Allotment netting can prove to be one of the best investments to make on a plot. Without it, all the effort spent growing fruit and vegetables may result in happy insects, birds, and animals.
There are many types of allotment netting each with their own purpose, such as bird netting, butterfly netting, and insect netting. Considerations for each are described below. Quality of nets also vary, with more expensive nets being less fiddly to use and lasting longer.
Timing is important. The temptation is to leave erecting allotment netting late, and perhaps, only if there is evidence of attack. The truth is birds and insects are hungry today and may not wait. An attack can strike early or late in the growing cycle, and by the time you notice it, it may be too late to correct for the current growing season.
Types Of Allotment Netting
Nets come in different specifications depending upon the pest they are intended to protect against.
Mesh approximately 1mm by 1mm.
Insect netting is a very fine mesh that prevents insects and butterflies entering, and is suitable for susceptible crops in the brassica family like brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage.
Insect netting has UV protection that helps extend its life. It provides some protection against plant damage from wind rock, and has an insulating effect against cold weather.
To be effective, the insect netting needs to be used as soon as the plants are planted. The net needs to be secure around the edges, either by securely weighing down the netting, or by burying it in the soil. I use bricks to weigh down the net, as this has the advantage of allowing easy access for weeding around the plants.
The netting is lightweight and can be suspended on a structure of garden canes or hoops. If using canes, it is worth protecting the caps that touch the net to ensure that these do not damage the mesh.
Mesh approximately 7mm by 7mm.
Butterfly netting provides protection for crops often eaten by caterpillars. The mesh size of butterfly netting is too small for butterflies to enter and lay their eggs on the crops. This in itself is not a problem, but when the caterpillars emerge they can devastate a crop.
Butterfly netting is also relatively expensive compared to bird netting, especially if you intend to purchase a net both wide and long. The cheapest butterfly nets are of the dimension to cover a row or two of your chosen crop, and it may be worth pre-planning the size and length of your rows to the size of the cheapest net.
Whatever structure is used to support butterfly netting, it is important to securely peg or weigh down the bottom of the net to ensure that there are no gaps.
As your plants grow, it is necessary to check regularly that the net remains free from touching any leaves. It is possible for butterflies to lay their eggs through the net if the plants are touching the netting.
When left in place for the whole of the growing cycle, the final outcome from using butterfly netting can be a much healthier and larger crop.
Mesh approximately 20mm by 20mm.
This is the most common type of netting sold in garden centres, DIY sheds, and supermarkets. Its popularity is reflected in the price with many good deals available.
The cheapest types of bird netting tend to be in smaller sizes, and need to be stretched to reach their full size. There are many stronger and more durables types of bird netting available, which also have the advantage of being easier to use.
I have found it best to get the largest net sizes, say 4m by 6m, as this gives the greatest flexibility when re-using the net around the allotment. It can be very frustrating to realise that the net you have purchased is just too short to cover the crop.
Pea & Bean Netting
Mesh approximately 125mm by 125mm.
The cheapest netting to buy owing to its wide gauge. The netting acts both as a climbing support for the plants and as protection against bird attack – especially from larger birds like pigeons. I erect the net at the same time as planting my seeds to give the seedlings (and seeds) protection right from the start.