Fruit and Veg Cage Buying Guide

For many of us, gardening is more than just a hobby – it’s a passion. When we see all of our hard work being nibbled, pecked, and consumed by pests, it feels like a personal insult! That’s why it’s always worth investing a little bit extra to keep your crops safe from hungry critters.

If you are struggling to keep birds, small mammals, and insects away from the fruits and veg in your garden, fruit cages can help. You work hard to sow, tend to, and harvest your crops, and so it is particularly galling when these pests come and steal the results of your labour. Could a fruit and veg cage be the best solution for your garden?

What Is A Fruit and Vegetable Cage?

Fruit and veg cages are structures designed to prevent animals and birds from getting to your tasty berries, tomatoes, and corn. Instead of caging the animals in, fruit and veg cages keep them out.3 They are very useful for preventing butterflies, birds, deer, badgers, foxes, and aphids from attacking your hard work. After all, you’ve put in the hours – protect your investment!??

At their most basic, fruit and veg cages are very simple structures that get the job done with little fanfare, or they can be more elaborate affairs made of wood, steel, or even wrought iron. While some are just a simple box shape, others prioritise style just as much as function. You can find fruit and vegetable cages with architectural details, such as carved finials, cedar shingles, and peaked roofs. Imagine a tiny version of your home, in fruit cage form! It can be done.

Most fruit cages are comprised mainly of small-gauge mesh netting2. This prevents even tiny insects and birds from pecking their way inside. Look for mesh netting that is made from durable materials, such as polypropylene.

Why Use One?

While you might hear the term 'fruit cage' and think they are only for berries and cucumbers, you can also use them for protecting all kinds of veggies. Protect your cabbages from butterflies and keep your seedlings and lettuce safe from the bunnies and birds who want nothing more than to snack on your labour!3

How Much Do They Cost?

First Tunnels sells steel and polypropylene side mesh fruit cages based on a series of 'bays'. You simply select the size that you need, between 2 bays by 2 bays and 5 bays by 5 bays. For instance, our smallest fruit cage is 2 bays by 2 bays (3.8 x 3.8 metres) and costs £280. A 3 bay by 4 bay system is 5.7 x 7.6 metres, and costs £620. Our largest fruit cage is a 5 bay by 5 by system, which measures 9.5 x 9.5 metres and costs £975.

This allows you to only cover the number of square metres necessary, without wasted space or money.

Are Cheap Ones Any Good?

As with most things in life, you get what you pay for when it comes to fruit and veg cages. Yes, you can find cheap fruit cages on the market, but they fall apart quickly and don't get the job done. While you save a bit of money in the short term, you end up throwing your money away in the long term. They collapse, allow pests to get inside, and expose your plants to the elements. There's pretty much no point at all, and it's a waste of time, materials, and funds.

We recommend that you choose a sturdy fruit or veg cage from a reliable supplier, such as First Tunnels. Check out online reviews and speak to other gardeners before you make your decision.

What Are the Different Types of Fruit and Veg Cages?

There are four main types of fruit and veg cages: aluminium, wood (or bamboo), steel, and pop-up netting cages.

  • Steel fruit cages – Robust, sturdy, and long-lasting, steel fruit cages come in a variety of finishes. You’ll need to ensure that it’s coated correctly, otherwise the steel will rust. Steel is a rather heavy material (when compared to aluminium), which makes construction more difficult, but also helps them stand up to brisk winds and weather.
  • Aluminium fruit cages – Aluminium is much lighter than steel, which makes assembly a lot easier. It also doesn’t rust, which makes it perfect for the wind, rain, and snow! However, aluminium fruit cages are weaker than their steel counterparts, which might be a problem in windy, coastal regions or exposed sites.?
  • Wood fruit cages – Wooden fruit cages might not be as strong as steel (and are often more expensive), but they look the most polished. That said, they often come with a hefty price tag, which you can lower by using bamboo instead. With wood, you’ll have to stay on top of maintenance – they need to be weather protected and painted every few years.
  • Pop-Up Fruit Cages – Pop Up fruit cages are made of mesh and aluminium, and only take a few minutes to set-up. The main benefit of these flat-packed fruit cages is that you can easily move them from place to place. That means that you can protect early crops (like gooseberries and currants), and then move them to protect vegetables, like cabbages and cauliflower.

    Do note that this option is not durable or sturdy and will not withstand inclement weather. Pop-up fruit cages are not big enough to work in, so you will need to move them off to the side whenever you need to weed or tend to your plants.

How to Determine What Size Fruit and Vegetable Cage You Need?

Before you start shopping for a fruit and vegetable cage, you need to assess your specific requirements. 4

  • Height – Measure the height of your fruit bushes and trees. Have they reached their maximum height? If not, do a little bit of research to find out how tall they are expected to reach. If you get your height correct at the beginning of the process, you don’t have to replace your fruit cages a few seasons from now.
  • Length – Choose a cage that matches the plot you want to protect. You can often purchase modular fruit cages that allow you to customise the size further. That means you only need to shell out for the materials that you actually need.

