Bagging Fruit

One of the recommendations that I always make when I discuss organic methods that work is bagging fruit.  If you’ve never heard of it then here’s the story.  By placing a bag of some sort around your fruit, such as apples or peaches, when they’re young you can protect them from insects and disease.  I used to recommend plastic ziplock bags (up here in the North anyway), and I still do, they’re cheap and work well.  You can also purchase Japanese fruit bags that will work.  But recently I was introduced to a more streamlined product which I really like — a cloth pocket with a cord to close off the top.  Since it’s made out of cloth it probably won’t protect against disease as well as plastic bags or Japanese fruit bags, but if insects are your main concern then I think these might be just perfect for you — if you don’t mind paying a few dollars for them (they are reusable!)

At a master gardener conference I recently attended one of the vendors handed me some of her Startbagging fruit bags to test on tomatoes.  I say test because, while these bags have been pretty effective at protecting tree fruits, they haven’t been used much for veggies (OK, OK, a tomato is technically a fruit).  To be honest though, I’m not as worried about insects on tomatoes as I am deer.  The deer near me don’t seem to care for the plants themselves, but they just love to pick the tomatoes off when they’re almost, but not quite ripe.  Jerks. 

Here are a few bags on a tomato plant.

Here’s a closeup of one of the bags.

I’ve only had these bags on the plant for about a week now — so far so good.  The company producing these bags is a small start-up.  From what I understand these bags are patent pending.  I wish this company well because I think this is organic pest control at its best — reusable products that don’t utilize chemicals.  If you have any interest you can go to to take a look (the website is a little basic right now — hopefully they’ll fix that soon!).

15 thoughts on “Bagging Fruit”

  1. Holly, if the hens can’t see the tomatoes, they probably won’t peck at them. Jeff, are these available on the market yet? I couldn’t find any for sale. Sure would be nice if they keep the deer and squirrels and turtles from eating more tomatoes than I do!

  2. I would think a wire (about 14 gauge) fence cylinder with spacing large enough to reach through would be a far more practical and for that matter ecological solution than using a spun plastic throw away product for each individual tomato. Put it up once a season and it will also support the plant.

    My deer eat the tomato plants as well, although it is not preferred food. They like them enough to limit the production of unprotected plants considerably.

    I’ve always been amazed at the energy organic fruit growers will expend to bag every individual fruit on a tree. In the northeast, the worse insect pests are usually doing their damage before the fruit is ready to bag anyway. Often, if fruit is protected with two sprays after pedal fall, one is home free. Depends on site and season, though.

  3. Sandy — for information just write Alan — sorry, I’ve got to disagree with you. As I wrote above, these are not disposable products. The makers claim they’ve used the same bags for three years, and I’m inclined to think that’s accurate — My guess, based on construction and the fact that you’ll be harvesting and bringing them in over the win
    ter, is that these things would work for 3-5 seasons. In terms of the fence for the deer — sure, that would work. In terms of the work that goes into bagging individual fruit — This product is fast (much faster than plastic bags — which is why I like it so much), and the makers claim that it takes less time for them to put these on the tree than it did to spray (mixing, suiting up, spraying, etc.). I would guess that would be true if you only have 2 or 3 small trees. More than that and my guess is that spraying would be faster. As I’ve noted before, I’m not completely opposed to pesticides, but why use them when you can avoid them?

  4. If you are just looking for an insect proof bag, you may want to check out the organza bags that you can buy at uline. The come with a convienent drawstring closure and can be bought in a number of sizes and colors. We use them all the time for pollination control on our grapes.

  5. Jeff, I think your readers should know that bags don’t eliminate the need to spray, but can reduce it. As I wrote, in the northeast, worst fruit pests come immediately after petal fall when it’s too early to bag fruit. Organic growers that have issues with apple fly maggot can benefit from bags as can growers further south, but I would like you to investigate research on their affect on brown rot when used to protect
    stone fruit. I imagine they would make it worse. I’ve heard (from heart broken fruit growers) that they are useless against stink bugs which are an increasing problem in my area and much of the U.S.- probably partially because of climate warming (BMS not withstanding). Found some green stinkbugs on my tomatoes for the first time the other day although damage was not yet noticeable. They are certainly making a mess of peaches at some sites I manage which wasn’t a problem for me in the past.

