How to use fruit cages to protect homegrown soft fruit
Everything you need to know about fruit cages, including which type to choose, where to site it, how to care for it and what to grow in it.
What kind of fruit cage?
Metal fruit cages, made of aluminium or steel that’s powder coated in black are the best.
They should have a walk-in door and heavy duty black polythene netting on the sides and roof. Although expensive, these metal cages last for twenty years or more and there are decorative versions too.
You can construct or buy cheaper, wooden ones. However wood may only last ten years at most.
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Where to put a fruit cage
Choose a bright, frost-free position and remove the roof in winter, or it could collapse under snow.
The most important thing is choosing a sheltered, warm, frost-free position in good light so that the fruit doesn’t get frosted at the flowering stage.
Sloping gardens need to site their cages at the top of the slope because cold air rumbles downhill - creating frost pockets. If frost is a problem, opt for later-cropping varieties as these flower later - hopefully missing any frost.
A sunny position is vital because fruit tends to flower early in the year. It crops best when pollinated by early flying bees and they only work in warmer conditions.
Caring for your fruit cage
- Keep your cage well-weeded, especially the edges, because bindweed will travel up the sides.
- Remove the roof if your garden tends to get snow in winter. The weight can bend the poles.
- Many designs have tougher netting for the roof - always a good idea.
What to grow in a fruit cage
- Only grow fruit you enjoy eating.
- Always grow an autumn-fruiting raspberry. The heavy-cropping and flavourful ‘Autumn Bliss’, which crops between late August and late October, is still the best. Cut all the canes away after fruiting.
- Grow two varieties of blackcurrant, an early variety plus a later variety.
- Blueberries will need to be container grown in ericaceous compost, unless you’re on acid soil.
- Prune your fruit bushes ands canes regularly, because well-pruned bushes get less disease and live longer.
- Feed your fruit in spring, using a potash-rich fertiliser such as Vitax Q4.
- Pick regularly, always on dry days, and use any surplus fruit by either making jam, or freezing it. Blackcurrants and raspberries make good jam and both freeze well.
- Always clear the site of perennial weeds before planting and improve the fertility by adding organic matter when planting.
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The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.