By Phran Novelli

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Few things are more fun in gardening than gathering fresh fruit from your own plants – going out on a summer morning to pick ripe raspberries for your cereal or blueberries to make muffins. That is, if everyone else who loves fruit hasn’t found them first.

One great reason to grow native plants is to help feed the birds and other wildlife we welcome in our yards; but you don’t want to lose your entire crop to critters either.

This spring I bought blueberry shrubs loaded with berries and as they began to ripen, birds and chipmunks started to swipe them – because they knew before I did when the berries were ripe and they get up earlier than I do. I wrapped hardware cloth around the plants to protect the rest of the berries for this year so we could enjoy them.

Going forward, I’ll try to think of a plan to make sure people get to eat at least some of the berries each year. One idea is to simply plant a lot more: as an olive farmer in Italy once told me when I asked if the birds ate his crop, Costantino replied, ‘Sure, the birds take some and we take plenty too – it’s OK, we have enough to share.’