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Taming the wildlife...

01:00 Thu 07th Mar 2002 |

There is plenty of advice on how to counter the damage those little winged beasties and bugs can do to our plants during the summer months, but what about those rather larger, furry or winged pests who can do twice as much damage, especially in the vegetable garden, in half the time and are feeling a bit peckish at this time of year

This is the time of year we start thinking about consigning those lovingly reared, tender young seedlings to the harsh outside world. Here's's guide to keeping them safe.....

Q.� So what can you do about deer

A.� Not only do they enjoy munching on new growth their size means they can reek havoc just by trampling around.

There is an old fashioned deterrent to deer which involves stuffing old stockings with human hair and then hanging them off strategic points at points where you believe the deer enter the garden. My grandparents swore by it and it does work, even though presumably the scent does wear off in time.

However, not everyone wants old tights hanging round the garden and unless you cut your own hair it might be a difficult regime to maintain.

Deer might not be the most common problem for British gardeners, especially urban ones, but in the United States they are about the number one menace.

The traditional deer barrier is a single, very high fence to stop them leaping over. Unfortunately this can end up making your garden or allotment seem more like a fortress than somewhere to relax. What a lot of gardeners in US now do is to put in two parallel fences, up to about five-foot high spaced about four feet apart. Although they can vault the first fence there isn't room for them to land and then leap again, stopping them in their tracks.

However, not all of us have room for such a system so it might be worth trying the hair first.

Q.� What about rabbits

A.� You can tell if you've got a newly acquired rabbit problem not just by the decimated green shoots but by the droppings they leave to mark new territory. A chicken wire fence is the answer, but it is no use if you end it at ground level - they soon burrow under it.

The trick is to leave an extra two feet or so of wire at the bottom, pull it out and bury it. The rabbits will start burrowing but soon give up when they hit the barrier.

Q.� And birds

A.� Pigeons can be a real menace during the spring when you are sowing seed direct into the ground, and there are plenty of our feathered friends who will feast on your soft fruit later on.

Scarecrows, strings of CDs or bottle tops do work initially but after a while they will work out that they don't actually pose a threat.

Plastic netting suspended over the top is still probably the best deterrent but do leave the sides open. Most birds dislike feeling closed in from the top so won't venture in from the sides and this way offers a form of escape for garden favourites like sparrows, thrushes, and robins who might have hopped in to do you a favour by feasting on slugs and snails.

Q. What about foxes in urban areas

A.� Foxes do damage not so much by eating young plants but trampling and burrowing when they are looking for a place to have their young.

You can discourage them from coming into the garden by keeping rubbish bags locked away or in a wheelie bin and security lighting which floods the garden. If that is not enough, the National Fox Welfare Society recommends a chemical repellent called Renardine, which you mix with sand and scatter round the garden. Foxes hate the smell and it is available from garden centres.

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By Tom Gard

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