Scratch the sounds of birds, their next food source will soon be the ripening honeyberries!
Yes, the sound of birds only serves to send me into a panic as I try to get all of the haskap bushes covered with bird netting before the day of reckoning with the robins! Last year, we covered our 3-year plants, pinning the nets to the ground every twelve inches or so. I relaxed, knowing they were protected, and watched the robins sit on the posts and drool. Until I received an email from a fellow grower, warning me that his haskap berries were virtually picked clean the day before by birds, and they were netted! I went out to see how my nets were holding up, and hard as it is to believe, those little buggers were putting their beak and head in one of the net holes as far as they could, pushing with all their might, until they could pluck a berry!
The fight was on. I went to town and got another couple of packages of garden pins and three-foot marking posts. I pounded the posts in so the nets would not touch the berries, then, pinned them about every six inches to the ground. I also had some pinwheels for the 4th of July celebration that was approaching, so I stuck them in the ground near the bushes. A few hours later, I returned only to find a couple of birds INSIDE the netting!! Those little devils had worked their way through the ends of the bird netting that I had twisted and pinned! So, down to the barn I went, gathered some baling twine and sewed up every opening I had. Satisfied I had fortified the honeyberry fortress, I went to the office and plowed through some paperwork. That evening, I went to take a look and could not believe my eyes! They were working their way under the netting between the garden staples in the dirt! Off to town I went, picked up another couple bags of staples and pinned the netting to the ground with staples right next to each other along the whole perimeter.
Success!!! The birds eventually gave up trying, and then they even gave up watching! I was completely thrilled! The downside, however, is that those birds know when these Montana berries are getting close to harvest. I check BRIX levels and it was a bit of a project to get into the netting and access the berries for testing, but it was worth it!
We are in the process of getting the haskap bird netting set up again this year, much the way we netted last year, except we used posts and rails that we had onsite instead of staples where it was feasible. Next year, the second phase of the orchard will be in and we will install a more permanent structure for netting.