If you’ve spent the early part of spring nurturing and coaxing seedlings to plant on your plot, you’ll want to protect them once you’ve released them into the wild. Young plants are vulnerable, and will attract the unwanted attentions of every plant-munching critter that can run, hop, fly and crawl. Similarly, ripening fruits and veg can be a magnet for birds, rodents and other mammals and they have a habit of pinching them just before you flex your digits for plucking.
Lobbing a crop cage over your plant pals is the best way to protect them from destruction. ‘Ready-to-assemble’ frames made from push together metal tubes can be purchased from most gardening outlets, but it’s easy enough to knock together your own wooden frame providing you possess rudimentary DIY skills and have a ready supply of nails and wood to hand. But what kind of netting should you wrap around your structure? Read on…
Protecting your plants with Bird Netting
The advantage of using this large aperture mesh is that it will prevent birds from pecking at your crops whilst allowing bees and other pollinating pals to sail through unmolested. It’s a good choice for protecting strawberries, raspberries and other fruity delicacies. Just be wary that this type of mesh can unintentionally ensnare birds and small mammals so you need to make sure you keep it taut and tidy when attaching it to your chosen frame – secure it properly and ensure there are no pieces of netting left trailing. Leaving netting in a big jumbled heap on the allotment is BAD.
This type of netting is a good choice for keeping your precious brassicas caterpillar-free. The mesh size is usually 7-8mm and is designed to prevent even the most persistent Cabbage White landing on your plants and splurging eggs all over the leaves.
Insect netting will not only fend off some of the more pesky insects such as aphids and carrot fly, it will also protect delicate plants from wind and rain. The mesh on this type of netting is usually around 1-2 mm wide which will allow moisture through but at the same time will bear the brunt of a heavy rain shower.
There are a couple of other lines of defence you may wish to consider…
Rabbit proof fences to protect your plants
One of the more persistent and damaging allotment visitors are rabbits, who will happily chew through your newly installed crop cage to feast upon the treats within. To curb their destructive ways, you’ll want to get hold of a roll of chicken wire and fence off your goods. Rabbits will hop and climb their way to dine on your produce – especially if there is promise of a mouthful of delicious lettuce on the other side, so make sure the fence is at least a metre high and bury a good portion of the wire in the earth to stop them tunnelling underneath. The best method is to dig a shallow trench where you plan to seat the fence, and fold the chicken wire into an L- shape before placing into position and burying with soil.
Slow, belly-crawling beasts have a knack of slipping under crop cages, and will cause untold mayhem to newly sown seedlings. Slug pellets are the gardeners brutal go-to, but the most humane method is to go on an evening raid, collecting up any roaming slugs and snails you discover before relocating them elsewhere. If you do feel the need to exact rough justice on your local gastropod community, sink a jam-jar in the soil and fill it with beer. The poor creatures find the smell and taste sugary booze irresistible and will crawl into the jar for a drink. Drowning is inevitable, but at least they will die happy.
Have you had any success keeping your precious plants protected? Tell us all about it in the comments.