Building an exclusion zone/area from possums, birds, fruit fly and other pests

Discussion in 'Fruit & Vegetable Growing' started by Letsgokate, Mar 27, 2017.

  1. Letsgokate

    Letsgokate Valued Member Premium Member

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    Due to the issues we have with possums here we are thinking that the only way we can stop them eating plants or fruit is to have an exclusion area for the fruit trees. Our plan (we think) is to build a big dome tunnel, lots can be found on youtube.

    At the same time putting fruit fly netting on to stop the Queensland fruit fly and other pests.

    Possums/birds and other animals will chew through the fruit netting, so we will need wire as well, unless there is a net strong enough to stop the possums and fine enough for fruit fly.

    We have native bees so they would be moved into the exclusion area when things are in flower but can be moved out when things are not. And I was thinking whether it could be worth getting some good bugs to put in the area too.

    We also have to work out exactly where to put it as the fruit trees are in pots in the front yard, don’t think we want a big dome net thing in the front yard. The fruit trees will be pruned to keep the height down to be able to reach fruit etc and still in large/huge pots. That is happening whether in an exclusion zone or not.

    Recently had to do a trip down south, the hwy has been moved closer to the berry farms around Coffs Harbour, I hadn’t realised how many properties used netting structures over the crops, they were everywhere and big. But none had wire as well.

    So wanting to open up a conversation on this, any suggestions and thoughts, especially from anyone who has done this, it is going to take us a few months to plan it out.
     
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  2. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Possums and fruit bats are difficult to control in the home garden in SEQ so is fruit fly and it's such a shame to have a nice nurtured crop of fruit and veg destroyed by these pests just when they're ready for harvest.

    Exclusion is the only sure way of ensuring animals and pests stay away from produce but installing some type of exclusion system that's effective and practical at the same time is easier said than done.

    I've recently had some success with bagging fruit (I'm still working on the video I will release soon) by using fiberglass insect mesh meant for screen doors cut into appropriately sized squares. The mesh is cost effective but more importantly, it prevents fruit fly strike and is strong enough to discourage most possums and bats. I say most, because if the animal is determined they may still damage some fruit even though they can't completely ruin or eat it. Overall, my bagging method has worked well and certainly much stronger than the purpose made retail cloth or nylon bags do.

    I have also found these fruit saver nets sold on eBay do a pretty good job of protecting against fruit fly, possums, and bats. I personally use them and although I'm not 100% satisfied these nets do work and have protected several crops of apples and stone fruits. The problem is they are expensive and not as robust as they could/should be and tend to tear from branches etc and deteriorate over time - but so does everything I suppose.

    Possums, bats, and birds, do target our fruit but we grow so much of it that we accept the loss. However, fruit fly will sting practically all our stone fruits, apples, mangoes (if left on the tree late), and several other fruits except for our citrus. So, it's the fruit fly targeted fruit we mainly use exclusion methods on and this also helps stop the larger animals.

    We don't exclude our citrus at all during fruiting and just accept the losses. The only citrus we have seen affected by fruit fly whereby the maggot actually survives and ruins it is grapefruit - we see the odd sting mark on other citrus varieties but it's never an issue.

    Towards the end of the mandarin season the birds tend to hit our main mandarin tree hard, however, we've usually had enough of mandarins by then anyway... :)

    For vegetables, I found standard bird netting over a frame kept the possums out of the raised garden beds without any problems. Since moving our beds away from the trees and positioning them all central in the middle of the backyard we haven't needed to net them from possums. I'm not sure exactly why the possums leave our vegetable patch alone now but I suspect they don't like exposing themselves across open ground where our dog could confront them.

    I've seen tennis courts converted to exclusion areas for vegetables and fruit - basically a big rectangle enclosure made from galvanised mesh. Pollinating insects can still get through, but the larger animals can't and then the produce that needs to be netted against fruit fly can be done separately without covering everything unnecessarily.
     
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  3. Letsgokate

    Letsgokate Valued Member Premium Member

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    Thanks for your reply Mark. We did some fruit tree shuffling the other week moving the apple trees further away from the trees we know a possum or two lives. (after your suggestion) Had also set up the motion sprinkler at night and that seemed to help stop them eating the leaves off the trees. Trouble is you have to be diligent and remember to turn it on every night.

    They seem to be mostly leaving the passionfruit vines alone, or more likely they are big enough to handle a few eaten leaves. I did have to put some wire over the plants to at least protect the main root system and some leaves if they did attack it like they did before. Of course they don't have passionfruit on them yet.

    I also put a wire cage over the pumpkins when they are little seedlings.

    We have possums in the front and back areas of our block and no area is really away from trees enough. The veggie patch is the most open area away from trees. We also get the neighbours possums coming for a visit.

    When we first came here we had blocked of the fireplace inside and had a possum got down the chimney we had to rescue then it did it again a few nights later until we blocked the chimney with bricks.

    We have put a hoop tunnel over one of the veggie beds as you know for fruit fly, caterpillars etc but something chewed through that one night and ate some capsicums, I expect a rat or something. And the fruit fly bags I used on the tomatoes had something chew through them to get to the ripe tomatoes, I thought birds. But I had so many it didn't matter. But the point is the fruit fly veggie net style of thing doesn't stop birds, rats, possums chewing through if they see something they fancy. And of course if the net is resting on the fruit you can still get fruit fly strike.

    We haven't had any bird issues YET but there is potential, we have a lot of cockatoos fly over every day, they did come into the yard to eat some fallen mangoes ages ago and sit in the gums dropping branches into the yard, all the time so they will be an issue when we have lovely fruit growing.

    We have a very treey block which is part of the attraction of the place, but that does cause us some issues.

    I was prepared to bag or cover each fruit tree when they had fruit for fruit fly but if we are doing an enclosed area for possums then it might make sense to cover the lot in one construction. Doing any of this stuff is not cheap.

    Agreed. And it doesn't always look pretty.

    Is this a midge mesh? to be small enough for fruit fly?

    If we cover this area in fruit fly net as well this is why we would have to put the native bees in there as no other pollinating insect would be able to get in, but no nasty one either :)

    When Drakes Fruit Shed has stuff going cheap you wonder if it's worth the time, effort and money sometimes.
     
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  4. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    No, what I'm saying is you have a two-pronged exclusion the first is a general mesh like chain link or chicken wire covering a large area totally enclosed to stop the possums and birds and the second is the fruit fly mesh or bags only covering the crops that need to be covered against fruit fly.

    There's no doubt in my mind that my home produce is far better than the average tasting fruit and veg from Drakes or any other supermarket. We haven't purchased bananas for months they just have no taste anymore and the thought of how much pesticides is in the fruit worries me.

    Take up the challenge and find a way to beat the pests - keep on growing your own! :cheer:
     
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  5. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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  6. Letsgokate

    Letsgokate Valued Member Premium Member

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    Yeah we have borrowed one but it's either dodgie or we have smart possums they would go in there get the food and get back out. Issue with traps is even if we moved them on, other possums will soon take their place.
     
  7. Mark

    Mark Founder Staff Member

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    Grow your veggies in it then... :)
     
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