Thursday 23 July 2015

Crop Protection

At some point many crops need protection from birds or insects or from the weather/sunshine etc

I dislike using soft plastic or nylon mesh nets as birds can easily get caught in them, in fact I rescued a blackbird from underneath someone else's the other week. However, more sturdy metal mesh can be used to protect against birds or cabbage white butterflies as slow below:

This mesh is approx 10ft long and arranged in a triangular prism so that it can allow plants to grow tall underneath as necessary.

This photo shows it protecting our lettuces, which we found are a tasty treat for House Sparrows, in fact they tell their friends and all have quite a party nibbling them down to a stump if unprotected. Interestingly, this behaviour has only been noticed in the past couple of years, maybe they just got away with it before then, or maybe their tastes have changed.....

Now, it is over the blueberries as Blackbirds and thrushes will gobble the lot if left unprotected!

Some of our allotment neighbours have a problem with pigeons going after cabbages, however this only seems to be in the more "open" allotments, ours has hedges around and I think that it is the enclosed nature of the allotment that pigeons do not like - in fact I have seen pigeons sitting on the fence at the back, having a nosy and then ignoring our cabbages in favour of ones in a more open allotment!

As is said in this earlier post disguising crops by planting flowers in amongst them is a good idea, and I have also found that garlic and onions in with carrots will help reduce carrot flies (the best defence is height!), some people use very small knit mesh or fleece. Garlic barrier spray works well on peas and beans and damsons to some extent.

Flowers in the Allotment

When people find out that I have an allotment, quite often they say, "You must be a really keen gardener!"
The answer to that is that I spend a lot of time growing vegetables but am not knowledgable in the slightest about flowers! (apart from the obvious ones like knowing what a daffodil looks like!)

However, flowers can play a very useful part in the allotment, both to attract pollenators and also to act as diversions from or indeed mask vegetables from the nasties that might want to eat or lay eggs on them.

Marigolds (Tagetes)

Marigolds are said to be able to deter aphids, attract some pollenators and the Tagetes Minuta variety (not shown) has been researched and shown to be able to clear ground of persistent weeds.

Ours now self seed and live down near the far end of the allotment, which this year is around the onions, carrots, leeks, garlic and parsnips.


The nasturtiums are going mad! This is the top end of the allotment near the gate, and this is what greeted us in the middle of the pea and bean patch after we had come back from holiday.

Some people eat nasturtium leaves, battered or fried apparently. Can't say I have tried, or indeed want to try this myself but the rabbit we used to have liked them!

The do seem to attract blackfly, so act as a diversionary plant for beans, especially broad beans which can be prone to them. (A tip with broad beans is to remote the growing tip once enough beans have set and it is tall enough as required)

Again ours self seed.


Cosmos are good for attracting butterflies and also the seeds at the end of season are attractive eating for bird.

These are planted around the carrot tyre stacks to hide the black tyres.


Quite apart from the fun of growing tall sunflowers, and their general attractiveness, the seeds of these can be collected in Autumn to put in bird feeders or indeed give to some small pet animals.
Alternatively leave on the plant for Goldfinches and other birds to peck at in situ.

They do suck up a lot of water and create shade so ensure that there's a bit of space around them, don't try to grow other vegetables too close. That being said the shade is good to stop cauliflower heads going yellow and lettuces from going to seed in the strong summer sunshine.