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I only really write about one thing in my blog posts...

...possums!

So, I guess it's time for the latest update on my battle with them. If you see my previous blog post, I had two areas that were set up to deal with possums. One area was protected with a nylon mesh, combining architectural elements of the Sydney Opera House with the visual appeal of a plastic bag stuck on a barbed wire fence. The other area had a low electrified fence. The fence worked for about a year before the possums figured out they could jump out of some nearby trees, onto the compost bin inside the enclosure and then onto the ground. When I made the compost bin inaccessible (by giving it a wire hat) they figured out how to jump off the ground and onto the trunk of a paw paw tree. At that point I gave up and stopped planting things in that area that possums like to eat.

The netted area - the one that looks like Westminster Abbey recreated by a spider that's been given too much caffeine - survived much longer, but in the last couple of months it has been regularly breached by the possums. This is due to the netting being degraded by the sun, to the point where the possums could push through it. Once they figured out that they could do that, it didn't matter which area I repaired, they'd find another weakness.

So a couple of weeks ago I ripped down the old structure and surrounded that bed with a higher fence than I'd used on the other area, to remove the danger of jumping possums, and set up the electric fence there.

If you look closely you can see that there are two wires at the top of the fence. One has the electric fence energiser hanging off it, the other is attached to the wire netting and the earth of the fence energiser. Both wires have to be touched for the animal (or gardener) to get a shock. I'm two weeks in and there have been no incursions so far, so I'm very hopeful that I might have a secure garden bed once again. One of the great advantages of this approach is that it increases the potential for vertical gardening, as I failed to produce any snake beans last summer because possums kept nipping off the plants before they got tall enough to produce.

I also discovered this week that sometimes you do get what you pay for. Last year I bought a seed grown grumichama plant for $5 at Yandina markets and after struggling for a year since I planted it it recently died, finally. I ripped it out of the ground today, and discovered why it had done so badly:

Yes, the taproot does a full 360 turn, with an extra elbow thrown in for good measure. You could argue that I got a bargain, since it was clearly the first grumichama to be grown in space, but I'm a pretty disapointed. The problem is that I bought two. Should I rip out the other one on the presumption that it's in the same state? It's certainly not thriving.

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Comment by Rob Walter on August 21, 2014 at 9:13

Interesting. Our possums don't have TB in Australia (and nor does anything else), so that's one less reason not to eat them. Fortunately, my house possum seems to have stopped getting into the main garden. I think his last incursion was somewhat traumatic, with plenty of electric shocks and panic.

Comment by Dave Riley on August 21, 2014 at 8:50

Ask the Kiwis for input -- they hunt their massive population of Australian possums...There are about 30 million possums in New Zealand - that's about 7 per person! The local imports munch through around 9,000 tonnes of leaves, berries and fruit every night.

Last night I heard a possum out front which is an unusual event here...unique in fact ... then soon after outback the dogs got busy barking. Terriers. On duty 24/7. 

I went out to check with my spotlight but I'm sure anything that alights there is gonna arouse the canine guards.

I don't have much in the way of fruit growing but I know that it is recommended to keep your trees under 2 metres to discourage both bird and possum wreckage...as low isn't a preferred restaurant location.Of course if the terrain is scurrying safe they'll surfely descend.

Then there's this NZ DIY:

The most available and ready source of meat in the bush, that I know of in New Zealand, is Opossum.
There is a couple of weaknesses that they have, that makes them easier to catch than Rabbits or Hare.
For one, they are not afraid of Human scent. This means you do not have to be so careful about not wearing antiperspirants etc.
Secondly, They say ‘curiosity killed the Cat’. Well, Possums are very curious. Just about any thing different, that will stand out at night, will arouse their interest.
I spend at least 3 days a week trapping Possums, and just the other week caught 61 in a day, I only pluck the fur from them, and every time I throw away the carcass, I think ‘thats a lot of meat going to waste’. Possums are carriers of TB, so caution is necessary, and you need to check for spots on the liver etc. I must admit that I have never indulged in it, but plenty of trappers who spend long times in the bush do. Some Shrafters that I have talked to have eaten all sorts of animals including Hedgehogs, so I figure such a ready source of meat may be of interest to some.

