PIGEON WAR: Nets and CDs (Oh yeah, and Bandit)

With the winter plants settling in nicely to their beds, the main worry now is keeping those dastardly birds off them. Pigeons and doves will peck away at chard, kale, lettuce, amongst other plants until there is very little leaf left for gardeners to enjoy. Garden netting can be found easily and is relatively cheap, but as we discovered, putting it up properly is a science in itself.

Planting the winter veg on October 12th was a busy day, and little time was left to lay over the netting, so we did a quick job of it, using a number of criss-crossed willow and bamboo sticks along the edges of the beds to hold the nets up. It kind of worked . . . for a bit, but after only a day the nets already began to pull at the sticks and sag, or be shaken loose by the wind. I then bought some clothes pegs and we reset the nets on upright bamboo sticks planted in the soil. Once again, after just a day the nets had a tendency to collapse, the pegs having popped off like corks. Oddly, this happened most often on the chard bed, and a closer investigation revealed what I had been fearing all along: the pigeons were landing on the nets to collapse them (the little b*st*rds). So it was back to the drawing board!

Finally, we added some strong central pillars for the netting in the chard bed, a little overkill perhaps, but no bird will be collapsing these babies, not even an ostrich. For the lettuce bed, two of our members came up with a different solution, setting up a willow frame for the netting. Not only is it effective, it looks pretty too.

The other netting problem we had concerned how to pin the edges down so nothing could slip under it. Using nails was not an option, as passing members would easily catch their clothes and skin on them, and SOAS would then have my head on a stick. Using staples was not practical either, as we needed something that was easy to remove. Another bright spark in our group came up with the solution, nailing thick staples to the edges of the beds, but then securing the netting to the staples using small sticks as pegs. Simple, practical and safe.

To provide extra protection from prowling pigeons we hung up a couple of CDs we found in the shed, providing movement in the wind and reflecting light to startle the birds.

…and then I brought Bandit out of retirement.

Bandit is a ‘scare-bird’ I built over the summer, using a cut section of a broom handle for his body, some willow, string, and bits of colourful cloth to make the wings, and a piece of glass for the beak, finally adding real feathers for the tail. The idea (as I had read in a book) is to make a fake bird of prey that will then scare away the other birds, remembering to move it every couple of days so that the birds don’t get too used to it being in one place. Okay, I admit he doesn’t exactly look like a killer, and I’m not sure whether  he is even remotely effective, but he adds a dash of colour to the garden. I’ll let the netting do the hard work while Bandit just hangs around, literally. I notice it has finally started to rain after a long dry spell, so it’s good to know we reinforced the netting just in time, as it is always less fun to do this sort of work in the wet.

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