Blue bags on trees

Growing Organic Apples With Fruit Bagging

Apples are the most pesticide- and fungicide-laden foods grown commercially and in home gardens. Last year, I grew apples organically with the help of fruit bagging. By bagging apples on my orchard trees, I harvested bigger, disease-free apples!

Growers start spraying trees in late winter and continue, sometimes on a weekly basis, until fruit is harvested five to eight months later—all in the name of producing perfect apples with no blemishes. It’s what we consumers demand: defect-free, flawless fruit.

However, it’s easy to grow perfect, pristine apple without any spray if you bag the apples when they are tiny, shortly after blossom drop.

For over 200 years, the Japanese tied little bags over developing fruit. They first used white silk bags they sewed until the 1960’s when plastic bags became readily available. (Look for recyclable, biodegradable bags from or other retailers.) Apples are prized gifts in the Japanese culture, selling for as much as $10 each. Perfection is a must for growers, so they bag each apple when they thin fruit clusters to prevent disfigurement by insects and diseases like cedar apple rust as the fruit grows.

This pristine Ashmead’s Kernel apple escapes the cedar apple rust disease (the orange growth on the leaf), because it’s bagged.

Bagging apples makes my life, as an apple grower, easier. I don’t have to spray, even organic concoctions. I just bag the apple, selecting one from each cluster when I thin fruit, spacing them about eight inches apart on branches. When it’s time to harvest, I simply snap off the apples from the tree and remove the bag.

A bagged apple is disease-free and picture-perfect, plus it’s much larger and more flavorful than those exposed to disease and insect infestations.

Extra heat gathered by the bag will help to build the brix level (sugar content) in the fruit and contributes to larger size and more flavor. Apples mature a week or two earlier when grown in bags, too, which is a bonus in colder climates like mine.

How to Bag Apples

When you see apple blossoms on the trees, you know bagging is going to start soon! Usually a week or two after blossom drop is the optimal time to bag.

Buy zipper-lock or sliding-lock sandwich plastic bags. You can find recyclable, biodegradable plastic bags now on Amazon and from other retailers.

  1. Snip off the two bottom corners of each bag diagonally. This allows accumulated moisture to drain away from developing fruit.
  2. When set fruit is about the size of a pea, thin clusters to one strong apple; space them at least 8 inches apart on branches.
  3. Place a bag over each fruit and close the zipper or slide lock around the fruit stem. If the fruit falls off during the process, it wasn’t fully pollinated and would abort on its own later.

After bagging, there is nothing else to do, other than to observe the developing fruit periodically.

For more tips on growing and harvesting apples, consult The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s free Apple Growing Guide.

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PHOTO: Jessica Walliserby Jessica Walliser May 12, 2016

Growing the perfect tree fruit in your home orchard doesn’t have to involve endless pesticide applications. With a little time and effort over the next few weeks, you can grow blemish-free fruit with zero chemical input. Heck, you won’t even need to use organic sprays any more. Using a technique known as fruit bagging, gorgeous apples, pears and peaches are just a few months away. Although this method may be too time consuming for large commercial orchards, for the home gardener with just a handful of fruit trees, it’s an excellent way to skip the pesticide applications and all the headaches that go with them.

Step 1

For apples and pears, when the developing fruits are 1/2 inch in diameter, thin them to one fruit per cluster. Select the largest fruit in each cluster to develop to maturity, and use your thumb and forefinger or a scissors to clip off all the smaller fruits in the cluster. For peaches and other stone fruits, thin to one fruit per 6 to 8 inches of stem.

Step 2

For apples and pears, purchase enough sandwich-sized, zipper-top plastic baggies to cover all the remaining fruit, one fruit per bag. Cut one of the bottom corners off each of the bags to allow the condensation to drain out of the bag. For stone fruits, use nylon footies instead of plastic bags. The small openings in the nylon fabric allow for better air circulation around the developing stone fruits and may help cut down on brown rot and other fungal issues.

Step 3

Choose a dry day to bag your fruit. When using plastic baggies, open a bag and place it over a single small fruit. Carefully seal the zipper-top around the fruit’s stem, making sure the stem is in the center of the zipper. The bags will be upright when first put on the young fruits, but as the fruit grows and begins to hang, the bag will droop down and allow the condensation to run out of the open corner. When using nylon footies, use a twist-tie to fasten the footie to the branch itself. (The stem of stone fruit is too short for this purpose).

