27 February 2011

Keeping the birds at bay

This summer, I have discovered that those mesh fruit bags you get in the supermarket are great for keeping the birds away from your fruit and seedlings. I first saw something similar being used at the Alcoa bauxite mine in Western Australia en masse to protect native seedlings from wallabies. The seedlings are grown right into the mesh bags, and apparently they biodegrade over time (I'm dubious about that). I looked into it recently for a large project near Winchelsea for rabbit and hare protection, but apparently they eat right through the mesh. So if you have birds or wallabies (could work for roos too) in your garden, this may help. I'm not sure about deer - are they grazers like wallabies or gnawers like rabbits?

My apple tree looking like an alien's Christmas tree. Note the CDs - they did not work.

A mesh bag cut open and tucked under seedling punnets in a tray.
The mesh is flexible, so it moves with the seedlings as they grow.

Does anyone have any other clever tricks for keeping seedlings alive? If you have any tips for repelling earwigs, I would be especially interested. They love gnawing at the stems of seedlings and kill them in a single night. I've tried crumpled newspaper traps in plastic pots with limited success. Diatomaceous earth (kitty litter) spread around the plants or mixed as a spray is supposed to help, but we have had too much rain lately to try these. All ideas and kill-methods are welcome! Please remember that even some organic pesticides, like Pyrethrum, can harm beneficial insects like bees and often have a withholding period in the garden (a period of time that you have to wait before it's safe to harvest). Also, read the warning labels and instructions and wear suitable gloves and protection. A chemical is still a chemical, even if it's organic! It simply means that it is plant or animal derived instead of synthesized in a laboratory. I try to avoid any chemicals - even organic ones. I'm sure I have a lower yield in my garden but it's my preference. Lately, my neighbor's 3-year old has developed a keen interest in picking snails and pill-bugs out of the veggie patch. She's my best weapon in the garden this summer!

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