Immature Grapes

How to Keep Birds from Eating Your Grapes

By Erin Huffstetler | 05/31/2017 | 31 Comments
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Our grape experiment was a huge success. Read on for my update.

Grapes are easy to grow, but hard to protect from birds. The first year our grape vines produced, I decided to hold off on netting our grapes, until I saw the first sign of birds munching on them. Well, the very next morning all of our grapes were gone. Clearly the wait and see approach was the wrong approach to take.

Having learned from the experience, we netted our grapes as soon as they set fruit last year. And that worked brilliantly, until a mocking bird figured out how to get inside of our nets. She had quite the feast at our expense, and we were left with just a few grapes (not grape bunches) to sample.

But that’s all in the past. This year, we will be the ones to eat our grapes. And we’ve taken drastic measures to ensure that it ends up that way …

We’re going old school, folks.

While researching solutions to our bird problem, my husband came across an old trick, and it’s the approach that we’ve decided to take.

Basically, you stick each grape bunch inside of a paper lunch bag in early June, and you staple the bag shut, so the birds can’t get to the grapes. The grapes go about their business and you can go about yours. After lots of research, there seem to only be two drawbacks to this method:

1. The grapes will mature a bit slower (but they’ll turn out sweeter because of it).

2. We’ll have paper bags all over our arbors until fall (and it may not look so hot).

Given the potential for lots and lots of tasty grapes in the fall, we decided that we could live with those trade offs.

Paper Lunch Bags

So, we hit Target for paper lunch sacks, and we spent several hours bagging our grapes today. Here’s a video of what we did:

Just to recap the steps shown in the video …

Cut Slits in the Sides of the Bags

We cut a two-inch slit on both sides of each bag (right along the center seam).

How to Bag Grapes

Then, we pinched off any leaves that were right next to the grape cluster, and we slid a bag over the grapes, allowing the vine to rest at the bottom of the side slits. This left us with a top flap that we could fold over and staple in place.

Bagged Grapes

It took a while to bag all of our grapes (we bagged around 150 bunches), but there was nothing difficult about the task; and it’ll be well worth the effort, if we end up with lots of grape in the fall.

Bagged Grape Arbor

As to the way it looks … well it may not earn us any points with our HOA, but I can live with it for a few months.

August Update:

Grape Bags at End of the Season

We decided to check on our grapes this morning to see how things had gone. As you can see, the bags were still in good shape. They held up well to our rainy summer.

And when we opened the bags …

Grapes

Lots and lots of grapes. And man are they tasty. I’m going to be popular at snack time today 🙂

And since I collected eggs and picked apples while I was out there, I’m feeling rather farmy at the moment.

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Comments

  1. Wish I could do something like this with our cherries. Last year the greedy robins got them all. This year there are very few blossoms so we will have to wait another year to try netting our trees.

  2. We have cherries too, but they haven’t started producing yet. I’m guessing they will next year. I’ve been stockpiling netting whenever I come across it at yard sales. I’m thinking about building netted rooms around our cherry bushes. Stay tuned for that adventure … lol 🙂

    • We’ve had a couple storms already, and so far the bags are holding up beautifully. it doesn’t seem to have affected them at all.

  3. Walked by your house a few days ago and was really surprised to see a bumper crop of paper bags. Took a second to figure out what was going on. Whatever works

    • We’re growing Canadice red seedless grapes. They’re super tasty. Much better than anything you can buy at the grocery store. Since this is our first real harvest, we’ve just been eating them out of hand. They’ve been holding up well in the fridge so far. I may make something with them, if we don’t get them eaten in the next couple days.

  4. I thought the grapes need sunshine? The bags didn’t harm them at all? I’m on my first year of grapes and they are almost ALL gone. So bummed!!!

    • Nope. As long as the leaves are getting sun, you’re good. Bagging them will slow the ripening just a smidge. It’s the only way we’ve managed to keep the birds off our grapes. It took us a few hours to get everything bagged, but it was definitely worth it.

  5. Mine are not actually bunching grapes but muscadines. Any hints on getting them to stay on the vine long enough to mature in the fall? The fruit forms beautifully in the spring but changes color in June or July when very small. Either the wind blows them down or they fall off.

  6. I Finally got around to netting my grapes this afternoon, didn’t get much done as it’s 103° outside. Netting doesn’t work very well, hard to close all the gaps & keep the netting away from the grapes.