Step 4

Leave the baggies in place for the entire growing season. The apples and pears will form inside the bag where they’re protected from fruit-munching pests, such as plum curculio, apple maggots, coddling moth, stink bugs and others. For peaches and other stone fruit, pull the nylon footies off the fruit two to three weeks before harvest to allow the skin to develop its color.

Step 5

Recycle. The same fruit baggies and nylon footies can be used for several seasons. Simply allow them to dry out and pack them in a box for next year.

For the best results, bag your fruits before common orchard pests are active. If you wait too long, pest eggs will already be laid in or on the fruits, and damage will occur even after the fruit is bagged.

I learned after the fact that the Urban Ecology Center (with help from the Milwaukee Fire Dept. and others) had conducted a controlled burn in parts of Riverside Park. I wish I could have been there to witness the event. As is explained on the UEC website, burning is important for long term sustainability of certain habitats and native species. (Before we humans interfered it happened naturally, of course.)

Although I missed the burn itself, I had to go check out the aftermath and take a few photos.

The burn is kept at ground level and even during natural burns established trees and hardy native shrubs seldom suffer for it.

Before long (especially with the early spring we’re having this year) new shoots will sprout up amongst the ashes. Native species withstand the effects of burning better than exotics.
While I was there I met a nice young volunteer who explained why many of the trees in the park have blue bags hanging from them. These are sugar maple trees that the UEC taps for maple syrup, which they process themselves right at the center.
But if you want to see that you better head out there soon. They will be having a pancake breakfast on Saturday, March 24.
We’re all invited. (Go to the UEC website for more info.)
While you’re in Riverside Park to see the burn and the maples being tapped, make sure you wander on down along the Milwaukee River to see how other strategies are being used to control invasive species.

Large swaths of the flood plain have been covered in black plastic sheeting. No, it’s not an elaborate environmental sculpture project, a la Christo. It’s to control reed canary grass.
There’s always something constructive going on around the Urban Ecology Center.

Banana Bunch Cover Bag Blue / Silver

Banana Bunch Cover Blue / Silver

(flat measurement – 122cm X 72cm)

Fruit Protection for Bananas

Ripening Bags
Protect your Banana Bunch by covering the fruit with these good quality bunch bags. Fruit can be damaged by wind, sun, birds or other hungry hunters!


All prices include shipping and GST.



SKU: BUNCHCOVERblue122x72 Categories: Banana Bunch Bags, Associated Growing Products

The use of a Banana ripening bag can improve the quality of the fruit as well as increase the yield.

The blue plastic colour helps to identify when the fruit was bagged and half silver reflects heat – make sure the silver colour faces the sun. The bag is open at the top and bottom – simply tie the bag loosely at the top and is leave the bag open at the bottom – giving better air-flow.

When the bananas start to turn upwards, use a bunch cover to protect it from birds and fruit bats – as the flying foxes will climb over the bunch to get to the flower which contains the nectar they love. Best not to leave ripe fruit on the tree because that will drive the bats crazy and they will destroy the bunch!

Flat measurement of the bag is 1220mm x 720mm.

There are 2 main methods to ripening the fruit;

Tree ripening the fruit will give a beautiful sweet tastes, so only take a few at a time while the others ripen.

Commercial growers harvest while the lowest fruit is rounded but still green. Ripen a by keeping them in a cool, dry place with other ripe bananas.

A lot of what ends up in Manhattan’s trees falls into them from above or has been thrown down into them. People get mad and chuck other people’s stuff out the window.Illustration by Ben Katchor

For more than ten years now, I’ve been tangled up with the problem of plastic bags stuck in trees. If I’ve learned anything from the experience, it’s “Be careful what you notice.” I was living in Brooklyn; I noticed the many plastic bags flapping by their handles from the high branches of trees, cheerful and confident and out of reach. Noticing led to pondering, pondering led to an invention: the bag snagger, a prong-and-hook device that, when attached to a long pole, removes bags and other debris from trees with satisfying efficiency. My friend Tim McClelland made the first working model in his jewelry studio on Broome Street, downtown. Possessing the tool, we of course had to use it; we immediately set off on a sort of harvest festival of bag snagging.

