Sunday, 21 June 2009

Fight the Good Fight

The veg garden in June.
My friend Alison down the lane, has had to call in the Lovely James the Tree to cut down a dead horse chestnut in her garden. So she now has a nice load of logs for the winter, and I have a ton of chippings,which she kindly donated to me and which I have used to renew the paths on the veg garden, smartening up its appearance no end. Note the cherry tree at rear illustrating theTesco Carrier Bag and Old CDs Bird Scaring System. see below for further details.
But beneath the apparent calm and order of the early summer allotment, lurks the incipient threat of-

cue scary music - THE WILDLIFE.
I'm very fond of a raspberry, or two, and indeed a strawberry, as I've mentioned before, and peas jump straight from the pod into my mouth.... In fact it's fair to say that a substantial amount of our crop doesn't even make it to the kitchen at all. But it's not just me -I'm not the only culprit who's eating the crop in the garden, in fact there's an veritable army out there, just lying in wait to steal the hard earned crop from my very plate, or hand. I'm talking about the birds of course, and the slugs, snails, caterpillars, mice, squirrels and all manner of Gods Good Creatures that are hoping to share in our bounty. I'm fortunate in that I have relatively few problems with slugs and snails, mostly because I turn the hens and ducks into the veg garden in the winter when there's more space, and less crop and they seem to keep it relatively clear. The trick is to keep them out when you don't want them in there - they don't always go along with this arrangement, so you have to watch it. I realise this isn't a realistic proposition for everyone, but if you can do it, it really does make a difference. They eat your slugs, clear lots of the weeds, and fertilize the ground as they go along. Turning slugs and weeds into delicious eggs is, let's face it, nothing short of alchemy. And it saves you on pelleted food too. Certainly seems like a deal to me.


I'm not a greedy person..

However, there is still the problem of wild birds. I'm not a greedy person, well I am a greedy person actually, but anyway the point is I don't mind sharing a reasonable amount of crop with the wildlife, but they just don't know when to stop. Birds don't just have a cherry or two, they strip the tree, slugs don't just nibble a strawberry , they ruin the whole crop, and don't even get me started on foxes. If a fox took the occasional chicken I could live with it, but I've had fox attacks in the past and they just kill every bird the run, whuch of course is in their nature and can't be helped,but it's nevertheless a terrible thing when it happens. You just have to accept that it's the foxes job to eat the chickens and it's the gardener's job to stop him. So just make sure you do your job as well as you can.



Apart from chicken keeping, there are the other traditional anti-pest devices such as my scarecrow pictured here. This is a somewhat basic design, but quite effective, featuring once again, the good old Tesco Carrier bag this time stuffed with straw as a head with an old woolly hat from goodness knows where and sporting a natty if rather holey red fleece jacket. Now I haven't got round to putting a photo of myself on this blog profile yet, but when I do I'm sure you will agree that I bear very little resemblance to this fellow, even from a distance. But you would be amazed at the number of people who see the top of Mr Scarecrow's head behind the fence, think it's me, and then after giving a cheery wave, stomp off down the lane muttering about miserable old bats who never speak... I can only say I have never worn a blue woolly hat and my face is not remotely like a Tesco carrier bag, except on a really bad day. However I am seriously thinking about a bit of a makeover in the Gardening Apparel Department.


Pretty well all creatures hate plastic bags, except humans. Clearly animals realised the danger from the start, - my dog refuses to walk with someone carrying a plastic carrier bag unless they have it on the other side to her, and I once rode a horse that could spot a discarded carrier bag in the ditch at 500 yards and would judder to an immovable halt in the middle of the lane until someone removed it. No amount of prodding, kicking or urging on would entice her to pass near to the Scary White Flappy Thing in the ditch. And so drawing on this experience ~I have designed my Patent Tesco Plastic Carrier Bag Bird Scarer, illustrated here. I admit, it doesn't add anything to the ornamental appearance of the garden, but it does work. I intend to have at least some cherries this year!! ~Old CDs are also liberally dangled around the tree and work by reflecting sunlight at odd angles which also scares birds effectively.



I will make brief mention of my efforts with firearms, well an air gun actually, which became necessary when the whole of last years crop of hazelnuts was lost to grey squirrels, not to mention the bird feeders and strawberries. My husband is very fond of hazelnuts.

I have so far bagged two squirrels and three wood pigeons from my hide by the bathroom window, which affords me a reasonable view of the bird table where said grey squirrels are most often to be found, (out of hazelmut season of course) We ate the pigeons and they were delicious, I did think of trying the squirrel, a la Whittingstall, but decided against it - the resemblance to large rats with tails makes it just a forage too far for now- maybe another time.

I am of course extremely careful to ensure that I am aiming downwards and that nothing is in the possible line of fire


And if all else fails an impenetrable barrier of chicken wire or plastic mesh or both will keep most attackers at bay, even if it means you can't pick a strawberry every time you walk past, because it's trapped behind the Iron Curtain.

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