Seeing small green berries forming on your blueberry (Vaccinium spp.) bushes can be exciting for gardeners. But it's also an exciting time for birds that enjoy eating the ripening berries before you get a chance to pick them. To protect blueberry bushes from birds, provide protective covering over the bushes for the three to four weeks it takes for the berries to mature and become harvestable; you can also consider a deterring spray.
Things You'll Need
- Bird netting with ¾-inch mesh
- Bricks or rocks (optional)
- Garden stakes, 6 feet long (optional)
- Rubber mallet (optional)
- 4 packets grape Kool-Aid
- Spray bottle
Drape a large piece of bird netting over your blueberry bush if you only have one or two plants. You need a piece big enough to cover the entire top of the bush and extend down to the bottom. For large varieties of blueberry plants, this can mean a piece of netting up to 15 feet square for one 6-foot-tall blueberry bush. Tie the mesh together near the base with pieces of string, or weigh down the sides of the mesh with bricks or rocks.
Cover rows or large groupings of blueberry bushes by driving garden stakes 6 inches into the ground every 6 feet on each side of the row, pounding them securely into place with a rubber mallet. Spread the bird netting over the stakes to cover your row of blueberries all the way to the ground. Tie lengths of string around the stakes to loop through the mesh and be secured. Three to four pieces of string cut in footlong lengths are usually enough for each stake when spaced evenly.
Remove the bird netting and bricks or garden stakes when the majority of berries are ready for harvest. Collect as many ripe berries as possible. If berries are still maturing, you may need to put your netting back in place for one more week as they turn color.
Mix 1 gallon of water with four packets of grape Kool-Aid, suggests the University of Massachusetts Extension. Stir the mix well to dissolve as much of the solution as possible so that it doesn’t sit on the bottom. Pour the mix into a spray bottle.
Spray the Kool-Aid mixture over your blueberry bushes' leaves and developing berries when you notice the berries starting to change color. According to the University of Massachusetts, birds dislike the flavor of methyl anthranilate in the grape flavoring and will stop eating from your bushes.
Reapply the spray as needed to keep the birds away, especially after a rain, over the few weeks it takes for the berries to ripen. Rinse harvested berries well before eating.
Tips & Warnings
- The Kool-Aid spray may be sufficient to deter birds, but netting is most effective, particularly if the spray is not working or there are simply too many blueberry-loving birds in your area.
- Blueberries typically grow in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 3 to 8, depending on the cultivar, but gardeners in warmer climates can consider Vaccinium "Sunshine Blue," hardy in USDA zones 6 to 10.
- Ortho Home Gardener’s Problem Solver; Denny Schrock
- University of Massachusetts Extension: 1 Bird Protection for Blueberries and Other Fruit
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Vaccinium "Chippewa"
- Missouri Botanical Garden: Vaccinium "Sunshine Blue"
- Photo Credit Blueberries image by Lucas & Jenn from Fotolia.com
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