There are many animals that damage our fig trees, however, it all depends on the area you live in. I can’t tell you what to do against any animal in the world, but I can tell you how to protect your fig trees from squirrels, birds, and deer which are common in my area.
How to Protect Fig Tree From Squirrels?
Protecting fig trees against squirrels is more difficult than protecting them against other animals. The best methods of protection are bird nettings, wrapping figs in organza bags, giving squirrels another food source, having cats or dogs, and keeping the yard inhospitable to squirrels.
How to Protect Fig Tree From Squirrels With Bird Netting
Bird netting has worked well for me. True, it isn’t infallible, but it has kept a lot of my figs safe (and only a few times was thwarted). I live in the suburbs, so there are probably fewer possible pests around (but still quite a few). I’m not a big fan of framing. I simply wrap it around the tree and tuck in all of the edges (either under the pot or else using rocks to weigh it down). It’s not perfect, but it’s a lot better than no protection at all. I normally only cover the dark figs because the green figs are rarely disturbed in this area.
I get my bird netting locally, and I always look for heavy-duty ones. I’ve seen many weak nets kill birds and squirrels because they chew through and get entangled in them. When looking through Amazon for bird netting, please read bad reviews about each product because most companies label anything as heavy duty.
How to Protect Figs From Squirrels With Organza Bags
Those bags are useless against squirrels. Yes, they appear to guard the figs at first, but squirrels will soon figure it out. They would rather tear the bag apart than move somewhere else looking for food. The squirrels will occasionally chew through the branch just to tear everything apart, and you may lose several figs at once.
You can purchase them on Amazon in various colors and sizes; if you want to give them a try, go for the green ones, which are around 4×6 inches in size (but that depends on the variety).
Other Ways of Protecting Fig Trees From Squirrels
One of the things I like to do is give squirrels a food source near my trees. I do this even if I cover my trees with bird netting. Nets won’t protect the tree 100% if squirrels are persistent. It’s best to use some shallow container and fill it with dry corn, the cheapest you can find. I place it several about 15 feet from my trees. It needs to be a good distance away to discourage squirrels from making your figs their home. However, close enough that it attracts them while they are on their way towards your trees.
I do anything I can to make the place less attractive to squirrels.
I regularly mow the grass and clear any small objects from it. Squirrels love taller grass and rocks, which can hide them on their way around your figs. Pick all the figs or any other fruit that falls on the ground. That way, they might not even get close to fig trees. I cover any burrows with dirt and flood them with water. That way, I can monitor if any rodents are actively present and deal with them as necessary.
It’s not a bad idea to prune lower branches to make them inaccessible from the ground. I do this every spring when lots of new shoots appear.
Get cats and dogs and let them chase after squirrels. I love having cats because they scare away birds as well. The frequency of squirrels coming to my fig trees has been greatly reduced since I got two cats. Squirrels used to dig into my potted figs, and that’s where cats or dogs help better than anything else.
How to Protect Fig Tree From Birds?
The choices are similar to protecting from squirrels, but the needs and results are different.
How to Protect Fig Tree From Squirrels With Bird Netting
Bird nettings are made specifically for birds and are highly effective against them. That is, of course, if there are proper heavy-duty ones that birds can’t peck through. I’ve seen a flock of birds appear out of nowhere and wreck a fig tree in minutes. That’s why it’s important that the protection is adequate and even discouraging to them.
As I mentioned before, I always use bird netting mainly because it’s fairly quick to install and protects well against both birds and squirrels. I have 33 fig trees at the moment. More than half of them are small, which means I can finish covering them with bird nets in several hours. It can be difficult at first, but once you get the hang of it, the process becomes quick.
I always use longer 65+ feet x 6-10 feet wide ones and wrap them around, starting from the top. That way, I can easily use ladders on bigger trees. Once the top is secured, you can continue from the ground unless your fig trees are very large. I use zip ties to keep overlapping wraps in place. If the bird netting you buy isn’t too stretchy, you don’t need to use zip ties too close to each other. Try to reuse zip ties by unlocking them instead of cutting; there is too much plastic waste already.
Same as with squirrels, bird netting must be heavy-duty and not some thin nylon material. Garden Netting 7.5×65 Feet Bird Netting from Amazon was great back in 2016 when I bought it.
How to Protect Figs From Birds With Organza Bags
In my experience, organza bags are way more efficient against birds than squirrels. In addition to that, they protect well against insects.
The downside is, they take a very long time to tie each fig with on large trees. I use organza bags on rare occasions because of how many trees I have, and I always tie them with a simple overhand knot. That way, they are easy to untie later on. If they are tied correctly, you don’t need to untie them on the tree. They can be taken with figs directly from the tree.
I always try to buy green organza bags from Amazon. By using green organza bags, I can trick birds into thinking there is nothing to eat underneath.
Other Ways of Protecting Fig Trees From Birds
Plan ahead of time to implement your strategies before the figs ripen. It’s tricky to persuade the birds to change their minds once they have already tasted the figs.
A decent alternative that worked for me is to keep the birds away from my figs by offering them something they prefer. I used an Elderberry shrub since the birds prefer the tart berries to the sweet figs. It works best if implemented together with other methods.
Having cats is always nice, but unlike squirrels which they can chase from the ground way up the tree, they tend to ignore birds because they come from above. With smaller trees, they can still be quite useful.
How to Protect Fig Tree From Deer?
Do deer like figs?
Deer will not eat fully-formed fig leaves and rarely consume the fruit. They don’t like waxy latex sap from figs and will eat ripe figs only if there is nothing better to eat around. They will try eating tender shoots and buds before there is any sap present. Although, most of them just try it and leave.
So the damage done to figs by deer is rare. Unless, of course, there are lots of deer, and each one wants to try. That is a force large enough to destroy smaller fig trees. I have experienced such events myself.
Deer grazing on my trees, especially young, freshly planted trees, was one of the numerous problems of the 2019 season. They don’t go to town and eat entire trees down to the ground, but they do graze heavily along their course. Another thing I noticed is they grind their antlers against fig trees. It doesn’t damage larger trees, but I had severe damage with multiple branches snapped in half on smaller trees.
I believe my local deer population is space-constrained; thus, they are willing to consume less appealing stuff. 2019 is the first year they have caused significant damage. I was unable to try many sorts of fruit since the small figs were stripped away.
How to Protect Figs From Deer Using a Fence
Enclosing fig trees with a fence is by far the best protection against deer. I’ve used several different fencing methods, some better at keeping deer away than others.
6-8 Foot Woven Wire Fence
I’ve tried surrounding my fig orchard with a traditional 6-foot tall wire mesh fence, which worked well for a few years. Additionally, you will need wooden or metal posts at least 2 feet longer because you must secure them in the ground. I used 8-foot wood posts from a local hardware store, which was by far the cheapest option, and simply fixed the fence onto them with nails with their heads bent like hooks.
The important thing is to secure lower parts to the ground really well. Otherwise, deer will manage to lift it and go under after some time. They can even get stuck beneath. It’s an okay solution to surround each fig tree individually, but it’s not ideal for opening and closing each time you have to do something around the tree.
Protecting fig trees from deer with an electric fence is generally a good idea. However, I wouldn’t recommend it unless you have at least a dozen fig trees. The value of invested versus gained is not that great, in my opinion.
Electric fences require much more frequent maintenance, and they are more expensive, to begin with. In addition, I’m not a fan of zapping animals. I prefer to scare them away without causing physical pain.