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Got possums? Join the club!!

It seems like these cute but cheeky little critters are the BIGGEST deterrent to people growing their own in Brisbane (followed closely by the bush turkeys... but that's a whole other post!).

I've been spending a lot of time talking to home-gardeners at the markets and it seems like 90% of people have a horror story in which they have been burned by possums and gardening.

I don't blame them! It can be devastating to spend all that time nurturing your plants from tiny seedlings all the way through to a lush, ready to harvest crop... then BAM! Mowed overnight by a hungry furbomb..! :(

So IS it possible to have both possums AND a garden? Well "it depends" and "maybe" are two possible answers...

These are my possum buddies. I've got both types - ringtail and brushtail and they certainly make themselves at home, helping themselves to anything they find lying around the kitchen (butter, wine, sugar, birthday candles..) breaking dishes, having possum parties and generally wreaking havoc..

So how do I keep them out of my gardens?!

Well, I stand by the philosophy that we have to learn to live as though we are a part of nature rather than apart from nature. I've figured out that my furry buddies seem to have a particular fondness for parsley. To deter them, I simply throw an old sack over the top of any delicious-looking clumps and leave out an offering of old fruit scraps. Somewhere far away from the gardens :)

Now this approach is controversial, don't get me wrong. It is possible that I am creating a far worse situation by encouraging every neighbourhood possum around for a feed, not to mention creating some unhealthy dependency issues. However, so far it has worked. AND I even manage to skip a few days sometimes without significant damage to my gardens. Well trained possums? Maybe.

I know not everyone will agree with this method and there are certainly numerous others that I have heard of... fish sauce, possum deterrent spray, vicks vapourub, dog urine, creating surfaces that they don't like to walk on, converting your garden into Fort Knox... from all reports these methods have either been hit and miss from those who have tried them or too much trouble to be worth it.

So I'm sticking with my peace offerings for the moment. And working on some possum-proof designs while I'm at it... :D

How about you? Have you got a good possum story or suggestions on how to keep them away from gardens?

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So far, so good Possum-wise. There's always to-morrow :-\

Anyway, living with Possums can as you say take several forms.

Permaculture Author Linda Woodrow has posted some ways she deals with them and scrub turkeys on her blog Witches Kitchen. Mainly by total exclusion. She lives in a bush area so there's more wildlife food available naturally than there is in our suburbs.

I've met people who deal with Possums the same way you do Farina. It's a good way, everyone gets a bit (or win-win). If you only leave out small amounts of food and they get to chomp something they like in your garden while leaving other plants alone, I cannot see that you are creating dependence. No more than leaving out water for birds.

Thanks Elaine I will check out Linda's blog too! Yes, I think it is a win-win, and from what I have heard - particularly around the Red Hill - Paddington - Highgate Hill areas - the urban possums must really be suffering from a lack of natural food :/ I've heard numerous stories now of them completely stripping citrus trees of every leaf and shoot, razing bouganvillea, devouring cactus and all sorts of other garden disasters. It's no wonder people are put off if when they try to grow something, it gets destroyed by a seemingly unstoppable force. Not many people seem to take the 'give them an offering' approach though and I am sticking by that for  the moment!

Most of us would rather pick up a swat and kill the fly then let it out the door! The only good xxx is a dead one. If it stands still chop it down, if it moves shoot it. Erk.

My mum takes the opposite approach, she lets the wildlife gets the first pick, and she gets the left overs.... that's why we never seem to get any longans anymore, hardly any peaches and blueberries, and a fraction of the mulberries carried by the tree etc.  They seem to leave the chillies and the citrus alone... what's most frustrating are the crows pecks holes on the passionfruits but not eating them!

She have a lot of different species of birds around her place, and some of them are rather fat compare to else where from my point of view...

I didn't know possums like tea? I've been lucky with the brushtails that have claimed my land as their home. They eat my passionfruits that grow on my boundary fence but so far leave the veggie patch and produce in pots alone (well except maybe some strawberries or was that mice?). It could be because I'm outside a lot even at night or that the pots are under cover near my house? But they do crash down on my roof in the middle of the night which makes me wonder if they will someday go right through the tiles...

What do they eat?

I've had possums ...but I have dogs too.

I don't have many fruiting thingies so any possum who comes to ground is challenged.

Similarly if you keep you fruit trees and vines under 2 metres you disadvantage the possums' appetite...and leave them exposed to any garden keepers.

They alighted to the ground and chewed my cucumbers. But since they are noisy under foot  the dogs soon put a stop to that.

In running vines I find my light jute twine is too slim for them so they won't clamber along it. And if they do...they can only reach so far.

With the dogs on watch  it's worthwhile putting up with the barking at night.

I have 2 terriers....

I Stand by what I said in an earlier blog for white cabbage moths ,just net and forget same for possums, just finished another netted area today .I do have lots of other plants that are free for all lilli pilli,panama cherry etc and I never get to see them so it does soothe my conscience of having a garden and sharing, living with nature.

Knock on wood I have never had a possum problem, even on the last acreage property. But I know it could happen so I read these comments with great interest.

I do have dogs. They are old, one is blind and one is deaf (both in good health apart from that), and they spend the night indoors apart from a pre-bed pee break around 7.30pm so I doubt if they are helping much. Unless it's the smell of their peeing around the yard that may be a deterrent??

I also wander around the yard in the dark quite a bit but go to bed early which would then give the poss free reign. Rats and mice are more of a bother for me.

Lots of dead possums on the roads at the moment. New ones every morning poor things :(

I have had multiple problems with pests. I don't know which ones are getting my crops, I just know that if I don't take measures to protect these, then it would be foolish to try to grow anything. I live on the edge of the bush, and at times I get possums, rats, mice, wallabies, birds, and rabbits all trying to join in on eating the harvest. So my protection strategy has to exclude all of these. I use wooden framed wire meshed cages. I don't have enough of them so I am always trying to juggle which crops are the most important. I do grow a lot in baths, laundry tubs, etc. so my cages are made to fit these. I will make more cages and these will be framed in steel for better durability. Floppy wire will keep out possums, so my concrete block enclosed garden is protected by chicken wire, which has the top couple of feet (600 mm) waving around' Possums don't like this and it seems to keep them out, but of course birds laugh at this. I have a flock of Sulphur Crested Cockatoos which are doing a lot of damage at the moment. they seem to take a peck at lemons, green tomatoes, etc., leaving them on the ground and unusable. Netting keeps them out  (so far), but once again I must try to guess what they will try to attack and what they will leave alone. 

Below is what I have made to stop the Possums eating the vegetables. 


That's impressive Cooper.

How do the pollinators get in?

There are exits at either end and the holes in the netting allow for entry.


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