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How does my garden grow? Plants

How does my garden grow….or outfoxing possums

We have no air-conditioning. In Summer we rely on our grape vine to drape over the pergola to keep out the morning sun. It’s been that way for many years.

Until the last couple of years when the possums discovered the tasty new shoots that emerge. So I joined the large group of gardeners suffering from The Attack of the Possums, working out ways to out-fox the critters. Mine seem to be the very cute little ringtails, rather than the big boofy brush tails. I am hoping that the small ringtails eat less!

Of course they are excellent climbers and the trunks of the vine, the fence and the supports for the pergola make excellent highways. They can hang and nibble on those tasty shoots. The top of the vine is perfect for them. Not so good for the vine.

By December this should be a canopy of leaves and tendrils.

Fortunately the vine is also persistent and sends shoots out from below. I am relying on them to create the shade.

My thoughts are that if the possums can’t get a secure purchase they won’t be able to nibble. So here’s the plan….to encourage these shoots to grow up to the top, away from the grasp of the pesky pests. That plan needs a few things.

Firstly, strings attached to the wires at the top and then tied to the shoot. Climbing a ladder and trying to throw the string wasn’t the best method. With some lateral thinking I realised the rake was the perfect solution. I could put the ball on one of the tines and direct it over the string, making sure the shoot is growing up away from anything that might give a secure footing. (Then dodging as the ball of string came tumbling down!)

This one is certainly reaching for the sky.

The second part of the strategy is to wrap the new shoots up at night as possums are nocturnal. Each night I go out and tenderly wrap the little ones up in an old bedsheet. Each morning I take it away so that they can photosynthesis their little hearts out.

So far my strategy is working. However I am sure you can see the flaw in it….what happens when the shoots reach the top. I have tried to put the strings into places on the wires that aren’t so easy to reach. As well I am hoping that these upright ones will provide some sun protection.

So far I am out-foxing those pesky possums, but who knows what the outcome will be!

The glory days of the vine!

P.S. You know how WordPress gives you a link to similar posts at the bottom of each post? Well, after I published this I saw one titled “Pesky Possums”. Not only have I told you about this problem before, but used almost the same language!! That made me smile!


I respectfully acknowledge the traditional custodians of this land on which I live and garden – the Wurundjeri Woi-wurrung People of the Kulin Nation, their spirits, ancestors, elders and community members past and present. 

26 replies on “How does my garden grow….or outfoxing possums”

Anne, your native opossums are quite different from ours. I’ve just read both of your links, then clicked over to this one: https://www.latimes.com/style/la-hm-opossum28jun28-story.html in case you’re interested. Here they’re welcome in the garden as they eat snails and slugs, rotting ground fruit and ticks. In fact the consumption of ticks helps with the fight against Lyme Disease. I’m amazed at how differently they’ve evolved. Your possums are much cuter, though. 🙂 I’m sorry to read how destructive they are. I’m counting myself lucky that we don’t share this problem. I wonder if they have an aversion to something like hot peppers or cinnamon. Here some gardeners sprinkle these things are garden crops as a deterrent. They’re not toxic or harmful, simply distasteful. It must be quite disappointing to lose out on all that shade, not to mention the beauty of the wisteria. I wish you the best of luck.

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That was such an interesting article, Alys. The idea as opossums as dustbusters appeals! Do you have them in your garden? Yes, our possums are quite different. They love new shoots ~ and rose buds! We have created the perfect conditions for them in urban areas, and now wail that they are eating our gardens! I have friends who have tried many tricks, including netting the whole grape vine to keep them away. I will chat to them about chilli sprays.

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I’m glad you enjoyed the article, Anne. I see them along the fence now and then, and we occasionally spot one if we are walking later at night. I came across one in my path many years ago when I came home late. I froze in my tracks and waited for it to meander off and of course it did.

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It’s lovely to share our neighbourhood with wildlife but there are limits! I wish you success… barriers are the best method as far as I know… even better than a dog, our dog at least, who likes to the thrill of the chase and the idea of defending his yard against the resident brushtail possum, but who sleeps inside of a night while the possum is foraging. Fingers crossed nothing we prize has yet been tempting.

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I know of dogs that bark at possums throughout the night. I think that would be worse! I think the real secret is to have wobbly, insecure things on their pathways. They come along the top of the fence, which rigid and gives good purchase. Maybe my engineering mind needs to turn to barriers!

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Lucky you! Some drongo introduced them to New Zealand and now they are a feral plague over there.
They are protected here, although many people, including the Fella, don’t understand why. They can be caught in cages and relocated. However, another will soon move into the vacant territory. And so it goes!

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I’m wondering if it would help to grease their inbound route to the shoots to making it harder to get a secure footing. So, along the top of the fence, maybe the wires, etc? Nothing harmful, but just to discourage. I don’t think it would need to be kept up forever, just long enough to teach them that this is slippery and not worth the effort.

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Interesting idea, Kate, but I am not sure. I have a friend who has tried everything, so I will have a chat to him. I am not sure how much effort I really want to put into it, although we will need the shade, if we ever get any warm weather.
I love your new avatar!

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Out here, the fruit trees get pruned underneath by the alpacas and up top by the possums and cockies. I wouldn’t mind if they only took some of the fruit, but they literally eat the peaches small, hard and green. In recent years we’ve been trying to net some of the branches so we get some fruit too, but getting up on a ladder to throw the net over is not fun.
Good luck with your campaign, Anne. If all else fails, perhaps you could plant something else over the pergola instead?

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Possums and cockies ~ what a terrible, destructive duo! Am I right in understanding that the cockies will often only take a bite and drop the fruit on the ground? Netting trees would be a serious undertaking.
The Fella has spoken about getting rid of the vine and putting up laser light. I love the luscious greenery of the vine, but laser light would be less work.

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Yes, the cockies are little monsters. I yell at them and they just sit there and taunt me. The possums just use my fruit trees as an all-you-can-eat buffet. -shrug-
I think you’re fighting a losing battle with your possums. 😦 In the long run, shade is shade.

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I love your creativeness! I had to giggle at the thought of you standing with our rake and ball of string then at the thought of you putting the vine to bed each night! I hope it all works and you get the shade you need. As for the vine – they seem pretty indestructible once established.

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It makes me smile too, which is why I keep doing it. It is just the tender new shoots that the possums eat. Once there is a lot of growth the vine can out compete the possums. Unfortunately we are not here yet.

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The only threat to my grape vines is me…haha. I never quite know how to trim them to get the most fruit and a couple years ago I think I nearly killed them. But they’ve bounced back and despite the heat wave produced an okay crop this year. Yours look amazing! No wonder the possums want to enjoy them 😋

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I don’t think you can destroy a grape vine. There is nothing wimpy about them. So once we get past the new shoot time, I am expecting the vine to do well against the possums.
Ours is only ornamental, so no grapes. I hope you made a decent vintage from your harvest this year. 🍷

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There are a few days when I desperately want one, but usually the vegetation, the outside blinds and the ceiling fans do the trick. As you say, there are options that’s aren’t often considered.

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