Feb 152012

by Avis Licht

Wire fencing covered with bird netting

To completely protect plants, cover with bird netting


We love the birds in our garden, but we don’t love how they eat the young seedlings. Here is the best way I’ve found to keep the little rascals from wrecking your garden.

1. Plant the seedlings, like lettuce, beets or broccoli in a raised bed. When you plant intensively in a bed it is easier to protect more plants than if they are in single rows.

2. Place wire  fencing over the bed in a hoop like fashion.  You can also use heavy gauge wire, flexible plastic tubing or bender board.




Hoop shape over bed with netting

Keep your netting off the plants to allow room for growing

3. Pin the edges down with wire staples that are used for holding down irrigation tubing.

4. Lay bird netting over the wire. Pin it down carefully along the edge of the bed.  If you leave any openings the birds will sneak in.

Seedlings under protection


One little thing. You need to be sure that it’s birds eating your seedlings and not some other pests, like snails or slugs. Bird netting will NOT keep the snails out. A bird will bite the plant and leave a v shaped mark like this > .  Snails and slugs eat both the edges and the middle of the leaf in curves.

snail damage to leaf

Snails and slugs will chew the edges and center of a leaf


Sep 142011

What is a pest?  In a garden an animal can be a pest one day and not the next.  One of our most beloved members of the garden is the Bird. They’re beautiful, they sing, the eat insects, we NEED birds in the garden. BUT… they can also be incredibly damaging to our crops.

In the Spring song birds come flocking into the garden.   They can absolutely devastate your early crops by pecking at the leaves and pulling them out of the ground.  One way you can tell the difference between snail and slug damage and bird damage, is that a bird will leave a triangular peck in the leaf, like this > from its beak. A slug or snail will have an uneven  edge eaten. The easiest and most effective way I have found to deal with birds is to cover the beds.  I do this by putting a wire cover over the bed and lay bird netting over that. It allows the plants room to grow and keeps out all the birds.

Edible Landscapes need protection

Wire and netting over beds for protection from birds

The wire is cut to the size of the bed.  It is then gently put over the bed like a hoop.  I peg in the bottoms with wire staples  or a stick.  After the wire is in place, I put bird netting over it and tuck in all the corners.  I don’t recommend chicken wire, because it has many sharp edges, gets rusty and you can get caught on it too easily. This green coated wire is not expensive and easy to use.  The coating keeps it looking good and prevents it from rusting.

Bird netting works very well

Bird netting over wire hoop keeps the birds away from your vegetables

The next photo shows how I put the bird netting over the wire. It’s important to keep it pegged in at the edges so that birds don’t get caught inside the netting.

When the plants are up to the top of the wire I take it off and by then, the plants are no longer of interest to the birds.  They want something more tender.

Simple Dog Barrier

How can a bamboo stick keep a large dog out of the strawberries

How can bamboo sticks keep a large dog out of the strawberries?

I know this may seem ridiculous, but in the photo above I used small bamboo sticks to create a little fence around my strawberries.  I found that my large Black Labrador Retriever would walk through the strawberries and do his stuff right in the middle.  Big Yuck.  Once I put up this little barrier, he walked around the bed and we never had a problem.  My point here, is that sometimes you can find very simple and easy solutions to a vexing problem.

It’s also the case that a beloved member of the family can be a pest as well.


Sep 122011

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I just got a question about some really annoying critter(s) in the vegetable garden. Since pesky critters are a common problem, I will help you figure out who is doing what in your garden and how to take care of them, without poisons or pesticides. There are many challenging pests, and in this post, I’ll talk about raccoons, moles and gophers. Stay tuned for other pesty guys tomorrow.

Here’s the question:  “For the last week or so there has been some critter routing around in my garden digging through the soil.  What could this be…skunk, possum, raccoon, other?…and how do I keep it from digging up my vegetable plants and trampling my young greens.”

My first thought, is that it is probably a raccoon.  They are notorious for rooting around in the soil looking for grubs to eat.  They will also dig up new sod lawns, looking for food. Raccoons will climb trees and wreck havoc in your fruit trees, breaking branches and eating your fruit.  They will open garbage cans, get into your compost and in general be a HUGE nuisance.  They will also, come directly into your home and rummage around your cupboards looking for treats.  I am NOT exaggerating.  All these things have happened to me.

Make sure you are not leaving any dog or cat food outside that will lure them to the house.  Be sure to close your doors at night.  This may seem obvious, but we always leave our doors open at night for our cats to go in and out. Imagine my outrage, when I discovered that the raccoons had been coming through our bedroom, down the hall, through the living room, into the kitchen, onto the counter and taking my avocados back through the house outside for some evening dining. The nerve of them!

We had a cat door put into the front door of our house.  The cats wore magnetic collars that opened the door.  The raccoons literally tore the cat door out of the front door, bolts and all. It was like something out of a Stephen King horror novel.

But I digress. Close your doors at night. No food outside.  If you have a compost bin, you need to make sure the lid and doors close tightly or they will come back nightly to raid the food.

Wire and bird netting protect vegetables

A simple wire and bird netting to protect plants (click to enlarge)

I screwed and bolted the door of my compost bin and they cannot get in now. I guess I showed them who’s boss.

The picture on the left shows a garden bed with wire over it.  Draped over the wire is bird netting.  In the Spring birds like to eat the tender young greens.  This keeps both large and small critters out of the bed.

This next picture is a close up of the wire and netting.

Protect your edible landscape

Wire and netting over a beet bed






The other animals that like to dig in our gardens are gophers and moles.  Gophers are serious pests and can do a lot of harm.  They burrow underground in a network of tunnels.  One sign of them in the garden is a raised mound of earth with a little hole at the top.  This is the result from their tunneling. The minute you see a new mound is the best time to get the gopher.  Trapping is the most efficient method.

gopher trap

gopher trap

You need to dig directly into the mound and find the tunnel underneath.  It will go in two directions.  You need to put a trap into both sides, as you don’t know which direction they’ll be coming from.  I rub the trap with parsley or carrot greens. This takes away any human smell and also lures them.  You can see in the photo, that I’ve put a rope on the trap.  I peg it into the ground so that they don’t pull it into the tunnel.  I also put a board or stone over the hole to keep the light out. Keep checking the trap.  Sometimes they throw dirt into the hole you’ve dug, and you need to clear it out.

A set trap

Set your trap carefully (click to enlarge)

Trapping is not for the faint of heart. But I’ll tell you, when they start pulling your beautiful broccoli plants under ground, you’ll be  motivated.

Moles are insectivores. They don’t eat your plants, but they do tunnel underground.  This sometimes creates air pockets around the plants that causes them to wilt. Push the soil back up against the roots of the plants and water them.  That will usually take care of your plants. I don’t trap moles.  I think they do more good than harm.

Come back tomorrow for more about pesky critters in your Edible Landscape.

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