Saturday, November 21, 2009

Most invaluable tool: bird netting (with a tangent on Brood X cicada)

One of the most invaluable tools in my garden is bird netting. I bought this large roll of bird netting a few years ago to protect my young magnolia from the Brood X Cicada that invades my area only every 17 years.

A quick tangent... The Brood X Cicada was horrendous! For a period of several weeks, the cicadas were everywhere. If you're not a bug lover, all you need to know is this - they are large, loud, and horrible. There were soooooo many everywhere that I would hesitate before walking out because inevitably, several would drop upon opening the front door. Before going out to my car, I would seal the neckline of my shirt, seal my purse, cover my head, and then run so that they would not land on me. They are slow fliers, like to dive right at you, and like to land on you. At one point, it was impossible to walk outdoors without having a cicada land on you. Click here , scroll down and play the video to hear what I heard constantly for weeks. It was deafening outdoors. Towards the end of the season, the cicadas were beginning to die and could be found EVERYWHERE. Along the street curbs were pulsating mounds and mounds of dead and dying cicadas. Once, I was driving (with a pile of dead cicadas collected under the windshield/hood area) and a headless cicada began crawling up my windshield. It would not blow away and I resisted the urge to turn on my windshield wiper (cause we know what happens when we try to windshield wipe bugs - it's not pretty). But I digress...

Stores were out of bug netting so I purchased a large roll of bird netting and wrapped my tree two or three times. When cicada season was thankfully over, I began to find many uses for this netting:

  • In the photo above, my sweet potatoes were drying outside. To protect them from my thieving backyard enemies (squirrels, raccoons, who knows what else), I brought them to the front yard and protected them with netting. One time I watched someone on a walk steal my Sunday paper right from my driveway. Over my sweet potatoes, the netting would also serve as a "this is not yours to take" message.

  • The netting successfully protected my butternut squash all season. See my squash here.

  • This is an obvious choice for protecting berries from birds. My new strawberry patch was protected this spring with a layer of this netting while berries were forming. I use this with some fantastic stakes I may show you in a later post.

  • I use this netting in the garden after sowing any kind of seed (like lettuce, carrots, etc.) to prevent my cat from using it as a litter box - this is the most frequent reason for using the netting in my garden. After the seedlings begin to grow, I'll remove the netting. At this point, my cat will not dig around, and the garden will have been protected.

  • For fall bulb planting, I will often lay this netting down to prevent squirrels from digging up what I've just planted.

  • After patching up some bald spots in my backyard, I used some stakes and the netting as a simple temporary fence so no one would trample the area.

This bird netting goes way beyond its intended purpose in my garden. It will probably last forever and I have many pieces cut to size for a variety of uses. Perhaps it will be of use to you as well!


  1. Wendy,
    I enjoyed your story about the cicadas! Those sweet potatoes look yummy. I remember when I was a kid the cicada came one summer and you could swing a 5 gallon bucket in the air and catch hundreds in one swing they were everywhere! Here in NC we live out of the loop of their occurrence.

  2. Lots of good tips here. Your netting looks a lot like the deer fence we use around here. It nearly disappears in use. In fact, my favorite story is when our cat was trapped inside a cage we made around a tree. She resembled a mime in an imaginary box as she hurled herself against the barrier, only to bounce back, puzzled. Wish I had a video.

  3. Thanks for this great list of uses for bird netting. I like that the netting recedes in the landscape and doesn't detract from the garden.

  4. Hi Wendy,
    I use this netting a lot too. I did have one sad incident of a bird getting caught in it and dying while we were on vacation.I felt so guilty! I like the idea of using it after planting bulbs. Great tips! Those Cicadas sound annoying as crap.

  5. I enjoyed your informative post! I'm glad I don't have to experience those cicadas. We have some kind or another, but not those!

    I planted some strawberries across the street. I imagine I'd have to lift the netting off of them so they don't peck through it. I wonder if the netting would keep rabbits off of the new peas or lettuce.

    I'll have to see if there is any bird netting on sale at Menard's or somewhere.

    Thank you for your comment on my critter post.

  6. Randy I'm glad you know what I'm talking about! I don't think relatives from other locales really understood the extent of the Brood X. I guess 13 more years till we have to deal with them again.

    Rosey - that's a sad story - and now I'll be obsessively checking any time I use the netting!

    Ricki - cats are hilarious troublemakers!

    Sue - I have these stakes I use with the netting that makes it not too difficult to remove the netting when you need to - and will also keep the netting raised just a bit so birds can peck through.

    Sylvana - yes, definitely recedes into the landscape!

  7. Gosh those cicadas... I would have done the same. For me, they are big insects! I would not want them to fall into my shirt either. And, thanks for sharing the functions of netting. I have seen fruit trees being protected with nettings here. What a good tool to have!

  8. Bird netting -- I just love things that have multiple uses in the garden. Cicadas --shudder -- every summer they are so loud, particularly when it's really hot here. Can you believe that some people actually like that sound? I am so NOT one of them. I haven't been though a massive invasion of them, though -- not yet, at least. And I'm so upset that someone stole your newspaper! Now there's someone who deserves to be trapped in bird netting...

  9. Yikes Wendy~~ This sounds very Hitchcock-esque! I think I'd go insane. ... I like that the netting is an unobtrusive color and protects without the gaudy "look at me" colors. I could have used a layer over my blueberries yet I was ambivalent. I felt sorry for the birds....[Oh brother!]

  10. Oh, I was just remembering the summer we took our kids camping, I think in the northern part of Nebraska, and we were there when a whole bunch of some kind of flying insects were around. I just looked up flying insects, and I'm pretty sure they were mayflies.

    It was miserable, even though they didn't bite or sting. I don't even think they tried to land on us. It was kind of amazing to see, though, and made me think of the plagues in Egypt when the pharaoh wouldn't let Moses take the Israelites away.

    I can't imagine what you went through with the cicadas.

  11. Strange, cicadas are quite rare in my place. Probably they all may have gotten to your place. I also hearing a lot about Asian harlequin ladybugs in this same manner.
    Though Im not a fan of these insect, its just pity to see all of them dying or dead in masses.

  12. that was nice information about bird netting it help me out with the problem thanks for more information regarding Netting bird, bird control, bird repellents, pest bird control, spikes bird you can visit

  13. Um, yes I remember the pulsating mounds of cicadas. It was like something out of your worst Lovecraftian nightmare. I saw thousands writhing in a pile under a lamp post...ugh. I was like an orgy of the undead insects. Oh and our cat would gorge herself on them. I'm sure in ancient times they would have been considered a harbinger of death. Very nasty business. I'm still finding empty pupa shells in the yard....

    Sorry I kind of went off the rails there! Great post!


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