Fruit Cage Erection!

Fruit cage Erection

We decided to buy a fruit cage!

It was a beautiful April spring Saturday morning, the sun was shining for a change and the land was beginning to dry, which made a change from walking around in mud and seemingly endless rainfall! You could say it was the perfect day for a fruit cage erection!

The weather in fact was so nice, we even got a bit sunburnt, despite still feeling a little breezy. It was one of those days where you’re constantly putting on and taking off a jumper to keep off the slight chill in the air.

Fruit cage Erection

Our choice of fruit cage came as a complete package from First Tunnels, it was a 3 x 4 bay affair, each bay measuring 2m. The total size of the fruit cage was 8m x 4m.

First Tunnels Polytunnel

What’s in the box?

The contents consisted of several bundles of sturdy 25mm galvanised steel poles at varying lengths, square plastic netting for the walls and a rope style square mesh for the roof. It also came with a box of joints/connectors, zip ties, fasteners, Allen key, and a handy little tool for your drill to insert the self tapping bolts to hold the uprights onto the ground posts.

Levelling the ground for the Fruit Cage

Our first job was to level the site. This is important for obvious reasons. We didn’t want a wonky fruit cage for one! The location was on a slight slope, so we had about 460mm difference from one corner (shortest) to the other.

Our only means of levelling, without taking 3 months to do it by hand and killing ourselves in the process, was to use a machine. So we used a 1.5t excavator to help level the plot.

Setting out the fruit cage

Once we’d done this, we followed the instructions but found the first part a little fiddly, and that was attempting to create a right angle in order to lay guide lines to insert the ground posts at 195mm intervals in a grid pattern.  Each time we did this we found the ground posts were slightly out, causing the uprights to bend in order to line up with the connections.

Fruit cage Erection

After faffing about for an hour, we decided on a different approach, we put the kettle on and made a brew, whilst scratching our heads!!

As the fruit cage comes in sections 3 x 4 bays (12) we decided to assemble a roof section using the 195mm x 25mm bars and the joints. This created a near perfect square, which we then used as a template. After adding string along both the straight edges to ensure it would fit the space and give us an idea of the perimeter line, we started to use the assembled roof section as our guide.

Ensuring that each corned joint was a T piece, allowing us to inset a ground post through it, we hammered in the ground posts and then removed the roof frame. This provided the exact location for the ground posts. It may be a little unorthadox but it was working well.

We then simply moved the frame over one bay to connect with the end 2 ground posts and added another two ground posts, and so on until we completed the 3 x 4 bays. We found this more accurate than trying to measure where all the ground posts go for the fruit cage.

It’s Fruit Cage Erection Time!

Within an hour all the ground posts were in, the uprights were inserted in the ground stakes (make sure you hammer them in the right way! You need to have the narrower end pointing up) not that I would make that mistake of course! Don’t forget to use a lump hammer and a piece of wood, if you bend any of the posts it’s a nightmare connecting the uprights.

Fitting the connectors was relatively straight forward, just ensure they all face the right way or it’ll cause you problems when pulling the net over as it catches on the grub screws.

Once the frame was up, we just needed to insert self tapping bolts into the join at the bottom of each upright. This was fiddly as f*** as you’re trying to drill into a rounded tube, and therefore the bolts slip off and end up flying all over the place, there is a knack to this, use a lot of pressure and perseverance, don’t do what I did and throw your battery drill across the field!

Fruit cage Erection

Next job was installing the door, it’s pretty straight forward if you follow the instructions. Then we installed the support bars in each corner. These are installed at an angle so that the they run from the corner downwards to the next upright.

The netting

Placing the roof netting on wasn’t much of a drama, we had loads more netting than we needed, which puzzled us slightly but then just assumed we have some spare for repairs if ever we needed it, or we could make some fishnet tights, a fishing net, or even a hammock maybe?

We simply dragged it carefully over the top and evened  it out on all three sides, leaving the huge amount of excess hanging on one of the shorter sides. Then, as per the instructions, we rolled it up under the tube and zipped tied it into place with the supplied ties.

They’re not actually zip ties but more of a twist pull twist affair. Once three sides were done, we carefully made sure we had enough overhang for the last edge and cut the excess off, rolled it under the tube and tied it.

The upright netting

The netting for the walls was 2.4m long, the height of the roof was 2m. Meaning we had a lot of excess. We positioned the roll approx. 4″ above the roof edge and rolled it out stretching it along each straight edge section at a time and tying it in place loosely. With some pulling here and there you eventually get a nice taught finish.

Finally we used the ground pins to pull it all tight and finished off with more ties to secure it to the uprights.

Fruit cage

The door

Lastly we covered the door, leaving a little extra on the hinge side as to overlap the gap between the corner post and the hinges. The gap was wide enough for a butterfly to squeeze in if it’s name was Maveric.

Finally

A final check of the grub screws on the connectors of our fruit cage erection and we were finished.

It took two people two days in total but possibly could have been done in one long day. Overall, apart from some fiddly moments, it went up easier than we thought and the quality was very good. We had 7m spare of side netting and loads of spare for the roof netting. It was just as well we had spare for the side netting, as the first 2m was damaged, we identified some holes in it.

We couldn’t resist planting our first 7 x Red Ruby Raspberry plants before we left. Next week we will move a couple of tons of well rotted green manure and mulch into the fruit cage and top it with woodchip ready for our order of plants to arrive, to include, mulberry, blackberries, blueberry, strawberries and kiwi. Nom, nom.

Overall, very pleased with the end result and the service from First Tunnels. Very happy.

First Tunnels Polytunnel

Thanks for reading!

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