Dealing with garden pests and diseases: Pigeons
I mentioned on Wednesday this week that I was going to write a few articles here and there about garden pests and diseases, and how to deal with or get rid of them cheaply and hopefully also organically where possible.
There was a little competition to see whether anyone could work out what had caused the mess below. This particular pest is a problem in January, February and March on brassicas, and in the Spring they like to attack pea plants as well.
… and the answer was pigeons. More specifically one very cheeky wood pigeon that is now so fat it can hardly fly, the greedy B. Here’s some more of his handiwork.
So, one birdy seems to have made short work of some of the sprouting broccoli and the last sprout top. I was amazed he had the nerve seeing as we have two free range cats, one of which is a good little hunter. Well, birdy’s smarter than you might think, because he swoops into the garden in the morning while the kitties are inside having their breakfast.
I’m not fretting too much though. First of all he doesn’t seem to be inviting his mates over, and secondly he hasn’t attacked the main growing points of most of the plants he’s pecked. Also, he seems to have gone for the weedier plants and has mostly left the big strong ones alone.
The RHS website suggests that you can shoot pigeons, but that isn’t practical or safe in a tiny garden and besides it seems cruel and pointless – other birds would fly in to replace him soon enough. I was rather hoping that my cats would scare most birds away but they seem to have spent most of February asleep indoors instead.
So it seems that prevention is better than cure. In future I will be guarding my brassicas more carefully, and maybe also my peas. One of the best things you can do is to use netting, but unfortunately one of the cats insists on getting tangled up in anything like that whenever I try to use it.
I’ve had to improvise with what’s lying around, including bubble wrap and string for the smaller plants (looks terrible but seems to work).
At the suggestion of Alys Fowler I’ve also used some upturned hanging baskets to protect the growing points, and this seems to be working too. What I like best about this is that the green wires and green twine don’t show up so much, less of the ‘municipal tip chic’ look.
It was time to bring in the last of the sprouts at the weekend, so I left the non-useable remains of the sprout top out for the pigeon to peck at in the hope that this will take his mind off the other plants.
One more thing I would say is if you suspect pigeon damage, take action quickly, in case they come back en masse later. A hungry flock of winter pigeons can strip your plants back to the stems in a few minutes. Prevention is better than cure and you can’t rely on nearby cats to keep the pests away in cold weather.
So there you have it – cheap and easy ways to stop wood pigeons eating your cabbages, broccoli and pea plants.
Do you have any other advice about how to keep wood pigeons out of your garden and stop them eating your crops? Please tell me all about it!