In my garden we have a large Satsuma plum tree, about 4 metres high and the same across. Each year it bears quite well, but we get to eat hardly any of the fruit. The reason - those fiendish birds, the 'twenty-eight' parrots.
These pretty, intelligent, but intellectually perverted birds are very destructive. They not only eat the ripe fruit, but also tear off both green and ripe fruit and drop it on the ground. They also possess an infuriating and arrogant indifference to most control measures permitted in the suburbs.
They show nonchalant lack of concern for loud noises, are indifferent to hurled pieces of wood or balls, are amused by 'decorative' plastic bags etc. in the foliage, or jets of high-pressure water from the hose, and are heartlessly unmoved by the presence of a dead relative (traffic victim) hung in the branches.
This year I rebelled. In late October I bought a large piece of bird netting from QE Marine for just under $40. Tying this to a long length of 10-cm plastic irrigation pipe, I placed it over the tree using a stepladder, then pulled it out to cover the foliage, using a broom.
I should say that because of the multi-storey approach used in my 'synthecology' garden, the plum tree's lowest branches are high enough above the ground to be walked under, so the tree has a 'lollypop'shape. This meant that the net could be gathered together under the branches and secured together with wire to form an almost complete 'sphere' of netting. The tree had not been pruned for some time, and I did have to bend some of the more 'whippy' branches in to get them within the net.
VICTORY! For the first season ever, we did not make a major contribution, of plums at least, to the Parrots Benevolent Society. And there were two bonuses. A small one was that the plums collected were properly tree-ripened and very sweet, unlike many commercial (or desperate amateur) crops which are gathered greener.
But the most interesting bonus was that gathering the fruit was so quick and easy. It fell into the net and lay in the low spots. A shake of the branches, and all the properly ripe fruit would fall down ready. Pull open a gap where the net edges were drawn together, and the fruit would roll into a container held ready.
It seems to me that this technique could have commercial application. Shake such a tree with the right amount of force with a tree shaker, and it should be possible to take off all fruit with the desired amount of ripeness. Form the net under the tree into suitable conical pockets, and it should be possible to have the fruit roll down gently into waiting boxes, or even a conveyor belt!
There were a few extra lessons. I bought the net late in the season, and when I put it on, much of the fruit was already well-sized, so I pulled quite a lot off applying the net. Next year I will have the net ready ( I have been told it should last at least 15 years), and I will put it on earlier. Also, in the dormant season I will be pruning back the longer branches so that they will not need bending, and this will give me more slack under the tree to form nice collection pockets.
The parrots still managed to peck a few holes in the fruit right against the net, but they couldn't reach most of them, inside. This year I have the smug expression instead of them. And if you don't think the score given in the headline is very impressive, remember that last year it was: Parrots - 10, Noel - O!
DATE: November 1990
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