How to Determine What Size Netting or Mesh You Need for Your Fruit and Vegetable Cage?

When you buy a fruit cage, it usually comes with netting. However, if you are assembling your own fruit and veg cage, or you want to modify an existing kit, the mesh size will depend on what pests you are trying to prevent. If you are hoping to keep birds out, you can go with a wider mesh net. If you need to prevent smaller insects or butterflies from getting in, go with a much finer netting.

Where Should You Site Your Cage?

You should place your fruit cage wherever you plan to grow the fruits and vegetables you want to protect. The site should be on level ground and away from overhanging trees and shrubs.

What Can You Grow in A Fruit and Vegetable Cage?

Simply put, you can grow almost all fruits and vegetables inside of a cage. Here are some of the most popular choices!

Fruits:

Vegetables:

If pests are attacking your crops, it’s time to take control of your garden and install fruit cages. They’re your first line of defence when it comes to warding off insects, birds, and small mammals. Which fruit and veg cages do you think will work best for your garden?

Reference list

Gardens Illustrated (2019). 9 stylish fruit cages for keeping your produce protected. [online] Gardens Illustrated. Available at: https://www.gardensillustrated.com/garden-equipment/stylish-fruit-cages/ [Accessed 16 Aug. 2020].

Grant, A. (2019). What Is A Fruit Cage: Fruit Cage Uses And Benefits. [online] www.gardeningknowhow.com. Available at: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/fruits/fegen/fruit-cage-uses-benefits.htm [Accessed 16 Aug. 2020].

Grow Your Own (2017). 10 Things to Consider When Buying a Fruit Cage - Blog. [online] www.growfruitandveg.co.uk. Available at: https://www.growfruitandveg.co.uk/blog/10-things-to-consider-when-buying-a-fruit-cage [Accessed 16 Aug. 2020].

Marks, D. (2017). Fruit Cage Comparison - GardenFocused.co.uk. [online] www.gardenfocused.co.uk. Available at: https://www.gardenfocused.co.uk/techniques/fruit-cages.php#:~:text=DIFFERENT%20TYPES%20OF%20FRUIT%20CAGE [Accessed 16 Aug. 2020].

Royal Horticultural Society (2017). Fruit cages / RHS Gardening. [online] www.rhs.org.uk. Available at: https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/grow-your-own/allotments/allotment-styles/fruit-cages [Accessed 17 Aug. 2020].

1 https://www.gardensillustrated.com/garden-equipment/stylish-fruit-cages/

2 https://www.rhs.org.uk/advice/grow-your-own/allotments/allotment-styles/fruit-cages?

3 https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/fruits/fegen/fruit-cage-uses-benefits.htm

4 https://www.growfruitandveg.co.uk/blog/10-things-to-consider-when-buying-a-fruit-cage

Top 10 reasons why First Tunnels is the top choice

1) The Market Leader

For over 20 years we’ve been leading the way…whether it’s product innovation, great prices, fantastic service, or by getting the country’s top gardening and food experts to help us develop the polytunnels they chose to use themselves…people like Alan Titchmarsh, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Bob Flowerdew, Mark Gatter, Andy McKee and Paul Peacock. Our customers must think we’re getting it right too… because we now sell over 3000 tunnels per year!

2) Super Strong Covers

The best cover for the growing conditions is vital. So is knowing it can stand up to the worst the British weather can throw at it. Polythene’s biggest threat is sunlight that’s why First Tunnels uses 800-gauge polythene sourced from experts in Southern Spain. It’s tough. It’s strong. It’s been specially developed to cope with extremes of UV. And we’re so sure it’s up to the task, we guarantee it for a full 5 years! Though it’s not uncommon for our covers to last closer to 10 years. All you have to do is decide which is the best cover option for you…with a little help and advice from the experts.

3) Timber Thickness

Specifying the right timber is important. If it’s too light, strength and rigidity are compromised. Too heavy and items like doors start to become unwieldy and difficult to move. Naturally we’re also conscious of the environment and the impact of using natural materials, that why all our wood is fully FSC accredited.

We’ve spent a long time arriving at the ideal timber thickness for doors, door frames and base rails And every inch of it is treated with TANALITH E to help preserve its strength, shape and rigidity. No shortcuts. Just the best materials for the job, carefully selected to perform perfectly.

4) Door Options

So what’s it to be…single doors, wide doors or double doors, doors that open in, doors that open out? How about our brand new sliding door? The size of your poly tunnel usually dictates whether you have single or double width doors. But the other choices are entirely up to you…with as much help and advice from us as you need on saving space, ventilation, locking and all the other practical considerations.

