who to stop possums eating your garden

Dealing with Possums in the garden

When I first put my garden in I was so excited, finally I can grow my own food in the city!

For those who have black thumbs, I can’t really explain my excitement, I guess you could liken it to a kid on Christmas eve. I’ve been wanting a garden for a long time but have held back because we have a tendency to move every 6 months or rental properties just didn’t allow us to.

As soon as the dirt hit the ground in my brand new garden bed, I promptly filled it to the brim with baby seedlings.

That feeling of elation was deflated pretty quickly when the next day some of my plants were eaten down to the stalks, mainly it was Cauliflower seedings, so I was looking around for caterpillars.

The next day more damage was done. Over 80% of my plants we’re eaten right down to the stalks. This was one big caterpillar.

In our garden we have a big old mango tree. Turns out this big ol’ Mango tree is like an apartment block for Possums. We counted 3 nests, but I later found a lot of babies hanging about. 

Having grown up in the bush, it never occurred to me that native wildlife would like eating my baby lettuce! I guess because there isn’t much food around for them in the city, anything tastes good.

Enter my nemesis – Ron, the Possum

I guess he’s like the veggie patch grinch. I first met Ron digging into my pots on the back deck. He knocked a pot full of radish off the railing down to the ground below and it made a god awful bang (and killed all my baby radish). I jumped out of bed, I cornered him with my torch. You could tell he had no problems with humans and the look he gave me was more like ‘What are you doing on my deck shining that light in my face’. This was his turf as far as he was concerned.

I called him this because he’s was a red  Ringtail Possum. His fur, his eyes, all red. And yes I am a Harry Potter fan so a Weasley reference was an absolute must.

After talking to the neighbours it turns out that the mango tree was also home to a very sure of himself Brush tail, he used to jump in the window and steal food from their kitchen if they didn’t close the windows at night.

What didn’t work

I jumped on google and went about trying to find remedies for Possums destroying your garden.

Someone suggested the commercial animal scat products. That didn’t work.

Another suggestion was providing alternative food (fruit scraps). I didn’t feel good about this, mainly because I didn’t want the Possum population to explode, instead I opted to put around some decoy plants instead (Ron loves italian flat leaf parsley).

Another suggestion was high beam sensor lighting. The veggie patch being quite close to our bedroom window we ruled that out.

A lady at Bunnings suggested using ‘coffee grounds’. After chatting with her, we had no idea that Bunnings had a nightly raid on their plants as well and had to throw a large percentage away. Even Bunnings has issues. Anyway the coffee grounds didn’t work.

What worked

We finally opted for ‘exclusion method’ which is basically put a big old net over your prized veggies. I picked up a net from Bunnings for around $5 for a 4m x 4m area.

Veggie Patch Possum Protection
Veggie Patch Possum Protection

Initially the exclusion method wasn’t 100% effective. We then started to think perhaps it was rats or mice getting at our veggies, so we tried traps inside the net. All we caught was a naughty Beagle trying to steal peanut butter sandwiches.

Turned out it was definitely the possums.

These guys were smart – they actually knew what was in there so they figured out how to lift up the net and get in, it only started working when we invested in some tent pegs and pegged the net down. Whatever was outside of the net was fair game – that included stray branches hanging on the outside and if a corn cob was close enough to grab consider it a goner.

Yes the net is ugly as sin, but hey it works. Perhaps when we buy our own place we’ll build a permanent possum proof enclosure.

vegepod system on the aquaponics
vegepod covers on the aquaponics

With our aquaponics system we’ve got some awesome Vegepod covers that just sit over the top – you can buy these components separately from the Vegepod system if you already have garden beds the same dimensions (we got the medium covers which are 1mx1m which runs a little bit short but so far the lettuce has been safe on the outside). These have not only been great for the possums but also the white cabbage moth caterpillar and I’d love to one day upgrade some of our traditional gardens to these wicking bed systems.

For the few one off plants, our neighbour uses cheap washing baskets that she places over the top of her prized plants and has had success protecting against the possums that way as well.

What Plants are safe in Possum territory

This is not a definitive list (it’s just the plants that I had out in pots unprotected), and perhaps different varieties of Possums eat different things but I’ve found these plants to be safe in possum territory. It’s also worth noting that any young plant is fair game:-

  • Basil (New possum perhaps but after the decoy bok choi was annihilated the basil soon followed)
  • Rosemary (see comment below, someone had their rosemary eaten, ours is still safe)
  • Aloe
  • Eggplant
  • Onions (spring, chives, garlic)

What Plants are NOT safe in Possum territory

These are the ones that got annihilated. Plants they love:

  • Any seedling
  • Parsley
  • Coriander
  • Basilicas (cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli, kale)
  • Tomatoes
  • Leafy greens
  • Chards (Beets, Silverbeet, Swiss Chard)
  • Peas

Moving forward my vegetables now always get tucked into bed each night in their cosy net. I often leave it on all week and take it off on weekends to do some pottering.

