pests

Yes, we have wildlife challenges in the inner-city

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This used to be a head of broccoli
This used to be a head of broccoli

The photos above and below show what were heads of broccoli, almost ready for harvest.

Until the possum decided to have a midnight snack. They were consumed in a single night, so there wasn’t much we could do. (Add to that the ongoing challenges from rats, which will give most things a nibble.)

So yes, even in the inner-city, we have wildlife challenges when growing vegetables…

Another former head of broccoli
Another former head of broccoli

Creating an insect hotel

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Our new insect hotel, in place on the fence
Our new insect hotel, in place on the fence

Creating an “insect hotel” has been on my to-do list for a while now. The idea is a simple one: create a habitat for beneficial bugs to hibernate and breed in. The result should be more of the good bugs, leading to less of the bad bugs.

The great blog post on insect hotels by Inspiration Green was my starting point. This showed the huge diversity of shapes, sizes and materials of insect hotels.

The raw materials.
The raw materials.

My starting materials were a few pieces of well-aged firewood, and some handy bamboo garden edging from Bunnings.

The outside frame was made from cut-down 90x45mm pine, still left over from the renovation. The wood and bamboo was cut to 90mm long to match.

The two slow bits were drilling all the holes (6-9mm in size), and then gluing it all together.

It makes for an attractive addition to the garden!
It makes for an attractive addition to the garden!

The result is not just useful, but beautiful (I think so at least). It looks great on the side fence of our house. And as it’s visible from the street, it’s yet another item of interest for passerbyers.

Have insects already made a home?
Have insects already made a home?

The really encouraging thing is that a few of the holes have already been filled — so hopefully this means some friendly bugs have already made a home!

Keeping rats out of the chicken run

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Laying down wire underneath the full length of the chicken run, to keep out the rats.

“Rat cunning.” It’s an expression you hear, but you don’t fully understand until you see them in action.

When we created our chicken run, we ran aviary mesh up the sides of the run, and chicken wire across the top. Old concrete garden edges were dug 30cm into the ground on all sides, locking down the wire.

We thought it would be enough to keep out the rats. Boy were we wrong!

Within a month, rats started tunneling under the fence from the convent next door. They went under the concrete edging, and opened up new holes every night. (It doesn’t help that we back onto the railway line, which is both rat haven and highway.)

While the the chickens themselves were safe in their Fort Knox of chicken coops, the rats were scavenging any feed scattered about by the hens.

So I spent the last few weekends digging up the chicken run, laying down wire, and then cementing in the gaps. A lot of work, but hopefully the chickens should be safe now.

Of course, the wire will rust away in a few years. Had we known what we know now, we’d have bitten the bullet and laid a concrete slab when we created the run.

Still, this should last a while. And maybe when these defenses fail, I’ll be feeling more enthusiastic about laying a slab.

The take-away message: don’t underestimate rats, particularly when you live in the inner-city.

Fighting off fruit flies

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Dead fruit flies, drowned in the bottom of our home-made traps.

Each year, we seem to have a different plague of pests. Last year it was fruit flies. The year before last it was cabbage moths and citrus leaf miner. I guess it’s probably to do with the weather conditions leading up to summer.

This year we’ve taken a more proactive approach to dealing with fruit flies, as our citrus is finally cropping well, and we’ve got a good number of apples growing out the back.

The photo above shows the home-made traps, made of plastic food containers with slots cut in the side. These are filled with Wild May Fruit Fly Attractant. This lures in the male fruit fly, who then drowns in the liquid.

It’s cheap, and as you can see in the photo, effective. Let’s see if it makes enough of a difference!