When it comes to protecting your fruit or vegetables from pests there are a few important questions to ask, before deciding on the best method.
What Fruit/Vegetables am I trying to protect, and what are the most likely pests, that will be attracted to them ?
Different crops will attract different pests, and its important to be aware when and what is likely to attack your food. Its important to have a grasp of the local wildlife, in the surrounding area where you grow your crops. If you are growing in the countryside, then you are going to face a much more diverse group of pests, than someone who is growing in say, an inner city urban balcony. I have read blogs about people In England/Wales having to defend their produce from large animals like deer, badgers and moles from devouring or demolishing crops. Thankfully the largest animal I have had to chase from the plot was a Grey Lag Goose that was making light work of my neighbors lettuce. If you have just gained a new plot and you are unsure what pests you are likely going to have to defend your crops against, then you should take a good walk around, and have a look at others peoples plots, and see what means of protection they have undertaken. You should also get chatting and talk to other plot holders, as they will keep you up to date about what has been lurking in the area. In fact just by talking to a few of the more attentive plot holders I like to call the the “PlotFlys” in the nicest possible terms, that we have a bit of a rat problem at the plots at present. By getting together and informing the council who run the allotments, and taking some precautions ourselves hopefully we will be able to eradicate the problem before the main harvest.
The most persistent pests that I will have to deal with can be split into 3 different animal classes – Birds, Insects and Mammals. In this blog I am going to describe the methods I am using to protect my veg, and as my plot evolves and as I start to grow different vegetables and fruit trees I will keep updating this page.
Birds will eat many different types of vegetables, ive seen ducks destroy patches of lettuce in minutes and pigeons strip strawberry plants and raspberry canes bare. One of my raised beds is half filled with strawberry plants and they recovered well after the winter and are now flowering. The other half has some rhubarb and an early crop of spinach, which when harvested will mainly be used for salad crops, lettuce, beetroot etc. The two main pests that I will need to provide protection against, on this bed will be birds and slugs. When protecting against birds the best way is to build a cage or use protective nets. There are many ingenious ways I have seen being used on allotment using many different products and techniques. Here are a few different methods that we have used, that seem popular with other growers.
- Half Loop Method – This basically means using any materials to build an arch over a vegetable bed then draping a protective net over it. Materials often used for this product are plumbing pipe, which are ideal as the plastic pipe comes in coils and are already the correct shape and easy to cut, and will never weather as they water proof. To attach the semi hoops to the beds I simply took a hammer and flattened one end before screwing the ends firmly into the raised beds. Its important at this stage to remember to leave enough room to allow yourself to be able to lean in and be able to work the ground. When the protective nets have been placed over the frame there are many different ways to attach and hold the nets in position, popular methods include tent pegs, weighing the nets down taught with stoned, purpose built pipe clips or cable ties, basically whatever will do the job.
- Cage – Well this basically means building or creating a structure and covering it with whatever material is needed to complete the job. This first cage I created I am going to use for keeping birds and small mammals from getting at the seedlings. Until the seedlings are well established and to increase the temperature and help protect them from the frost, slugs and snails I will be planting the seedlings under plastic bottle cloches. I made this from a wooden frame basically as it was going cheap and I knew I could have used it for something. It was built to the height of the chicken wire to maximize height.
- Flexi Ball/Bamboo Structure – What can I say about Flexiballs apart while not being the cheapest product, are very easy to work with and very time efficient. Flexiballs are designed to work with bamboo canes or metal piping. They are perfect for net protection and they provide a smooth corner for dragging the protective layer over without damaging the net, which makes them easy to maneuver and install by one person.
There are many products that you can buy straight off the shelves that will provide protection for your crops. Some that I find useful are the prefabricated netting tunnels. I so far this year have used these to protect some broad beans from frost. I will also use them when I plans out my peas, until they get them well established. The only real disadvantage to these protective nets is that they do cut out some of the sunlight for hungry seedlings.
Another vital tool, that I just would not be able to cope without, is slug pellets. Whilst these pellets are not the naturalists favorite product, they are essential for us who are not able to attend the plot every evening to pick slugs and snails by hand. Beer and larger traps are often advisable too, when the rain comes after along dry spell and you can guarantee, that the slugs and snails will be out in force, with hungry slimy bellies.
Have you seen any ingenious methods of pest protection around your allotment site, or are you a master scarecrow maker? Or do you just know someone, who has a face that would keep even the hungriest of gastropods of your iceberg lettuces. If so please send us a photo or email us with your ideas ?