    The idea of using bags to protect tomatoes from deer seems extremely local and not widely useful to me unless mine is the unusual site where the deer eat the plants and the fruit and not just the fruit.

    I shouldn’t have written “throw away” product although it is a product that will ultimately end up in a landfill and can’t currently be recycled. Throw away is not specific enough.

  6. Alan — I am the developer of the Stat Bagging bags and you are absolutely right the worst fruit pests come right about when the flower petals fall. That is why the first sentence in the guide that comes with the Start Bagging bags says “Attach bags on flower clusters when ¾ of the flower petals have fallen off the tree.” I find this to be a key step.
    I originally designed these bags for apple growing but have since tested them on several different fruits such as grapes, pears and plums and have had good success at keeping pests off the fruits. As I am in Minnesota and these bags are very new to the market I have never done any testing on peaches. I would be interested in learning more about stinkbugs on peaches. You can contact me at if you would be willing to educate me. If you have questions don’t hesitate to contact me.

  7. Joan, that is interesting. I’ve never used any kind of bag and only have second hand information from internet buddies. Not a perfect source of info, but home orcharding does not have the mandate of the land grant universities for research investment, so we do what we can.

    I’ve never heard of anyone bagging before the fruit sizes up a bit. You would at least have to come back and remove the bags to sort things out if you bagged that early. You could not know in advance which flowers will produce viable fruit or even what percentage.

    As far as stink bugs, when the brown marmerated stink bug first hit the east a couple years back, growers complained that plastic sandwich bags were worthless against them as they could easily penetrate the plastic. I don’t know if other stink bugs are capable of same damage or not. You could post a question at Garden Web- Fruit and Orchards to begin a discussion on this and subtly promote your product. I would be curious how experienced baggers would digest the idea of early bagging. I suspect there are big problems with it or it would already be the norm.

  8. Thanks for informing us, Jeff all about these bags, which I am really glad hearing that are not disposable, but reusable! That is important thing for me and my family, as I am helping my mom and grandma producing organic vegetables and fruits and they will be so happy to hear about this method that you shared wit us!

  9. Alan —  Since this is the first year these bags have been offered they have yet to be used for large scale growing. What I can tell you is the process I recommend for bagging  fruits and the average time it takes a home owner to do the process. The times came from average back yard fruit trees and in most cases a ladder was used with an average home owner doing the work. I would anticipate in an orchard setting it would go much faster.

    Spring Season
    Attach bags on flower clusters when ¾ of the flower petals have fallen off the tree. Space the bags about 6 inches apart. For each tree, use approximately 25-30 bags for every inch in diameter of the tree trunk. This will result in optimal apple size and flavor, for most apple trees.  (This takes about 34min per 100 bags)
    Small Apple Stage 
    When apples are the size of your thumbnail, remove bag  thin so there is only one apple per bag. Leave the largest unblemished apple and reattach each bag.
    Helpful step you can take at this stage:  Remove all apples that are not in bags. This will allow the bagged apples to grow larger, and will also reduce the number of pests being reproduced on your tree.  (This takes about 1hr 13 min per 100 bags, time includes removing all apple that are not in bags) 
    Pick and enjoy your apples. Put your bags away for use next year.

    These directions were written for use on back yard apples trees. But with a little modification they can be used on most fruits. Such as closer spacing and more bags for smaller fruits.

    You wrote about working with a university orchard, do you work with a universities orchard? And if so what do you do?

  10. I found a cheaper alternative. I bought some left-over remnants of Christmas organza at the fabric store, cut and sewed them with a drawstring across the top. Knot the two ends of the string so they don’t pull out. Voila… cheap bags. The bags in the photo appear to be made of the spun polyester that is used for floating row covers. This probably works as well, but costs a lot more.

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