Every year we look forward to eating all of the sweet, ripe, delicious grapes that are produced in our small vineyard. Unfortunately, every year, so do the birds! Just about the time when the grapes are really starting to get ripe, and are just about ready to pick, the birds swoop in, and this is what happens…
…the birds absolutely devour the bunch, leaving almost nothing edible behind for us to enjoy!
Now, don’t get me wrong. I don’t mind sharing a bunch, or two, with the sweet, little, winged creatures that grace our Happy Homestead. I’m happy to give out of our abundance and overflow, but for the past two years, now, we’ve been on the losing end of the battle – the birds get all of the first fruits, and we’re simply left to glean.
I just don’t understand it. I mean, I grew up next to hundreds of acres of grape vineyards – the kind that are used for making raisins. Whenever we’d get the hankering, we’d jump the irrigation ditch and pick ourselves a bunch to munch on. There were oodles and oodles for the taking, and not a sign of loss from the birds. Were they so well-hidden under the lush, green leaves that the birds simply did not know that they were there? Maybe. But how does that explain the fact that they didn’t touch them when they were laying out on the ground, in plain sight, when it came to making them into sun-dried raisins? Was it because they had been sprayed, and mine are organic? Possibly. I don’t know, and it really doesn’t matter.
So, what am I going to do to keep those pesky birds away from our precious grapes?
First, let me tell you what I am not going to do.
I am not going to use bird netting, or string. I’ve read that it helps keep birds away because they fear getting tangled up in it. Maybe some birds do, but ours don’t – either that, or the grapes are soooo good that they welcome the chance to become tangled up inside of grape heaven.
I am also not going to use shiny cd’s or flash tape. Oh, I tried the “shiny things scare them away” tactic, last year. In fact, I spent an afternoon creating the most beautiful bird-scarers you may have ever seen. I hung them up, with pride, all around the grape vineyard, thinking that they’d not only scare all of the birds away, but pull double-duty as garden art, and give all who gazed upon them a special, unexpected, aesthetic surprise. Hehe. The birds weren’t even phased by the sparkly, billowing things, and the “scarers” didn’t even make it through the season, as the hot sun dried them out and then cracked them all to pieces.
No, I am not going to hang artificial snakes and owls around the garden. I am not going to blast a radio talk show 24/7. I’m certainly not going to sit outside with a pellet gun and pick them off, one by one, or hang up red Christmas balls that have been smothered in a sticky tar-like substance in the hopes that the birds will think they’re apples and will stick to them (yes, these are all actual suggestions posted on an organic gardening forum).
What I am going to do, this year, is this…
…bag all of my grapes. I know! It’s so simple. Why didn’t I think of it before?
My hubby is actually the one who stumbled upon this idea, on the internet, and suggested that we should give it a try.
According to the Wisconsin State Horticultural Society, by using this method, the grape cluster will even result in larger berries that ripen later and have a color and flavor that, some say, is even better than clusters that are left on the vine to ripen without this type of protection. Wow! I’m anxious to see if we get these great results.
The only drawback, to utilizing this method, that I can see, is that it is a tedious, time-consuming task. Therefore, I’m only bagging the clusters that are large. I’m leaving the smaller clusters for – you guessed it – the birds. Yes, there is also the cost of the bags and string, however I figure that is a small price to pay compared to price of losing the entire crop -again, this year – to the birds.
So, there you have it. Our grape protection is in the bag!
If you’d like to use the grape-bagging method, here are a few tips that I learned from the Wisconsin State publication:
- You can apply the bag as soon as the cluster is formed, just make sure that your bag is large enough to allow the cluster to grow to its full size.
- Take care when placing your cluster inside of the bag and tie it off around the upper part of the cane, nearest to the main branch.
- If you live in an area that receives rain, you will want to fold the tops of the bags over, and staple them, in order to prevent rainwater from entering in.
- Save bags, at the end of the season, to use the following year, and for however long they will last.
Happy Grape Harvest!