Don't keep tearing your hair out because possums are feasting on your vegetable garden. Here are two easy options to encourage them to visit your neighbour's patch, which have multiple benefits for your garden.
If you find yourself living in a semi-rural or established suburb of Australia, it's very likely you will be sharing your garden with possums. These little furry friends can wreak havoc in your vegetable garden. Here is how to live with them.
Protect and prevent
It's simple enough but just cover your plants. This will obviously prevent the possums from getting to your crops. What's more, there are other animals you can protect your garden from by covering your crops.
You can do this in a number of ways.
Raised garden beds
In my vegetable garden, my raised garden beds have holes where I can insert irrigation piping to create an arch over the garden (I have Foodcubes by Biofilta). Prior to this, I had Colourbond raised garden beds and I had the same set up, but attached the piping to the side of the bed with brackets and screws. Creating arches over your garden bed with irrigation piping means you can also set up a sprinkler system. I had this set up prior to my wicking beds and it was a life saver for a time poor working mum. Once your pipes are in place, you can place netting over the top. In summer you can use fruit tree netting and in winter (if you get frosts) swap this for frost netting to protect your crops. To fix the netting in place, I used the irrigation piping cut to lengths of 10cm, and then slit down one side. This allowed me to open up the pipe and wrap it over the net and clip it around the arches. It is such a simple way to keep the netting in place.
In ground garden beds
If you garden straight into the soil or have a no-dig set up, then you will need to create a structure. But don't worry, it's pretty easy to do. All you need is to create a box out of wood to sit over the top of your garden bed. You can then staple netting to it. The rain will be able to pass through the netting, and it would be light enough to be removed easily for harvest. If you have high winds or clever possums, use tent pegs to secure it to the ground.
Both these options will help you protect your crops from small animals, like cabbage moth butterflies and their caterpillars, up to birds, possums and even your pets. But remember, if an animal is really hungry, it will find a way in. And in these circumstances, don't begrudge them that tomato.
There are a number of recipes you can find online to make sprays that are said to deter possums. They include English mustard, garlic or Tabasco. I personally have never tried them, and nor do I really want to be dousing my plants in them. I also know that the two methods above have other great benefits for my vegetable garden and so I like to keep it simple. But they are an option you may choose to explore.
Author: Diana Barnes, Growing Vegetable Down Under