Trying to describe how to apply netting to pepper plants is very hard to do with words alone. To make it easier I have made a pictorial guide below consisting of five steps showing how I net off pepper branches to save true seed. By no means is this the only way – I use several other methods as well – but this method is very quick, easy, and effective.
For this method I use the coarse weave netting because it allows me to put tie wraps (see image at right) through the netting weave. I also use cheap 4 foot bamboo plant stakes for support and a wire hoop to hold open an internal volume for the pepper to grow. I use #10 American gauge aluminum wire for the hoops but ordinary copper household power wire should work fine. It can be with or without insulation but should be solid conductor and large enough that it will hold its shape. Stay away from steel wire since it rusts.
I support all my peppers with those wire frame “tomato” cages. I make use of the cages to support the netted branches but this is not absolutely necessary. You could use the bamboo stake alone or even add another stake it more support is required.
Step 1 of 5
1) Here I have chosen two branches to be netted. They have been separated out from the other branches and have been thoroughly inspected for opened flowers or fruit which have now been picked off. The two branches are circled with a yellow line for clarity.
2) A four foot bamboo stake has been put in the ground about 10 inches away from the plant. Note that it angles away from the plant slightly.
3) A three foot square piece of coarse weave nylon netting has been gathered up between thumb and forefinger using both hands to form a rope like shape. This is fed around the base of the branch(es) to be netted off. To minimize catching the netting on branches I use one hand to pull the rope like shape of netting around the plant. The other hand is held near the plant stem with thumb and forefinger closed forming a loop, with the netting funneling through thumb and forefinger as it is pulled around the stem. In this picture the netting is now pulled into position and has puffed out somewhat after it was let go.
Step 2 of 5
1) Find the top and bottom edges of the gathered netting. Holding the bottom edge with one hand work the top edge up with the other over the branch(es) to be netted. Since the netting is traveling in the direction of the growing branches it is surprisingly easy to do this without the netting getting snagged.
2) Match the left and right corners of the top edge then collapse the top edge to one point on the bamboo stake and secure in place with a tie wrap. Be sure to leave about 4 to 6 inches of extra netting at the bottom which will be used in the next step.
Step 3 of 5
1) Pull the netting down on the bottom so that it is taut as in the picture. Match the two bottom corners and roll the netting about a vertical axis in toward the bamboo stake. Secure with a tie wrap. Now there should be a taut but open bottom edge from the branch stems to the bamboo stake.
2) Secure the bottom edge by rolling the edges upward in the middle. The netting will stretch and wind up toward the stake and branch stems eventually closing them off. Secure as required by running tie wraps through the weave and around the rolled up bundle. Do not put tie wraps around the branch stem or it will not be able to grow any bigger.
Step 4 of 5
1) Using stiff aluminum or copper wire make a 10 inch diameter circle. Join the ends together with loops or by twisting but form the sharp ends pointing inward so as not to snag on the netting.
2) Through the open vertical seam insert the wire hoop. Feed the branches to be netted through the center of the hoop. Even though the netting is taut it will easily stretch to accommodate the hoop.
3) Position the hoop to allow the most volume for a growing branch and secure with a couple tie wraps. If the tomato cage or other support structure is available then use it, otherwise just feed the tie wrap through the weave and around the hoop and back out through the weave. Note that in the above picture only one tie wrap actually grabs the netting. The tie wrap at the bamboo stake secures just the hoop and stake together – leaving the netting free for later positioning.
4) The hoop will have a tendency to want to turn sideways. Hold it in place for now – this gets fixed in the next step.
Step 5 of 5
1) Gather and roll the open vertical seam in sections of about 8 inches long and secure with clothes pins and/or tie wraps. Use clothes pins in the areas where later access will be necessary for pollinating or harvesting ripe fruit.
2) Secure the wire hoop from turning sideways by adding two more tie wraps through the weave and around the hoop as shown in the two yellow circles above.
3) Double check the entire structure for gaps or holes and make sure it is strong enough for windy days and/or saturated wet netting.