Protecting Plants – How to Protect Plants From Wind, Rain and Animals
Protecting Plants from Wind
Check all newly planted specimens after a storm and re-firm the root ball if necessary. Ensure that young trees and standard-trained shrubs are securely staked; replace ties as necessary.
In an exposed garden, provide protection for floppy or unstable plants by erecting a windbreak of some kind. This can be a permanent feature such as a hedge or fence, or a temporary barrier to be removed once the plants have developed a strong root system.
Do not use solid materials, such as continuous timber or bricks, for a windbreak — currents of air will simply blow over the top, swirling as they go, and often create even worse turbulence behind the barrier. Instead choose a material which will allow some air to pass through it, but at a reduced speed. Wattle hurdles, sacking, slatted ‘interference’, or even wire mesh offers the best protection.
Proprietary windbreak material gives the best protection of all. This is usually made from lightweight, tough, highly durable polyethylene. The mesh construction is designed to reduce wind speed by about 50% to a distance of four times the height of the barrier, and by 33% to a distance of eight times its height. As well as reducing physical damage by high winds, such windbreak materials also reduce the wind-chill factor.
Polyethylene windbreak mesh is easy to erect — simply batten it directly to timber support posts spaced at about 3m (10ft) intervals, following the manufacturer’s instructions. More elaborate fixing methods may be advised for permanent windbreaks, but are usually simple to install.
Protecting Plants from Rain
Excess rainfall can cause water- logging of the soil, but the only way of preventing this problem is by good soil preparation and cultivation — curative measures are generally impossible.
Tiny plants such as the true alpines and many rock garden plants which hate being soaked by heavy rain — their rosette leaves collect water resulting in rotting at the neck — can be given individual protection by covering them with a small sheet of glass supported on wire clip pegs. Tilt the glass slightly to one side so the water runs off away from the delicate plants. Put a good surface layer of coarse grit around alpine plants to drain away any surplus water from their collars.
Perfect blooms grown for exhibition can be given more elaborate protection with paper bags or umbrella-like roofs.
Protectfrom rain-splash by tucking clean straw beneath the ripening fruit and round the plants — unprotected fruit can be ruined by mud thrown up by heavy rain. Alternatively, use proprietary or home-made strawberry mats — collars of polythene or synthetic whalehide which fit under and around each individual plant.
Protecting Plants from Animals
Dogs and cats can foul the garden, scrape up and trample plants and dig holes in seedbeds, and their urine can scorch grass and other plants. The best means of coping with these problems is to train your own pets to use a small plot of unused garden, away from the lawn and flowerbeds. Proprietary repellent pepper dusts and sprays may also keep pets — and other animals — away from a particular area or group of plants, though the effects are rarely long-lasting.
Many birds eat seeds and seedlings. The best method of protecting a seedbed is to insert low stakes around the perimeter, tie black thread to one of them and loop it criss-cross over the bed. Alternatively, nylon mesh or netting can be spread over the bed, supported on stakes. Erect a fruit cage over soft fruit bushes to keep birds off, making sure there are no holes in the construction — a single trapped bird can do a great deal of damage.
Bird scaring devices such as scarecrows, bangers, glitter strips and recorded distress signals may be used to limit bird damage, and several chemical bird repellents are also available for protecting plants, but none of these methods is fully effective.
The bark of young trees and woody shrubs may be gnawed by rabbits, hares or deer. Such damage can kill trees or seriously stunt their growth, and secondary fungal infections can also take a hold in the wounds. Plastic tree guards can be bought – for protecting plants – the design varying enormously according to the manufacturer — all are cylindrical, usually perforated with holes to allow the bark to breathe and prevent condensation, and range from about 30cm (ift) long to 90cm (3ft) or more.
You can make your own tree guards from chicken wire or wire mesh bent into a cylinder to suit the size of the tree.
Rabbits can be kept away from juicy young vegetables by covering the plot with netting, though a determined rabbit will get through all but strong wire mesh. A high fence — 1.5m (5ft) or more —all around the garden should keep rabbits and deer out, but you will have to keep a constant check for holes. Bury wire mesh under the fence to a depth of at least 30cm (lit) to prevent rabbits from burrowing underneath.
Mice often devour peas, beans and other seeds in the garden before they have time to germinate, or climb cropping plants to raid the pods; and they sometimes dig up and eat bulbs. Conventional mousetraps are effective — though keep pets away from them — and proprietary poisons may be used to control severe infestations.
Squirrels are virtually impossible to control and the only effective safeguard against their damage to ripe fruits, and shrub and tree bark and buds, is by netting valuable plants.