July 31, 2012

Grape Expectations: Protecting a Bumper Crop from the Birds & Squirrels

Based on the many plump bunches that are hanging from the branches of our Thompson Seedless vine right now, we're expecting a nice harvest of grapes this fall.

Thompson Seedless grapes

Normally, the squirrels and birds eat most of them and we get just a handful of half-full bunches, picked a bit before their prime so as not to lose the entire crop to the animals. This year we're taking action to protect the fruit.

Grapes covering the arbor

The grapes are growing up a freestanding arbor that is located within jumping distance from the squirrel highway, a.k.a. the back fence. Squirrels can also climb up the trellis supports from the ground, of course. And the birds--I love all the birds in my yard and don't want to do anything to drive them away, but I also don't want to sacrifice my family's snacks to them. We decided the only way to prevent both squirrels and birds was to loosely wrap the whole vine in bird netting, cutting off access from the air, ground and squirrel highway.

Grapes protected

We already had bird netting on hand for the purpose of keeping cats from pooping in my front yard raised beds. Stretching it over the top of a seven foot arbor with another couple of feet of vines on top is a two-person job for sure. Mr. English and I installed it together in about twenty minutes, including adding some well-placed screws to the arbor posts to secure the netting up and around the hanging fruit, making a sort of hammock for the bunches.

Bird netting stretched over arbor and grapes

It's not a perfect enclosure, and some of the fruit is sticking out through the wide holes in the netting, but we're hoping it gets the job done. I'm just glad we have only one grape vine to protect--if you have long rows of grapes, this is an impractical solution.

A few are still poking through the netting

I'm curious to know how others have protected their grapes from critters. Anyone tried shiny strips of mylar and does that work? (I'd think maybe that would keep birds at bay, but not squirrels.) Any other creative ideas?


  1. Curious as to how often and how much you water the grape. Ours, this year, is not doing very well. Maybe it's just normal for August.

    1. It's one of the few plants that's on a timer this year, and the water comes on once every four days, probably for about 20-30 minutes. I've given it some extra water a couple of times during really hot weather (100+).