Protecting Our Fruit from Squirrels

With oak trees and more than a half-dozen fruit trees in our yard, we battle hungry squirrels for fruit every year. Nature won while we slowly developed a design to protect our fruit trees from the ravages of squirrels. This year we were finally successful.

We like eating fruits and vegetables, but oak trees simply have squirrels. Our Santa Clara Valley has an amazing climate for growing fruits and vegetables. “Until the 1960s it was the largest fruit production and packing region in the world with 39 canneries.”

Over the years we tried several designs, improving them by trial and error. This year’s design uses a PVC frame to suspend a plastic net around the fruit tree, where the net is tied several feet off the ground. In earlier designs the net went to the ground, but squirrels always found a way in.

Here’s our fuyu persimmon tree surrounded by the frame and net.

persimmon tree with frame and net
persimmon tree with frame and net

To build the frame and net,

  1. Construct a PVC frame around the tree. We use pipe and elbows.
  2. Drape a plastic net over the frame. The net needs to be long enough to drape to the ground on all sides. We use a 25′ x 25′ net.
  3. Gather the bottom of the net and tie it around the tree trunk, several feet off the ground.
  4. Roll the net between the tree trunk and a vertical leg of the frame, and bundle the rolled net. Repeat for all four corners.

This view of the net shows the four rolls radiating from the tree trunk, with the net hung off the ground so that squirrels can’t chew through the plastic net.

bottom of net is off the ground
bottom of net is off the ground

The design is flexible where the frame can be tailored to the size of the tree by using different lengths of pipe. During the winter, we disassemble the frame and roll up the net.

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Published by

charley280

I enjoy travel, art, food, photography, nature, California native plants, history, and yoga. I am a retired software engineer. The gravatar is a Nuttall's woodpecker that visited our backyard.

8 thoughts on “Protecting Our Fruit from Squirrels”

  1. Ah, the Forever Battle between gardeners and squirrels…. My neighbor built a similar tree cage but, unfortunately for his peach crop, he did not tie off the netting the way you did. The squirrels simply crawled underneath and made out like the bandits that they are. It’s really disappointing how few tree protection products are available in the U.S. In the U.K., it’s a booming business, with plenty of options.

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    1. In prior years we did as your neighbor, putting sticks or rocks on the edges of the net. The squirrels would run into the net and dislodge it from the sticks, or they would bite through the net. One year they got every apricot.
      Blogging is similar to taking photos. Just as I try not to show my discarded photos, I try to not discuss the details of our many failed attempts to outsmart the squirrels.

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  2. Hi, is this still working for you? I have been building various similar structures but all my fruit trees are absolutely stripped each year. We have Eastern grey squirrels that can eat through Kevlar I think.

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    1. This PVC frame and net are still working for us — we have two trees with fruit caged right now. In this design, the net completely encases the tree and fruit. We try to protect the net from squirrels chewing through, because they can chew through ‘most anything.
      Have you figured out how the squirrels get inside the net to eat the fruit? Is there a way for squirrels to chew through the net? Our net is a foot or more off the ground, so squirrels don’t get close enough to the net to chew through. If there are other trees or large shrubs next to the net, squirrels can climb outside the net, chew a hole in the net, and gain entry.

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      1. I think my problem is that my trees are so densely planted (~50 fruit trees on a regular city lot) with the older ones often overhanging the younger ones that the squirrels can leap onto the netting of the smaller trees. I don’t worry overmuch about losing fruit on the big trees because who can reach that high anyway? But I do hate losing all the apples on my semi-dwarfs. And since my new lychee is just beginning to set fruit, I am determined to protect her as well. While Kate’s system is lovely and mostly plastic free, your system would work better for me because it can be moved from tree to tree as their due dates do. I am contemplating covering the top with hardware cloth instead of the thin plastic netting to see if that gives me more protection. Thanks for getting back to me so promptly!

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  3. Yup, I can see that your design would work. The chicken wire protects the bottom of the net from squirrels. It’s nice to enjoy the fruit of our labors — so much better than growing squirrel food. 😉

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  4. Hi ronnikern,
    Yes, squirrels can chew through anything, so we need to protect the top of the net from squirrels when there are nearby trees. Last year, squirrels used a large shrub next to our pluot tree to gnaw through the net around a horizontal pipe at the the top of the structure; then they were then able to hop through the hole to get in and out. 😦 Wrapping the top edges with chicken wire (the basic approach used by katerussell010) might do the trick, but we haven’t tried this. Best wishes, and please tell us what you tried and how well it worked! Lychees are so worth the effort!

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