Permaculture in Practice: Use Small, Slow Solutions

Sometimes we overwhelm ourselves. In an attempt to do everything perfectly, we end up doing nothing at all.

That’s what happened to me with produce grow bags. I’d read up on them and knew they could be used to grow nicer fruit without chemicals. But there were too many options (waxed paper, nylon bags, and one option that looked like sticky pantihose). And then there was the cost. I had so many fruit trees producing hundreds of pieces of fruit a year. Was it worth it? I didn’t spray my trees anyway, so wasn’t the carbon footprint of the bags worse than what I was doing already (which was essentially doing nothing).

Of course as I found myself having to pare around what seemed to be an ever-increasing number of wormholes and blemishes in my fruit, and figure out creative ways to use fruit that my family wouldn’t eat, I decided that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to finally try a few of the bags. And so I found a vendor on eBay and decided to try them. The bags I bought looked like this and were under $10 for 50 bags.

They come in three colors from this vendor: white, green, and orange. I bought 3 packages (150) of the green, thinking they would blend in nicest with the foliage on the tree and be least noticable.

When the bags arrived, they were not the natural olivey color you see in the photo above. They were the tackiest shade of bright Christmas green you could imagine. I balked at hanging them out in my trees, which are all very visible from the sidewalk. Finally, I decided to swallow any pride I had in how the garden looked and use them anyway.

After a few false starts, I found they were very easy to use. Slip a bag over an imature fruit (here in Wisconsin, I did it in late May/early June just after the late spring fruit drop), pull the drawstrings tight from either side, tie a small bow to keep the bag in place. I did not have enough for any one tree, so decided to spread them out across 2 apple trees, 4 pears and the peach tree; the most promising trees for the year.

They looked more like wonky party decorations than leaves. I kid you not – every group of pedestrians I heard walk by the yard commented on the bright green bags hanging in the trees. They could not be missed. It worked out to 10-20 bags per tree, with a few left over to share with a friend in the neighborhood. Why should my yard be the only one getting all of the attention after all?

The first fruits, the peaches, finally came ripe this past week. So what’s the verdict? They worked fantastic on the peach tree!

I’d thinned the peaches well this spring to give the tree a chance to rest after a bumper year last summer, so there were only a couple dozen fruits on the whole tree. Ten were in grow bags.

Of the fruit that was not in a growbag, about a third of the fruits were absolutely perfect and beautiful. 2/3rds were still delicious, but had significant scarring and blemishes. Of the fruit in the grow bags, 1 was blemished and 9 were perfect. A huge difference!

I will definitely be using them again on the peach tree next year, and will likely add to my collection of bags so I can protect more of the fruit on the tree. It was worth starting out small this year, but next year it is time to go a little bigger with an experiement that worked. It remains to be seen whether they helped with the apples and pears, too. If they were not as successful there, I can use all of the existing bags for the peach tree. I’ll keep you all posted as the apples and pears ripen!

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