Bagging For Bug-Free Fruit

by Daisy


Did you know you could keep the birds and the bees and still have no spots on your apples?

Fruit bagging is an age-old practice in Japanese orchards. After the fruit clusters have been thinned, bags are carefully placed around the remaining fruit as soon as they are big enough to resemble fruit, when they’re no more than an inch in length.

Fruit bagging is something the home gardener can do, as well.

I only recently started thinking about it, when one of my Asian pear trees set three pears for the first time this year. Three wee pears! Expecting them to fall off, like it often happens with young trees just starting to get the hang of reproduction, I sort of forgot about them until one day when I realized I had that trio of nearly full-sized fruit still hangin’ in there.

Unlike the usual practice of bagging the fruit from the start, I decided to try bagging these precious holdouts to protect them from opportunistic bugs and birds in the last stages of the pears’ development.

It’s scary. Why fuss with mother nature, who’s done so well so far? What if the bags make the fruit fall off? What if I hurt them getting the bags on there? Could it ruin the fruit?

The chances, based on experience, that the pears would get just about eating time and some hungry hungry caterpillar, nut-job of a squirrel, or bird-brain of a bird would take one nice bite or peck out of each of my pears, was greater than my fear of damage from the bag. While the bag is no ironclad guarantee of safety from any of these, particularly the birds and squirrels, it should be a deterrent.

I decided to leave one of the pears as a control, and prepared to place bags around the other two.


Using some online guides, I cut off the two bottom corners from ziplock sandwich baggies for ventilation and to allow rain to drain out, trimmed off the excess bag next to the zip strip, and simply placed the open bags over the fruit and zipped up the bags close to the stems. (Note: when I say ‘zip’ I mean press to close the zipper seal of the kind of bags without the actual zipper thing so I could leave a space open in the middle of the zip closure. Don’t use the kind with the separate plastic zip thing).

So far, so good.

From what I can tell, this method is usually only recommended for apples and pears, not peaches, where rot is a problem.

I’ll let you know what happens!

Next season I hope to apply this technique to more fruit, earlier. I hope I have more pears next year! Three pears is great, and I’m thrilled, but thirty would be even better.

And maybe even some apples?

Have you ever tried this?



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{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen August 14, 2016 at 4:00 pm

Could you explain a little better about the bag? You cut off the two bottom corners of the bag and used the seal to seal the bag around the stem on either side, but I don’t know how you trimmed off the excess bag near the zipper. Thanks.

Daisy August 14, 2016 at 6:15 pm

Karen–Of course. You know how at the opening of the bag there’s enough of a flap to get a good grip to pull the sealed part open? That’s what you trim off. Open up the bag so you can use those flaps as intended, (it will be harder to open the bag later without them) then place them back together without sealing it, and trim close to the zip strip. It isn’t absolutely necessary to do this, but it makes it easier to snug the bag right up to the stem, leaving less of a space for bugs to sneak in. Some people even make a little snip in the middle just barely THROUGH the zip strip so it seals even tighter, but you run the risk of the bag tearing over the course of the growing season. Please let me know if it’s still unclear.

Mary August 14, 2016 at 6:28 pm

How would this work for oranges any idea?

Daisy August 14, 2016 at 7:53 pm

Mary–I saw this: “Place paper bags over ripening fruit if you only have a few trees. Wait until fruits have just started to develop a hint of orange coloration before bagging. Close the bags tightly with clothespins. Remove the bags daily to check for ripeness or outward signs of previous infestation.” At this site: Are fruit flies the problem? I don’t know if they are for other pests, but if you could do it for fruit flies, I don’t know why not for other bugs. The only question would be if you could put the bags on sooner than the article states. Try a citrus fruit forum, Garden Web or Dave’s Garden may have one. Hope this helps.

Bonnie North August 14, 2016 at 8:02 pm

I have seen this but with small paper bags, cinched near the stem with twine. I wonder if paper bags would work with peaches and other soft fruit, though I wonder how well paper bags would hold up to precipitation.

Karen August 14, 2016 at 8:10 pm

Got it! Thanks so much; will try next year…when I have some fruit left!

Daisy August 14, 2016 at 9:03 pm

Bonnie–They make special coated paper bags in Japan. I saw this one, but the two reviews aren’t very glowing–must take some skill to put it on properly. These actually look pretty good. For peaches, some people use those little nylon footies, tied around the branch with twist ties, for increased breathability. I bet your local shoe store has a bunch of used ones in their garbage (that wouldn’t be disgusting at all!)

Sallie August 15, 2016 at 6:57 am

For what it is worth..I have used fine netting or taffeta? to cover ripening seed pods so the seeds can be used for plants next year. Just a rectangle of the netting over the seed pod and a twist tie or string to close the fabric over the stem of the seed pod. Works pretty well

Bonnie North August 15, 2016 at 8:18 am

Thanks Daisy, for the links to the specialty bags.

Gosh, now I wish I knew if there was something for, of ALL things, tomatoes! We waited ages for our tomatoes to start ripening, and on Saturday morning, as we headed out to errands, I noticed a juicy Jaune Flamme tomato, finally perfectly ripe and ready to go. I told my husband that I’d pick it for our lunch salad when we were done our errands.

Two hours later we returned to find the tomato gone. I found its remains near the garden. Presumably a squirrel thought it looked like an apricot, and bit off about a third of it, shredding the part that he bit and leaving all of the tomato, in various sized pieces, on the ground. AAAAGH!

I wish I could afford to buy one of those gorgeous European “fruit cages” for my produce garden. Wildlife can be so uncivilized, can’t it?

Daisy August 15, 2016 at 9:21 am

Bonnie–Been there, yes, grrr. Just eat it already, right? Not tear it apart. Fruit cage, eh? I see an internet rabbit hole in my near future.

Daisy August 15, 2016 at 9:22 am

Sallie–Winter sewing project–netting fruit bags with drawstrings!

Janey August 15, 2016 at 7:56 pm

I tie on brown paper bags around the stems of my grape clusters about a month before harvest, and it works like a charm. It’s the only way I keep the birds from eating them all before they ripen.

Daisy August 15, 2016 at 8:44 pm

Janey–I’m going to have to try this with my muscadines. Do you think it will work on squirrels?

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