Thursday, 16 May 2013

Protecting your veg patch from predators...

I've just been chatting away on Facebook to a friend about gardens & veg patches: and they got me thinking about how to protect your food from the depredations of nature....

In London, I used the Square Foot Gardening technique (well a form of it) promoted by Mel Bartholomew here using a flat pack one square metre plastic square from the Organic Gardening Catalogue guys here and some of their yellow bag vegetable planters here and their green bag potato planters here

From the right: potato planters with potatos, beans and cauliflower, then yellow veg planters with cabbage, aubergine & peppers and various herbs, then to the left, surrounded by rampant nasturtiums and unmown grass, the plastic square. This was divided into 9 plots using 6 garden canes crossed & tied with string: in here were onions, broccoli, tomato, mizuna, rocket, land cress, lettuce, cauliflower and pack choi. Though as you can see here, the brassicas have taken over by June 2009 when this was taken! You can get a lot of crops into a small space if you think it out first - and know which way the sun goes during the day and also know how big this stuff grows to! (as you can see, I got that a bit wrong in 2009!

The great thing about using the square foot gardening technique is that it's spot on for people (like me) who either don't want unmanageable volumes of veg, so you just use a few seeds at a time, and keep sowing again through the season, or who buy actual ready grown little plantlets from the big places like B&Q or Homebase at knockdown prices - you might only get 3 plants for your 50p (the others in the pack having died) but that is about enough for a single square in your plot - whereas buying a whole pack at full price, well it's expensive and also I don't usually want that many plants of one type of veg.

I also had a row of strawberries against that wall further to the right, and elsewhere in the garden, a half barrel filled with alpine strawberries. All went well for a few years until early 2010, when there was a den of foxcubs who decided, with their mother, that the garden was their personal playground.

The many cats, not least my Ivorcat, and pigeons (both fatty Woodpigeons, cooing Ringnecked ones and feral Rock pigeons) together with a variety of other pests including some nasty biting midgy things didn't need Fort Knox, the foxes did...

So, I should warn you, my methods to protect my fruit & veg are not pretty, but they were effective:

The square veg plot - I used some green netting that was left over from securing my passionflower climber to the wall, and some garden canes

This picture from July 2010 shows there was only celery and landcress left in the square, with new lettuce having been sown, but not emerged yet and tomatoes not yet put in either.  I usually buy the ready grown plants, again the ones that are knockdown prices because they're a little bit sad in the shop... 

This wasn't very practical though, because it wasn't easy to get to each side of the square because it was a single piece of netting.  So I acquired 4 pieces of expanding willow trellis like this here. Which I secured by having strong canes at the corners of the square, one end of which I tied on each side of the square on one end in about 4 places to a corner cane, leaving the other end with a string loop to hook over the cane. This gave me access to all sides of the square quite easily.  I also undid the side the sun was on if I was around because I was a little worried about air & light issues.  With hindsight I'd have trimmed down the willow trellis to give bigger holes through greater extension.  

Somewhere I've a picture but can't find it... If, as & when I find it, I'll add it.

The strawberries by the wall were protected by some security grilles a neighbour had wanted to get rid of:
This worked really well, they were heavy enough not to fall over, and light enough to pull away to do weeding or pick fruit, and let through enough light & air that the strawberries ripened well without beak marks from the birds...

The alpine strawberries in the half barrel were protected by canes stuck into the soil around the perimeter at a couple of inch intervals:
Again it worked well, but only because I am shorter than the final height of the canes, so there were no opportunities to poke my eyes out...  It was very easy to pull the canes out and put them back as needed.

What did the rest of the garden look like? Wild n woolly! Partly because I didn't want to disturb the foxes, and partly through lack of energy. I do miss my London garden!

Ivorcat lording it over the lawn...

And finally, a gratuitous picture of the fox cubs, who made full use of the tunnel under the fence and played with each other through it!


  1. Your garden looks lovely - just the sort I would like to run and play in.


  2. I totally agree with Alix, a fun garden! Mr Nifty has sown lettuce and more lettuce and carrots and spring onions, but it looks already as if we'll have enough for a small army.


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