Tim’s older brother, Bill, came, too. With snagger and poles (interlocking ones, of aluminum, at first) stowed in Bill’s Taurus, we snagged in every New York borough, sometimes going out twice a week. We found bags everywhere, by the thousand; the ultrafine traffic soot that collects on them covered our hands like graphite. Then our ambition led us further, on bag-snagging jaunts to Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. From someone at a party I heard that trees along the Mississippi River were full of debris after the big floods of 1993, so one August we drove to the river and did a lot of snagging on both the Illinois and the Missouri sides. An environmental group invited us to come to Los Angeles and help with a cleanup along the Los Angeles River, so Bill and I flew out and snagged bags and debris from the prickly desert flora there. For a long while, bag snagging became our main outdoor recreation, completely obliterating the occasional mornings we’d formerly given to golf.

Bill and Tim and I are all transplanted Midwesterners. They grew up in Michigan, I in Ohio. Bill went to my high school in Ohio. We used to do some wild things. Get Tim to tell you about the time at his parents’ house outside Rochester, Michigan, on New Year’s Eve when he and I decided it would be a great idea to shoot a flashlight out of a tree from a moving toboggan. We tied the flashlight to a branch above a toboggan run on their property, and we were sitting on the toboggan, Tim in front, me in back, me with a loaded shotgun, both of us scooching with our heels to get the toboggan started, when Bill and his (now) wife, Jean, intervened.

Or another time, this one in my loft in lower Manhattan: Tim and I were sitting around drinking Jack Daniel’s and beer, and we took my twenty-gauge shotgun down and started fooling with it. Tim asked if I had any ammo for it, and I said I did, and I went and got it. He asked how you loaded it, and I chambered a shell. It happened that my girlfriend (now wife) had moved out a few weeks earlier. Not long before she left, she had persuaded me, at the cost of much labor and hauling by ropes up the elevator shaft, to add a heavy oak bookshelf to our few loft furnishings. I had never figured out where to put the bookshelf, and it still stood in the middle of the floor at one end of the loft, about forty feet from where Tim and I were sitting. The bookshelf had a back of particle board. Hefting the gun, I looked at the shelf for a while, and listened to determine if my neighbors upstairs and down were home; the floor and ceiling in that loft were thin enough so that I could usually hear my neighbors moving around. Nobody home, I decided. I stood, aimed at the bookshelf, and fired. The sound of a shotgun in a brick-walled, enclosed space like that is indescribably loud. There was also the skittery sound of the bird-shot pellets going across the floor on the other side of the big hole they blew in the particle board. I don’t think Tim or I had ever laughed that hard.

Blue gunsmoke filled the room. I gave the gun to Tim, and he aimed and pulled the trigger. We laughed even harder at this explosion, because now we knew better what to expect. I took the gun and fired again. A thick fog of gunsmoke hung everywhere. Just then the buzzer rang. It was Bill and two friends. They came in, saw the gunsmoke, saw the empty bottle and beer cans on the floor, saw the spent shells, and heard us babbling. They began to back out the door. Amazingly, though, we were able to persuade them that taking a shot would be really fun, and eventually all three of them (one a pacifist woman nurse) did.

Maybe because we grew up surrounded by space and horizons and long views, we Midwesterners felt confined in the city, or constrained. Sometimes we talked about how cool it would be to see a cargo plane at ten thousand feet drop dozens of yellow Checker cabs over an empty area like the Sheep Meadow in Central Park, and how the taxis would look falling into the city against the blue of the sky; or how cool it would be to get a bucket of golf balls and hit them, one after the next, up Fifth Avenue some deserted Sunday morning. That last fantasy we partially enacted, buying range balls by the gross and hitting them into the East and Hudson Rivers from the lower-Manhattan shoreline. Stroking a long, soaring drive and bouncing it off a support beam of the Manhattan Bridge gave a deeply pleasurable sensation that began in the shoulders and spread down the spine to the toes.

