Ve­gies the roos and rab­bits leave alone

Your lo­cal wildlife pop­u­la­tion sees your vegie gar­den as a lovely sea­sonal larder. ARNO KING ex­plains how to out­smart the nib­blers with­out do­ing them any harm

Gardening Australia - - CONTENTS -

When it comes to pests in my veg­etable gar­den, the biggest prob­lem is the larger, warm-blooded kinds and, judg­ing by the ques­tions on gar­den­ing talk­back ra­dio pro­grams across the coun­try, I am not alone.

Some of the worst of­fend­ers in the city are cock­a­toos, black­birds, pos­sums and brush tur­keys. In outer sub­urbs and ru­ral ar­eas, wal­la­bies, kan­ga­roos, deer, wom­bats, bandi­coots, king par­rots and rab­bits can also be a prob­lem.

I love wildlife, and want them to feel wel­come, but I don’t like them eat­ing my ve­gies. Thank­fully, I have dis­cov­ered a num­ber of ve­gies that are dis­dained by wildlife but loved by hu­mans. By recog­nis­ing what my lo­cal crit­ters do and don’t like, I can group and pro­tect the more vul­ner­a­ble ve­gies. I pay close at­ten­tion to soil health, which pro­vides pro­tec­tive ben­e­fits, and I have strate­gies to safe­guard my crops. This makes veg­etable gar­den­ing far more en­joy­able.

plant health

Healthy plants are less prone to pests (in­clud­ing big­ger ones) and dis­eases. You can ad­dress plant health by grow­ing veg­eta­bles that are sea­son­ally and cli­mat­i­cally ap­pro­pri­ate, by meet­ing the plant’s mois­ture and nu­tri­ent needs, and by en­sur­ing soil is bi­o­log­i­cally ac­tive.

For op­ti­mum soil health, reg­u­larly ap­ply com­post to stim­u­late mi­cro­bial ac­tiv­ity, and min­imise ap­pli­ca­tions of chem­i­cals. Veg­eta­bles also need con­sis­tent ap­pli­ca­tions of a bal­anced or­ganic or bi­o­log­i­cal fer­tiliser. Look for prod­ucts that con­tain hu­mates, which help re­tain soil mois­ture and nu­tri­ents. I also rec­om­mend adding non-sol­u­ble min­er­als to your soil in the form of rock dusts (ground rock min­er­als).

Main­tain good lev­els of cal­cium by reg­u­larly lim­ing the veg­etable gar­den, or add gyp­sum (if the pH is 7 or above). Ap­ply di­atoma­ceous earth as well to pro­vide sil­ica, as this strength­ens the leaf’s epi­der­mis and makes it less palat­able to crea­tures. This im­proves our own cal­cium and sil­ica up­take, too.

vul­ner­a­ble plants

De­spite your best ef­forts, if you live in a wildlife area, there are likely to be plants that cer­tain an­i­mals can’t re­sist, par­tic­u­larly in times of drought when food sources in nat­u­ral ar­eas are scarce. Learn your lo­cal wildlife’s favourite food so you are well pre­pared. For ex­am­ple, pos­sums love pars­ley, brush tur­keys

en­joy sweet potato but ig­nore leafy veg­eta­bles, wal­la­bies love bean and pea plants, and many birds are drawn to red or or­ange colours.

When grow­ing the most vul­ner­a­ble plants, ex­clu­sion is your safest bet. Choose a sec­tion of the vegie gar­den that you can per­ma­nently fence off or tem­po­rar­ily en­close. Per­ma­nent en­clo­sures can ex­tend above and be­low ground, and even over­head. They can be sup­ported by me­tal or tim­ber posts that are con­creted into the ground and you can use chicken wire, chain link mesh or gauze mesh, de­pend­ing on the an­i­mals in your area.

Tem­po­rary en­clo­sures are of­ten made of chicken wire, bird net­ting or shade­cloth sup­ported by posts, star pick­ets or tomato stakes. It is im­por­tant to en­sure that the ma­te­ri­als are not harm­ful to wildlife, are clearly vis­i­ble (not black), will not read­ily col­lapse and are stretched taut.

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