What’s the best way to stop birds and rabbits nibbling young shoots?

Tiffany Daneff / 15 April 2014

A despairing Tiffany Daneff seeks affordable ways to protect her precious young plants from the local wildlife.

The pigeons have been at the broad bean seedlings, tugging out the whole growth before jettisoning them on top of the soil to die in the sun. The rotters don’t seem to have even bothered eating the shoots, or barely anything of them, which is the ultimate insult after all the time I have invested.  Still, I have only myself to blame for not remembering that this is exactly what happened last year.

With spring in the air and the sun on your back it is only too easy to think that all in the garden will come up roses. But the rabbits are back and while at least they show no signs of enjoying the fresh rose shoots they – or perhaps the pigeons – have been helping themselves to juicy new leaves in the borders.

They are particularly keen on the lime green shoots of Iris Sibirica and on the fleshy campanula leaves. If I was to cover every plant with a nice wire cloche – which is what I would like to do – I’d have to give up wine or summer holidays so I have been experimenting with cheap alternatives.

Had I the time, I might cut some hazel and weave some basket type cloches but I don’t.  If I had wire cutters I might try fashioning chicken wire in to domes but it is the holidays and the family has descended so there is no time at all not even for nipping down to the hardware shop (oops, I forgot there isn’t one any more, only a faceless edge-of-town DIY store that always saps me of the will to live).

So, much as I would like to create a cloche of beauty, what with the endless laundry and meals and parental taxi service to run I have resorted to using those charming translucent plastic punnets in which fruit is sold.

You have to mix and match punnet to plant fitting them carefully so as not to bruise the foliage but as the plants are still small there is usually one size that fits. Many punnets already have holes so the leaves don’t scorch, while a couple of stones perched on top usually keeps them from being upturned by the wind.

Those plants that are too tall for punnets I have swathed in even more unattractive net bags (the ones in which oranges are sold) in vibrant green, orange and yellow. In the photo, right, you can see the young fronds of a bronze fennel have been hooded like a prisoner. Not exactly the look I am after.

Still, who cares as long as it works. But it seems to me that the more plants I cover the more the pests experiment.

“At least the Gaura lindheimeri seem unpopular,”I mutter to myself on the morning prowl, only to find a day later that one out of the six has been nibbled to the base and so now it has joined the others on Death Row.

Happy Easter!

Tiffany Daneff is also the editor of the award-winning intoGardens app - the world's first magazine app for gardens. Visit the appstore to download a free sample or go to the website for more information. Gardening has never looked better or been more exciting. Visit www.into-gardens.com for more info.

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