    Your idea sounds like the solution, I too was wondering about them being enclosed, but the leaves get plenty of sunshine.

    Thanks for the tip, gonna go get some bags.

    • I put the bags on when they start to fruit (turn into grapes). They’re teeny tiny then, but I’ve found the birds will even eat them at that stage.

  7. Thanks for the paper bag tip-I have a bumper crop of Pink Iona grapes-will get the bags on tomorrow-before the birds arrive. Will do same for my apples too. Sue

  8. Hi, am going to try the paper bags. Used mesh (vege shop bags) last season, but the “Silver eyes” could still pierce the grapes. Thanks for the tip. Actually came across your blog the other day from Down to Earth and then when I went googling just now re this problem – there you were again! Pen

    • Just realised you’re in the US, so Merry Christmas, we’re having a great day here in South West Western Australia. Pen

    • Good question. I just did a bit of research and found reference to people who are using paper bags to protect figs, so I’d definitely give it a try.

    • One more thought: Bags will definitely keep the birds off your figs, but if you also have insects bugging them (ants, stinkbugs etc. be sure to keep up whatever pest control you’re doing for that. Here’s what I do for that.

  9. I came up with a variation on your approach after I found that the raccoons mushed the grapes through my cloth net bags. I used those clear plastic clamshells (tomatoes, lettuse, and other produce) from the grocery store just snapped over the grape bunches. It is very funny to just cut of a bunch of grapes for friends as they are already packaged. It works very well and it is easy to test ripeness. Thanks Tom

  10. Glad I found your site, we have had a bumper crop of red globe grapes this year. Will trial the paper bags as we lost so many last year to birds. Thanks & Hello from 43deg c, (108 deg F) Western Australia. Robyn

  11. Any suggestions for my 2 blueberry bushes…..we have a baby carriage netting over our 1 fig tree which works because it is still very small. Our blueberry bushes are only 2 years old so far but are making flowers now. Thx.

    • Hi Marietta,

      I use cages around our young blueberry bushes. It keeps the birds (including our chickens) out of them. A blueberry farm near us attaches pie plates to their bushes to keep the birds off. It’s not full proof, but it does help. I’m hoping to build a caged room around our cherry bushes this year. The birds beat us to our first harvest last year. We’ve netted our fruit trees and vines in the past, but found that persistent birds still found a way in. And birds sometimes get tangled in the netting, which is sad. Hopefully this will give you some more ideas to try.

  12. Hi Marietta
    This is our first year in a house with two old grape vines and so far the vines are loaded with grapes. We’ve decided to bag the grape clusters but since we live in southern New Mexico, I wonder if your June target date may not be too late for us. Should the grapes be marble sized, smaller, turning colors…? We have a lot of Doves in this area and they’re watching our grape vines. We don’t want to bag the grapes late and have no grapes. Ideas?

    • Hi Rita,

      I try to bag mine as soon as the fruit starts to form. For me that’s usually June. It sounds like you already have fruit, so I would go ahead and bag it. My experience is that the birds don’t wait for the fruit to reach full size. Hope you have a great first harvest.

  13. I planted four grape vines along my fence a few years ago. This is the first year they are loaded with tiny grapes. I am going to try your method for vines, currents and gooseberries before loosing them all to birds.
    Thanks for the tip!

  14. Hi, Erin,

    Last year I put paper bags over my concord grape bunches,
    but the birds (or maybe it was squirrels?) tore open the bags and ate virtually every bunch before the grapes fully ripened. Maybe the bags you used were sturdier? Any suggestions? Thanks for your help.

    • I’d say it was squirrels, or a larger animal. I’ve only had that happen once, and it was a raccoon. He ate all the apples off my trees that year, too. Live trapping would be an option, if it’s something bigger than a squirrel. If you live in a suburban area, animal control will usually come set up traps free of charge. Not sure what to suggest, if it’s squirrels. I have a post on keeping squirrels out of your garden coming up, but keeping them off your grapes is a tricky one. I’ll let you know, if I think of anything.

  15. I saw this strategy on the internet and decided to try this as I have had the same problems with critters. I bagged them like the different internet videos suggested and waited about 3 weeks. Despite the ample birds and insects in the area, ( san Diego, California) none got my grapes….HOWEVER, major problem;em just the same……lots os MOLD all over the grapes. Without air circulation, too much moisture cause all the grapes to rot with mold….I tried paper bags and plastic, experimenting, but same results…

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