Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

Hardscaping 101: Fruit Cages

Search

Hardscaping 101: Fruit Cages

January 14, 2018

If you’ve ever tried to grow soft fruits out in the open then you’ll know that birds of all shapes and sizes love delicious ripe berries just as much as we do. And they can strip plants bare with mechanical precision—normally on the very morning that you’ve decided to harvest your crop. So a fruit cage is a must if you want to grow soft fruits on any kind of scale. Read on:

Above: A Peak Roof Decorative Steel Fruit Cage is £648 from Harrod Horticultural. If you want to go bespoke, the sky is the limit with these structures.

What is a fruit cage?

A fruit cage is a rigid structure that’s shrouded in bird proof netting. But they can be about more than just protecting your fruit. The real beauty of fruit cages, says garden designer Frederic Whyte, is that they can be a fantastic piece of garden architecture too—even when they’re not in use in the winter. Designer Whyte has just installed square steel fruit cages into a walled garden project in Suffolk, England; he asked local firm Harrod Horticultural to powder coat them in a dark gray to soften the effect.

&#8\2\20;A handmade pair of fruit cages, made out of seasoned oak, crafted in our Dorset workshop,&#8\2\2\1; says Sellick & Saxton. For more information and prices, see Sellick & Saxton.
Above: “A handmade pair of fruit cages, made out of seasoned oak, crafted in our Dorset workshop,” says Sellick & Saxton. For more information and prices, see Sellick & Saxton.
Some designers produce fabulous wooden cages for projects, including bespoke oak versions with stunning peak roofs with carved pineapple finials and decorative lead flashing. But you don’t need to go haute—there are cages out there for every budget.

What are the best materials for a fruit cage?

Off-the-shelf cages tend to be made from aluminum, powder coated steel or, for a more rustic look, timber—all of which are usually sold in kits that are easy to assemble yourself at home if you have basic DIY skills. In the UK, Harrod Horticultural, which sells all of the above (a 2-meter square steel cage is £299, a 3.6-meter square timber one is £399), will also make different shapes and finishes to order if you have a particular size or design in mind.

A Slot & Lock Aluminium Strawberry Cage &#8\2\20;will be the cause of many aborted strawberry-thieving missions by frustrated birds,&#8\2\2\1; notes Harrod Horticultural, which sells the fruit cage for £39.
Above: A Slot & Lock Aluminium Strawberry Cage “will be the cause of many aborted strawberry-thieving missions by frustrated birds,” notes Harrod Horticultural, which sells the fruit cage for £39.

Can I make a DIY fruit cage?

Ready made kits are ideal if you don’t have much time but the basic structure of a fruit cage is also very easy to make using any wooden poles—and will cost a fraction of the price. For stability, poles will need to be sunk 18 inches into the ground so an 8-foot pole would give you a 6-foot-, 6-inch-high fruit cage. The most complex part—and this isn’t really that tricky—is building a basic ledge and brace door. And ensuring that your nets cover every square inch of the structure. If there’s a gap, some clever creature is going to find it.

A Roman Fruit Cage in traditional gloss black is made of galvanized steel and at its peak is \10 feet high; £7\13 at Agriframes.
Above: A Roman Fruit Cage in traditional gloss black is made of galvanized steel and at its peak is 10 feet high; £713 at Agriframes.

What is the best kind of netting for a fruit cage?

You can use a variety of netting depending on the wildlife around your garden and what you want to keep out—there is specific netting for birds, rabbits, deer and even butterflies. To conserve the roof netting (which can be damaged by snowfall over winter), remove at the end of each growing season.

A large Storm Proof Crop Cage is \$349 from My Pots and Planters.
Above: A large Storm Proof Crop Cage is $349 from My Pots and Planters.

What size fruit cage should I choose?

Fruit cages come in all shapes and sizes from low cages for strawberries and smaller bushes to vast walk-in cages that will protect fruits grown on a big scale so you need to consider not only the amount of space you have to dedicate to growing but also how much you actually want to grow. A walk-in fruit cage is arguably easier to work in too.

A small, portable Crop Cage has zippered doors; \$99.95 from Gardener&#8\2\17;s.
Above: A small, portable Crop Cage has zippered doors; $99.95 from Gardener’s.

How long will a fruit cage last?

Metal frames should last for decades, even if your netting needs to replaced over time but timber frames will, of course, rot eventually—but it’s easy to replace any damaged or weathered parts.

 Fruit Cage Mushroom Caps (£\1.40 apiece) and other replacement parts and accessories are available at William James & Co.
Above: Fruit Cage Mushroom Caps (£1.40 apiece) and other replacement parts and accessories are available at William James & Co.

What else do I need to know about fruit cages?

Prepare the ground before you install the structure; you will have more room to maneuver if you want to rototill or dig over the ground. Ideally to prepare for your plants, incorporate lots of manure and then cover the whole area with a ground cover sheet – you can then plant directly into it. Taller bushes like raspberries will also need supporting wires so plan these before you do ground preparation.

If you’re planning to grow fruits or berries, see our Garden Design 101 guides, including Edibles 101: A Field Guide to Planting, Care & Design. For more ideas to protect edibles from pests, see:

Product summary  

Greenhouses

Crop Cage

$99.95 USD from Gardener's Supply Co.

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation

v5.0