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Kitchen Gardening

Build a Support System for Your Strawberry Netting

A few lengths of copper pipe, some fittings, and a little work keep varmints off the berries and the netting off the plants.

  • You can build a custom netting support out of copper pipe and fittings. Other than a hacksaw, no tools are needed.
    Photo/Illustration: Ruth Dobsevage
  • The Gates by Christo and Jeanne-Claude, Central Park, New York City, 2005

    Photo by DirkZ under the Creative Commons Attribution License 2.0.
  • Without a netting, your resident birds and chipmunks may get the lion's share of the strawberry harvest. With one, you'll enjoy the tasty fruit.
    Photo/Illustration: Ruth Dobsevage
  • Photo/Illustration: Ruth Dobsevage

My little strawberry patch produces a modicum of berries in June, but we’d lose them all to the birds and the chipmunks without a netting. I used to throw a netting over the plants, but they would become entangled with it, and picking was awkward. Next, I lashed together a framework of uprights and crosspieces out of pruning offcuts, but the netting snagged on the supports. And the twigs would rot or break in a year or two.

Twig support
  The old lashed twig support (above) was rickety, snaggy, and had to be shored up every spring. Its replacement (below) has weathered to blend in.
  Copper strawberry net support
   
  In winter
   

Now I have as sturdy and weatherproof support system for my strawberry netting. It shares the general appearance of The Gates, but none of its grandeur or expense. 

This netting support was cobbled together from several 5-ft. lengths of 1/2-in. dia. copper pipe and a package of 90° elbow fittings, purchased at the local big-box store several years ago. Type M is the lightest and cheapest copper pipe, and it’s fine for this application. Nowadays, the same store sells 1/2-in. Type M in 10-ft. lengths, so it’s a little less convenient to transport unless you have a large vehicle.

With a hacksaw, I cut some of the pipes in half to form two uprights. A full-length pipe length more or less matched the width of the bed, so no cutting was needed. Assembly was simple and required no solder or adhesive. Installation? Just stick the assemblies in the ground a few feet apart, and drape the netting over. Now, picking the fruit is easy. Birds and chipmunks, eat your hearts out.

One of the advantages of this type of support is that it can accommodate beds that not perfectly rectangular (and none of mine are). You can just shift the assemblies to get the coverage you need.

I take down the netting in July. The frames could be dismantled, too, but it’s easier to leave them in place. Over the years, the copper has weathered to an unobtrusive dark hue. When snow covers the garden, it’s a nice reminder that a fruitful spring is on the horizon.

Update: Copper pipe is no longer cheap, alas, but PVC pipe is still wallet friendly. The support won’t look as good, but it will still perform well.

Freestanding tomato trellis More trellises to build:

Freestanding Tomato Trellis
Lashed Garden Trellises
Copper Pipe Trellis
Rustic Trellis
Ultimate Tomato Trellis
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