Nothing can be more galling than nipping down to the allotment to pick some produce, only to find that ‘something’ or ‘someone’ has gotten there first. Our allotment is situated in a semi-rural setting which makes it a particularly easy target for vegetable larceny, and we often discover that our goods have been preyed upon by critters that sneak in from the surrounding countryside and treat our allotment plot as a 24-hour, all-you-can-eat buffet. Here’s a list of some of our uninvited allotment visitors – working from the smallest up – and a few ways in which we attempt to protect our fruit and vegetables from pests!
Protecting Crops From Butterflies and Insects
And when we say ‘butterflies and insects’ we are pointing a long, accusing finger at the cabbage white butterfly, arguably the most voracious villain of all the insects. Happily though, their mischievous munching can be easily curtailed by a sturdy vegetable cage fitted with a soft 7mm butterfly mesh. Just make sure the netting is taught on the frame so as not to trap any birds that may alight on your protective structure.
Protecting Plants From Rodents
Mice and rats can be swift, wily vegetable patch pillagers and if you’ve got a shed on your allotment they are most probably using it as a rodent-y Airbnb. Tell-tale signs of rodent raids are small teeth marks in windfall apples. And if your strawberries keep disappearing the moment they ripen then these furry thieves are probably to blame. Fruit and vegetable cages are the best choice to keep them at bay. Fit tough, micro-mesh netting as mice in particular can squeeze through the smallest of gaps. Remember that rodents are also expert burrowers so will often simply dig under your defenses, so for strawberry plants and other low-lying fruit, think about moving them to a ‘grow table’ style raised planter. A spot or two of grease, applied around the base or legs, will also thwart rodents that may attempt to scale for their supper.
Protecting Fruit Trees From Birds
Birds put our cider production in jeopardy by sitting in the branches and pecking holes in the precious fruit, but airborne-mounted attacks on large trees are tricky to repel. We’ve seen folk cast large nets over their trees to protect their crops but this careless method will lead to unwitting birds ensnaring themselves. A surprisingly effective way to scare birds away is to dangle old cds from the branches of your fruit tree. These will rotate and jangle about in the wind whilst creating dazzling reflections which will freak out any feathered foes and hopefully keep your apples intact.
Protecting Plants From Rabbits
Rabbits can cause total devastation if they descend upon an unprotected allotment. A chicken-wire fence surrounding your crop should stop them, but remember a rabbit’s raison d’etre is to eat, leap and excavate so your fence needs to be at least 1.5 meters high to foil any high-jump attempts. Dig a trench and bury the bottom 50 cm of chicken wire below the earth, remembering to bend a 10cm strip at the base to form an ‘L’ shape to stop any tunneling antics.
Protecting Crops From Deer
We get both muntjac and roe deer on our allotment, both of which can be very difficult to thwart. It pays to be proactive, so remove any windfall fruit as soon as you spot them as this will attract roaming deer and they will soon move on to the rest of your crops. If your allotment patch backs onto a field (as ours does) check for gaps in the fencing and plug holes in hedges with thorny bushes. Hawthorn is a good shout; it grows quickly plus you’ll get a bonus berry crop come autumn. We’ve heard of gardeners urinating over their plots to create a whiff which is rumoured to be offensive to deer but this seems like self-sabotage to us (and quite possibly a clear case for allotment eviction) so we’ve never tried it. The pong of rags soaked in diesel is also supposed to make deer to steer clear, but one of our elderly neighbours smokes a pipe so this also sounds like a recipe for disaster.
These are probably the easiest to stop. It’s best to catch them in the act so secrete yourself in a wild area of your allotment, play the waiting game then spring into action as soon as someone moves in to plunder your produce. We once suspected a neighbour of helping themselves to our raspberries and managed to catch them red handed (both figuratively and literally) with this simple technique. Pack up your tools and pretend that you are leaving the allotment for the day. Disappear out of view, give it five minutes and then swiftly return to your plot where you should hopefully catch any miscreant in the act. A few choice words should nip future thievery in the bud. We were gifted a basket of produce from our shamed perpetrator as a way of apology; something you’d never get from a deer!
Do you have any tips on how to protect your crops from animals? Let us know in the comments.