Comment by Elaine coolowl on August 8, 2014 at 17:10

What a neat idea Florence! Mine was dismantled years ago so I cannot put it back now. We use a big tarp and we roll our mix in the tarp, walking back and forth across the yard. It takes us both to do it, with the tumbler, you can do that all by yourself. Other mixes I do with a shovel in a wheelbarrow also hard work ;-)

Comment by Florence on August 8, 2014 at 12:19

You're certainly persistant with your defence against possums!  In relation to Grumichama, my experience is that they're really really slow to establish, but fairly drought tolerant once it's established.  They don't like root disturbance either.. really set them back ... it's just my experience with two trees from difference sources though. :)

I'm too lazy a gardener for the tumbler style compost bin to work, I'm now using it to do my potting mix ~ mix them up really well, and I can do bigger batches ~ :P

Comment by Rob Walter on August 5, 2014 at 18:39

I ordered a compost spiral thing. I hope it's as good as you say, Elaine. I have access to plenty of cardboard through work, so I'm OK for the brown stuff.

Comment by Elaine coolowl on August 4, 2014 at 21:48

My compost tumbler makes a great pot for Sweet Potatoes. Without the right mix of green and brown, it does not make compost. The tumbler itself is not a magic wand without the right ingredients. Been through a number of expensive incarnations and now use plastic rubbish bins, Aus-made around $15 each. Put some holes in the bottom with a heated skewer, holes around the sides too but none on top. Work a treat and when the compost worms move in, they help matters along no end. I use a Gedye spiral compost thingy, mixes and removes the compost quite easily.

Comment by Andrew Cumberland on August 4, 2014 at 19:42

Aye, it's war on a long term basis Brother Rob.  In the distant future, they will tell of the tale of Possum Battles on the Vege Front.  

Oh, I have 3 compost tumblers.  They are 60 letre plastic rubish bins with lids that I chuck on their side and roll around with my foot.  

Comment by Rob Walter on August 4, 2014 at 18:29

I'm glad my carefully crafted blog got a giggle, Susan.

I'm pretty anti-cat for the same reason you're suggesting them - they tend to decimate the good wildlife as well as the annoying stuff. I do have a neighbour with a cat which likes to hang around in the yard, but it hasn't deterred mice and rats occasionally settling in my compost bin over the years. The last such settler was a rat which I thought was actually a family of mice, because it was so busy with its excavations. In the end I poisoned it and then I was very sad to see it lying dead on top of the compost. It was what I'd call a bush rat, one of the nicer looking ones, fur brown rather than black and with a very sweet face, and if I'd known it was just one animal I would have left him there, as the excavations kept the compost turning over. I killed it because I had visions of swarms of mice breeding in there, which is what happened last time I got infested and I had to kill numerous little creatures. A neighbour is trying to convince me of the virtues of a compost tumbler, which I must admit does appeal sometimes.

My possum defences were breached last night for the first time in a fortnight. I was very disappointed as I told myself that if I managed to get to a fortnight I'd be OK, and that anniversary was on Saturday. Fortunately it didn't do any major damage, just nibbled on the dill and parsley which I have scattered around. I suspect it might have fallen in after getting buzzed by the fence and then pushed its way out. I made some further fortifications this afternoon, so hopefully that will fix it.

Comment by Lissa on August 4, 2014 at 5:10

There you go. All the backyard gardener needs to keep the vermin at bay - a dog and a cat. Since all my cats grew old and died I've had the rodents move in. They've even adapted to the environment - over the years I vermin-proofed my aviary but now the remaining mice are tiny enough to slip right through the wire.

Comment by Susan on August 3, 2014 at 19:19

"combining architectural elements of the Sydney Opera House with the visual appeal of a plastic bag stuck on a barbed wire fence." LOL :)  The visual of this had me giggling for ages.  Very amusing to the non-possum affected gardener, probably not so amusing for you.  I concur with Lissa about the dog ->  I have one and absolutely no problems with possum damage.  They also keep away flying foxes (most of my trees are dwarf so they are not game to come low enough to get the fruit.  I used to have big problems with rat damage in the vegie patch as this area was fenced off from the dog but since getting a cat - no dramas.

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