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Photography by Erin Kunkel

Bird netting: anyone who's used it can attest to what a tangled mess it can become in the garden. In the Sunset Test Garden, we use a simple system of bird netting that includes a $3 hack from the hardware store that makes all the difference in keeping the netting neat and tidy.

Why bother with this stuff at all? This time of year, migrant birds are returning for the winter and if you don't do something to protect tender crops, you may find leaves covered with bite marks and new shoots eaten to the ground.

Supplies:

The masonry ladder is key. It's a hardware store hack that I started using a couple of years ago and it works like a charm. Masonry ladder is a material for building walls and will run you about $3 per ladder. I use one ladder and cut it in-half with heavy-duty wire cutters to create two hoops for a raised bed. The hoops create a frame that lifts the bird netting away from the growing crops and keeps the netting from getting tangled.

Photography by Erin Kunkel

Bend the masonry ladder into a semi-circle to fit the size of your bed and push it about four- to six- inches into the ground. If you have a raised bed, put the ends of the masonry ladder in the inside of the bed to help keep the hoop steady. Next, cut the bird netting to fit the bed, secure one edge with landscape staples and stretch the netting taut over the masonry ladder hoops.

Photography by Erin Kunkel

Finally, tack down all remaining edges of the bird netting with landscape staples to keep the netting tight and prevent birds and squirrels from sneaking under the corners.  Keeping the netting taut both looks better and is safer for animals. Loose netting increases the chance that a bird will get caught rather than just deterred by the netting. To harvest crops, take out the landscape staples from one side and fold the netting over the top of the hoop.

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