Sunday, September 16, 2012

{Hopefully} Possum-Proof Gardening

I think my front door looks better this way, actually

I may have mentioned our possum problem before, and before I get going on my diatribe please let me tell you how cute these animals are. They're small, and shy, and not at all ferocious {like North American opossums}. At the moment we have a population of no fewer than 4 ringtail possums that traipse through our garden after nightfall {two fully grown ones, and two little ones}. 

I want to cuddle them. Serious cuteness.

But these visitors of ours have a tragic love of parsley. And when our parsley's been munched? They don't move on to our neighbour's ... nope, they move on {heartbreakingly} to other small, leafy, palatable things that we've tried to grow. 

carnage
You can see a ringtail's nest perched in the tree next to our bedroom balcony ... which is an improvement from the possum that was living in our aloe plant on the balcony. Catch my drift? We've practically been a live-in restaurant for them.

Till now.

piss off, possums

Our garden bed - the one we built up to our front door {because it gets the best sun} - is now protected with aviary wire. I spent Friday afternoon with black tights on and shovel in-hand, obsessively turning the dirt and tipping in chicken poo and pulling out as many of those pesky tree roots as I could. Nelle and I filled the garden bed {and the two little black beds} with seedlings - basil and kale, silverbeet and capsicums, habeneros, eggplant, tomatoes and swedes. And a whispered word, grow

Then Robbie built our wire fortress.

the view out our front door
And, in the spirit of using our cramped townhouse-space effectively, I built a possum-proof hanging herb garden on our front door. I poked holes in the bottom of biodegradable, heat-resistant sugarcane-starch cups, filled them with dirt and reclaimed herbs {some of which had been munched already ... } and hung them one-over-the-other with clothespegs. 

the view up

Pretty! They get a perfectly small amount of sun {in this hot Queensland climate} and drip excess water into one another. 

Sharing.

And - hopefully - producing.

the view down

So please please please cross your fingers for me - for us - on this one. My little heart aches to produce more of our own herbs and veggies. These things make me happy. 

The possums can find their own happinesses. Elsewhere.
Amanda xx

13 comments:

Sherilyn @ Wholepromise said... [Reply to comment]

I remember the first time I ever heard a possum on the roof at night. I was living in an old queenslander in Herston at the time and it scared the living crap out of me! I hope your efforts have effect.. x

Amanda @ Easy Peasy Organic said... [Reply to comment]

@Sherilyn @ Wholepromise I wonder what sound possum ghosts make ...

Hey Harriet said... [Reply to comment]

That hanging herb garden is the neatest thing ever! Possums... as cute as they are, they sure can be a pain to live with! Good luck :)

APCpersexdon said... [Reply to comment]

I feel your pain, I have given up the war with my possums, I just can't win. I think due to the recent drought, they have started eating things that they used to stay away from out of desperation. I put wire around my tomatos and the possums knocked over the tomato planters to knock the wire off. I might just live in an area where the possums are very aggressive. I have tried many things like possum spray, lose netting, tight netting and it really doesn't matter. We just live in an intense possum area, the only solution I see if a greenhouse that they can't access period.

Erika said... [Reply to comment]

Good luck Amanda! I live in Alabama, and the opossums we have here are NOT cute!!!
I feel your pain, as rabbits absolutely annihilated my beautiful broccoli last year :(
Your front door garden is so clever!

Amanda @ Easy Peasy Organic said... [Reply to comment]

@Hey Harriet
Thanks, T!

APC - I considered the greenhouse, actually! But couldn't convince my husband ... so we went this route instead. At the moment I'm happier with it! More open and airy :)

E - I know! Growing up in Iowa I was scared of those nasty little opossums with their big mean teeth!!

Pat said... [Reply to comment]

Well, good luck. I love your little door garden. I was wondering where there were ring tailed possums and then got to the final sentence in your blog so now I know. :D And to think, I was upset because the deer ate my prize day lilies!

Amanda @ Easy Peasy Organic said... [Reply to comment]

@Pat Oh deer.
;)

Jeselle Arce said... [Reply to comment]

Hi, nice garden. Great work. Wildlife rescue magazine is an absorbing training manual and is devoted to bringing free up to date wildlife caring information to everyone.

http://www.wildliferescuemagazine.com/issue-five.html

Neil Whitehead said... [Reply to comment]

I feel your pain. I just set up an aquaponic garden, sorted out the leaks, had the plants growing well and said to my wife that the lettuce must be due to start eating soon. Alas so thought the possums.

devastation, plants ripped out of the growing medium and gnawed down to stumps.

