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Soft fruit under threat from hungry birds? Then why not build a fruit cage? Martin Fish shows you how

Home-grown soft fruit is delicious and well worth growing. In our plot we grow blackcurrants, redcurrants, gooseberries, raspberries, strawberries and blueberries and the fruit is either eaten fresh, or my wife Jill freezes it or makes jams and preserves.

For me, the main pest of soft fruit is birds. As soon as the berries start to ripen, blackbirds and starlings descend upon the garden and will strip the bushes in no time at all. The only way to make sure we get the ripe fruits is to protect them from hungry birds. In the past we’ve used wire netting supported on metal stakes with plastic netting draped over the top. This is a fiddly set-up and to get to the bushes to pick, we have to disassemble our makeshift construction. This system has worked, but it doesn’t look very attractive for our National Garden Scheme open day or when groups visit the garden. We’ve also had a couple of birds trapped in the netting and as much as I don’t want them to eat the fruits, I don’t want to harm them either.

After making do for the past six years, I’ve finally decided that a permanent fruit cage along the border where I grow bush fruits is what is needed. The border is around 9.5m (31ft) long and 1.2m (4ft) wide with a path to the front and a stone wall around 1.2m (4ft) tall to the back. I’ve looked at ready-made fruit cages and also kits where you can make them to the shape and size that you need, but none of them would adapt to the size or shape required. Most cages have a door to get in, but because the fruit bushes take up the full width of the border, it’s not possible to enter the cage at one end and walk down the length of the border. The only solution is to be able to enter from the path and having thought long and hard about how to do this, I decided to make my own fruit cage where I can remove the front wire panels when I need to get to the bushes to prune or harvest.

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About Kitchen Garden Magazine

Kitchen Garden is Britain's best guide to growing your own. It offers advice from the finest minds in gardening to make sure you get the tastiest produce from your plot.