A healthy garden invariably attracts visitors, whether human, bird or animal. Most are a welcome sight – it is always delightful to pause and watch a bluetongue lizard basking in the sun or honeyeaters indulging in grevillea flowers.
Yet other furry and feathered visitors are not always so welcome. How do you keep native critters such as possums and cockatoos from eating or destroying your prize veggies, fruit and flowers?
You could apply the science of companion planting, or growing ‘unpleasant-smelling’ deterrent bushes nearby, but unfortunately it’s not always reliable.
A scarecrow could be fun, but it might not suit your landscaping and there aren’t too many possums that are scared off by a mere figure of straw!
Some gardeners suggest growing so many plants that there is enough for all to share, while the more serious suburban food producers among us are likely to build a walk-in fenced garden using chicken wire or shade cloth attached to a frame covering several beds.
Another alternative is to erect nets over parts of the garden. A bed of strawberries will have a better chance at producing enough fruit to make pots of jam if it’s protected from marauding birds, and netting provides an easy cover.
However, if you are going to try this, it is important to ensure that you protect the wildlife as well as your plants, since birds and animals can easily become entangled in loose netting.
Stretching durable netting over a homemade frame can protect single trees or plants. Most of the materials you’ll need are available from hardware stores and some nurseries.
Depending on the size of the job, the frame can be built from timber, metal or polythene pipe, then covered with either bird netting made of mesh (size 40mm or smaller) or 30% ‘blockout’ shade cloth. Or you could hire a professional to do it.
Avoid using thin nylon netting material, as it can cause serious injury to flying foxes and birds. Throwing netting loosely over trees can also pose a threat to native wildlife. Always ensure any netting is held away from the tree and stretched taut.
In the event that an animal becomes caught in netting, do not attempt to release it yourself. Instead, contact your local wildlife rehabilitation organisation, as their carers have the skills to handle native wildlife and determine whether any further treatment is required.