Da Raea said... [Reply to comment]

Hi there, from an also very frustrated gardener (www.taintedblood.org). Re the possum problem,

You are so right - it is the drought. :-( With very heavy hearts and tears, on my big property here, we've had to shoot a couple of possums (in Tas) due to their destruction of crops. Our ongoing drought is causing them to seek out food and moisture where they can (little known fact about Tassie: doesn't rain much. But the wind? Gale force, all the time. And Tassie's and NZ's sun light lacks the "normal" ozone shielding you have up there, due to American jet test burns in the ozone layer just below Tas in the 80s. Means we have more skin cancer down here, and the sun burns awfully. Just moved back after 8 years in Sydney. I cannot believe the difference between Syd sun and Tas sun. :-/)
Anyway, back to my point: the native fauna have been wandering more often trying to find water, due to lack of any rain for six months, and we've got a lot more road death of animals right now. Veggie gardens are being attacked by possums trying to get moisture and food in about the only place possible. All grass is dead, most plants are dying (even bracken fern and tea tree is dying. Go figure). So, the possums attack. And my veggie garden is like Fort Knox with the 10 layers of green and white bird netting! Yet still they get in... and the bees, unfortunately, often do not. Ugh. If I wasn't already trying to live off tank water full time, and keep our crops alive on that expensive water, then I would plant crops outside of the garden, so they would have their own source of lettuce, apple trees, etc., but as it is - I just cannot.

And they get into my green house all the time. :-/ Was researching solar electric fences just then, when I found this product though: https://www.strayban.com.au/?gclid=CKLQuLm5g7UCFahMpgodwh8A0Q

Da Raea said... [Reply to comment]

@Neil Whitehead

that's happened to my tomatoes, apples, raspberries and lettuce on many occasions, alas stick with it! The lettuce and tomatoes actually LOVE being gnawed down like that (even thought it is heart breaking when it happens) and will grow better than before. I would send you photos of what happened to mine, then what it looked like a month later if I could.

John from Victoria said... [Reply to comment]

Thank you Amanda, your story is interesting and informative. The photos are quite good too. They come out very well on the web.
We also find brushtail possums cute, here in the Dandenong Ranges, but they spend a lot of their time fighting each other. My wife feeds them food scraps at the front of the house while I attempt to grow our herbs and veggies at the back.

Like you I found possums loved parsley, but then they also like many other leafy things I grow: endive, rhubarb, French sorrel, spinach, and they can do a lot of damage in a short time.
Every autumn when new leaves are scarce on the trees, they forage on the ground and year after year they would destroy those crops. I tried metal spikes and spray-on deterrents, but the damage was always heavy. I have not used wire enclosures, like you do, because of the inconvenience: you would have to remove the cage to get to the crop for weeding, thinning, cultivating or picking and then put it back. On a wider area, like my vegetable garden, we would probably also find wired enclosures unsightly.

This autumn, although I was very sceptical, I tried one of these ultrasonic deterrent devices you find on eBay which combine ultrasound, sound and strobe light and to my surprise (and delight) THAT DEVICE IS DOING ITS JOB! The possums that had started eating into my crops now leave them alone. It's beautiful, for once we are having a great autumn-winter crop.

The section of my veggie patch that groups the leafy vegetables that possums like is about 9m by 4m and that device easily covers that area (probably more, but I have not tried). It is directional, so possums are still free to wander in other areas the device is not pointing to. It is of no inconvenience at all to us or to the neighbours, but cats and dogs will also not wander onto those beds to do their things while the device is on.

The unit is called Pestgard "Sentinel Yardgard" Possum Deterrent, it is made in China (what isn't those days?) and distributed by a family business in Tasmania. There are other ultrasonic deterrent like it on eBay and they probably also work, but I admit that I shopped for price as I was originally doubtful that it'd work. That one was the cheapest in that type and the dealer seemed also more focussed than other retailers on deterring possums. He can tell you exactly how to adjust the controls to get good results.

I cannot tell you how long the device can last, but it is waterproof, so can take on the elements. The dealer suggests years of trouble-free service. Personally, after I saw how well it worked, I made a tiny roof for it by cutting an old stainless steel dustbin in half to make doubly sure I would not have to replace it for a long time.

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Thanks for commenting! Amandaxx

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