For us, bag snagging represented a more socialized form of the fun we’d been having, or imagining, before. Snagging gave the thrill of vandalism, yet was its opposite—mischievous good, rather than mischievous bad. During our bag-snagging foray along the Mississippi, a woman photographer who accompanied us (I was writing about the adventure for Outside magazine) looked at us in puzzlement, trying to get a grasp on our hard-to-explain hobby. Then she asked, “Is this bag snagging part of a twelve-step program, or something, that you guys are involved in?” The question made us stop for a moment. She wasn’t right, yet her intuition hadn’t been entirely wrong.

It goes without saying that the city was different then. Lower Manhattan, with its tendency to depopulate on weekends, was our favorite bagging ground; we used to take stuff out of trees in public spaces that are closely patrolled or completely fenced off (or nonexistent) now. We even had our own traffic cone, with which we redirected traffic when we wanted to work on a branch overhanging the street. Once or twice, we walked unauthorized and unescorted through private buildings to get to a high entanglement that could be reached only from an inner courtyard. People assumed we had some kind of official status, when in fact we had no status at all.

Only once were we seriously challenged. Tim and I had spent a Saturday afternoon among the London plane trees in the lawn around City Hall, experimenting with the aluminum poles at the greatest extension we had yet tried, forty-five or fifty feet. At that length, the pole tends to bend not just over but back again, in a noodly sine curve that makes it difficult to control. As we were trying to master it, a white Parks Department pickup jerked to a stop on a nearby piece of pavement, and a fierce, burly Parks Department guy named Dave Miller hopped out. He asked us what we were doing, and when we tried to explain cut us off with the information that we were breaking the law and that if we injured the trees we could be fined or jailed.

‘Windy,’ A Plastic Bag Caught In A Tree, Is Kathy Frederick’s Obsession

For more than two years, Kathy Frederick has admired, and blogged about, a plastic bag, caught on the limbs of a tree outside her window.

She and her regular readers have assigned it a gender — and a name. Don’t use a gender-neutral pronoun when you refer to “Windy,” Frederick cautions. Windy is a she.

‘Windy’ in her leafy perch. Kathy Frederick hide caption

toggle caption Kathy Frederick

In an interview with NPR’s Melissa Block, who claims to share Frederick’s obsession with plastic bags caught in the boughs of trees, Frederick says that she first noticed Windy in 2008, when a “particularly wicked weekend storm” carried her — NB: I’m referring to Windy here — to the top of a tree on the Lehigh University campus, in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.

“I thought, oh, that bag is going to be there forever now,” Frederick said. “I could tell right away that it was stuck enough that another wind was not going to come blow it out.”

I got close to it, and I noticed that one of the handles of the bag was on one branch, and the other handle was attached to a branch above it, and it was not going to be taken away by a quick gust, and I thought, yeah, I’m going to keep looking at that…. It’s going to be weeks, months, or even years.

Turns out, it has been. Two years and three months, to be precise. Frederick has marked each birthday with a custom cake, decorated with a photograph of Windy.

Her — Frederick’s — regular commentary about the bag, posted on The Junk Drawer, her blog, has attracted a legion of followers.

“The fans are crazy about this lone bag,” she said. “It’s really caught everybody’s fancy, for some reason.”

UPDATE at 7:15 p.m. ET: In 1997, Melissa Block reported a piece about three men who pluck plastic bags from the tops of trees, which Wila Kent (wilapace) mentioned in the comments section below. One of the men is humorist Ian Frazier, a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine.

We found the piece in our archives:

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You might think a modern city like New York would have figured out some high-tech method for removing plastic bags from its trees. But this video from The Awl shows us that sometimes, the simplest solution to a problem is the most effective.

The so-called Bag Snaggers, a small band of workers from actress Bette Midler’s non-profit, New York Restoration Project, removes an estimated 1,500 plastic bags annually from Big Apple trees with nothing more than a hook on a really long pole that can extend up to 40 feet. (The Bag Snagger tool is actually patented for its bag-removal capabilities.)

As seen in the short film, untangling bags or other debris from branches isn’t as easy as it looks. Workers take 10 minutes or more per bag, using equal parts elbow grease and tactful handling as to not damage the trees. One bag snagger sounded off about the tedious process to The Awl, “I have trouble bag snagging, trying to get the pole to reach the bags and trying to get the bags to like gently come off the branches…We try not to break the branches off the trees.” Keeping New York a bag-free landscape isn’t an easy task, but someone’s got to do it.

MORE: What Would a City with No Plastic Bags Look Like?

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