Fruit trees and bushes may need protection from bad weather or frost. This can be done using windbreaks or fleece. They may also need protection against birds and animals. Protecting your fruiting plants will ensure a healthy and rich crop.
Protection against wind is important as this may damage the plants, especially the young ones, but the older trees will also need protection against the wind if they are in an open space or in an exposed site. Maintain windbreaks properly so that they remain effective. Prune natural barriers such trees or shrubs if they become thin to encourage bushier growth. Check that posts supporting windbreak netting or fences are secure and repair them as necessary.
Protection against the frost is important especially for fruiting plants that bloom early in the season as the spring frosts may kill or injure buds, flowers or fruitlets overnight. Frost protection is needed over winter also as severe winter frosts may cause bark splitting and dieback. In areas where low temperatures are common over winter you should select cultivars that are bred to withstand these conditions. In subtropical areas there should be few problems but if necessary you can cover small trees and bushes with polyester fabric or spun polypropylene sheets.
A very slight frost seldom causes any serious damage, -2 Celsius degrees (28 F) is frequently the danger point. Usually, the duration of the frost is more important than the temperature alone. For example a temperature of -3 Celsius degrees for a quarter of an hour would cause little or no damage whereas, sustained over three hours, it could cause substantial losses.
If frost is forecast you should protect your strawberries, bushes and even small trees by using fleece, hessian or layers of newspaper to cover the plant completely and trap warm air around it. Remove the covers each day once the temperature has risen above freezing point and replace when frost is again forecast.
Protection from birds is necessary as many fruits but also fruit buds can be damage by them. In winter, bullfinches and tits damage fruit buds by feeding on the nutritious center of the buds and discarding the outer bud scales. Damaging the buds is much more serious than the loss of ripe fruits because it denudes whole branches permanently, making it necessary to prune them back to obtain new, young shoots, which will only fruit after two or more seasons. The best protection that can be used in this situation is to place nets over the trees or bushes. If snow is forecast you should support the net or remove it temporarily because the weight of the snow on the net may damage the branches underneath.
Ripening fruits should also be protected against birds. Small areas may be temporarily covered with netting. Larger areas should be protected by fruit cages constructed from metal supports covered with wire or plastic netting. Large fruit trees are impractical to protect, although those trees trained against supports may be enclosed by attaching netting to the support. When using mesh of any net you should make sure that the mesh is small enough to exclude tiny birds. Strawberries in a patch may be protected with a low, temporary cage.