5) Steel Construction

Check out the above video showing how strong our Polytunnels are and how well they cope with extreme weather conditions in Sweden.

Having made polytunnels for over 20 years, we know exactly the gauge of steel hoop to use for each size of tunnel. Obviously, the bigger the polytunnel, the more weight it has to support…but it doesn’t need to be over-engineered or unnecessarily costly. So we specify – as standard – a hoop which is more than up to the task in most normal situations...

Of course, some poly tunnels are sited in particularly exposed and windy places. So, where your poly tunnel may be subjected to extreme conditions, you can upgrade to a higher spec of hoop. For example, 10-12ft polytunnels can be upgraded to 35mm hoops, and 14ft polytunnels can be upgraded to 50mm hoops.

If you are in any way unsure of the best size of hoop for your particular conditions, don’t hesitate to get in touch with us. We’ll help you make the right choice and even offer you a bespoke solution when an unusually high level of strength and rigidity is called for.

6) Personal Construction Advice

Despite appearances, a First Tunnels' polytunnel is actually very easy to construct. But as with everything, there's a right way and a wrong way. So we do everything we can to make sure you do it the right way...with the minimum amount of fuss and effort.

We've got numerous videos including an easy to follow step-by-step demonstration of how to build your polytunnel, clean and maintain a polythene cover and advice from gardening experts to ensure that you get the most from your polytunnel. You can view the demonstrations on this site via your computer, laptop or even mobile phone to find the answers to all the usual questions. Plus pick up lots of extra tips and ideas by following us on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and the blog.

We also have a dedicated team of constructors who can install your poly tunnel perfectly. If all else fails...just give us a call on 01282 601253.

We know many people build their polytunnels at the weekend or over a bank holiday when our office is closed. So we've set up the First Tunnels Construction Helpline specifically for these weekend periods. This allows you to talk directly to a constructor, ask their expert opinion, get the answers and complete your polytunnel.

If you'd like us to ring you, simply send us a text and we'll ring you back. Please note this service is NOT available over the Christmas period and Bank Holidays.

7) Product Guides

We've already mentioned our videos. But this isn't simply a collection of 'home movies' showing you the 'whys and wherefores' of construction. We brought in a professional production crew and filmed the whole process of building a polytunnel...from initial site preparation, right through to the finishing touches. And then we added loads of 'extras' too...everything from tips on ordering to expert advice from some of the professional gardeners who already use our tunnels.

We believe in quality - quality instructions for a quality product. So you'll find our printed manuals are equally comprehensive and easy to follow...and they're an invaluable guide and reference when you're in the thick of things 'on-site'.

8) Ease Of Ordering

First Tunnels website includes all kinds of information designed to make ordering easy…from helping you decide which polytunnel is ideal for you, to choosing the cover, 2 or 4 pieced hoops, the doors, the anchoring…in fact, everything you'll need to deliver the perfect polytunnel gardening experience. Our special intuitive calculator which helps you choose the perfect configuration and the extras you'll need. And once you've decided, the whole ordering process is quick and simple.

Of course, you can ring us too on 01282 601253 and we'll help you through the whole process.

9) Fast Delivery

Because every single polytunnel we make is ‘made to order’, we can’t pull a finished product straight off the shelf. Instead, we have to hand-select each of the component items, making sure we’ve included all the extras you may have decided on. The good news is we keep absolutely everything in stock, which means we can usually turn your order around very quickly. In the unusual event that something is out of stock, we’ll let you know immediately if there is likely to be a delay. Otherwise, you can expect despatch of a domestic polytunnel in only 5 working days…even quicker if you order during our ‘quieter’ period which is usually from September to December.

10) Don’t just take our word for it...

We believe we make the best polytunnels you can buy. But don’t just take our word for it. We sell polytunnels to NHS Trusts, schools, major government organisations and loads of household name ‘celebs’ in the gardening and food business, people like...Alan Titchmarsh, Bob Flowerdew and River Cottage chef Hugh Fearnley-Wittingstall. We also work closely with the leading experts in polytunnel gardening…Mark Gatter, Andy McKee and Paul Peacock. To find out what they think of First Tunnels...check out our website, Facebook, Twitter and the blog.

But don't just take the celebrities word for it. What better way to learn about company dependability, product quality and customer service than to hear it straight from other consumers?

By giving customers the opportunity to share their First Tunnels shopping experience, we believe this is the best reflection of our companies product and service. To help reinforce credibility, popularity and reputation, we have subscribed to not one, not two, not three....... but FOUR independent review companies allowing you to praise or complain about First Tunnels.

We value all feedback, good, bad or ugly and hope to build a long lasting relationship with our customer, through our high quality products and friendly service, to ensure they do not hesitate to order again and again with First Tunnels in the future.