It only takes one night of Possum rampage to put you a few steps behind!

 

*This Photo is not Ron. Photosource:  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Possum

 

31 thoughts on “Dealing with Possums in the garden

  1. Thanks for sharing your info about deterring possums! I just suffered the heartrending disappointment of finding all my snow pea seedlings munched down to the stalk. My poor, delicate broccoli seedlings have been annihilated as well. My garden is quite open, but will experiment with the net idea.

  2. Just wondering when the possum ate your parsley did it leave a mess. All our parsley has disappeared and no mess was left behind. We do have possums as we have seen them and they love eating our mangos. But they have never before eaten the parsley.

    1. Nope they polished it off, a few twigs and that’s it. Over winter when there are no mangoes they generally will go for whatever they can find, and parsley seems to be a keen favourite.

  3. Thanks for the suggestions- I’d been blaming the wallabies for eating my strawberry leaves, but once I blocked off the yard and the coriander, basil and marigolds were eaten back to the stalks during the night, turns out our culprit is also possums! Next job is to build a wire cover for the veg patches- you’re right, it is frustrating that your work can be undone so quickly!

  4. We are redesigning our garden & are looking for something that will attract the possums so they will leave the fruit. This year they ate the top right off the plum tree, they eat the mandarins & oranges. They may eat the newly planted roses but we will have to see. So far they seem to be leaving the veggies alone.

  5. I just woke up to my beautiful six inch leafy corn plants GONE– eaten down to the nubs, after a month of dedicated care and watering. I was heartbroken! Hesitant to try again, since it seems they will just continue to feast as long as they can get at it. I feel your pain!

  6. Apparently they dont mind rosemary as mine was eaten down to the stalk. I thought it was safe from the possum marauders as it was the only pot i didnt cover overnight on my balcony garden. No such luck!

  7. Let me speak frankly, I don’t understand if you had it cornered, why you didn’t kill it with a stick or something? My garden is my food and any varmint that destroys my growing food is going to pay. Its a permanent solution

    1. Hi Rodger,
      Because in Australia they are protected native species. It also isn’t a permanent solution as a new possum family would just move in it’s place.

  8. I like the way you write sooo funny yet with compassion. I still believe a good decoy veggi patch just for the possums is a good idea but farther away like maybe close to their tree. You could place rubber tires around the tree and place decoy veggies and herbs in these that way they will tend to stay closer to their tree and feed knowing that your net patch is out of bounds now. Keep up the good work and no the net actually looks cool:-)

    1. Yeah it is sad that their environment is being destroyed, I think these particular ones in 3km radius of the city have adapted to live off us humans. On the outskirts of the city where lots of land clearing is taking place I think it’s a different story. Having said that my brother lives on 150 acres of bushland abundant with native plants for them to eat, and they still opt to eat his veggie patch to the ground. They aren’t dummies 😉 In nature if they didn’t get enough food they most likely won’t breed. Luckily here in Australia our possums are pretty cute, so they can get away with it.

  9. ps…it’s sad because what we humans have done is populated out of control bulldozing down our native habitat. Possums can only eat from certain species of trees and they are highly territorial – so to have that many possums living in a mango tree is different to the norm. I have seen ring tiail possums literally starving in winter eating camellia tree flowers and brush tails desperately begging for food in the suburban streets so starved they walk up to you with hands out – enough to break your heart and this was in Leafy Northern Sydney…so of course I would tend to their needs most caring people do. it’s not that they are overpopulating it’s US we take their food sources away till they are forced to live like beggars.

  10. I’ve had a beautiful passion fruit vine it’s been growing for nine years and started producing fruit the second year. I had over 150 fruit last year but this year only two fruit have survived.
    I thought at first it was rats as found some droppings so introduced a safe trap with peanut butter inside but never caught anything 😩. I suspect it’s a possum that visits every night. This possum has been here since I moved in 10 years ago. To try saving my lovely passionfriuts I started leaving food out for the visitor but still find my newly opened flowers all gone the next morning. I have tried everything even a ultrasonic beeping box to deter him away but this did nothing. Can’t net the vine it’s so big and even when I tried net sleeves over the flowers it managed to still eat the flowers. This possum was being fed apple, banana & strawberries to deter him but alas it didn’t work. Have to question if these possums are outsmarting us. 😉

    1. They are totally outsmarting us!! Good work on the passionfruit, I read they only generally last 2 years these days.

  11. Ha ha – love your article 😋
    I woke this morning to ALL my lettuces munched right on down to the stalks 😫
    I’m a newbie plant n veggie grower and was so thrilled to see my lettuces beginning to look so lush 😃 But now they’re nothing but stubs 😫😫😫
    I thought it was grasshoppers but then noticed the size of the footprints 🐾 in the dirt! Grasshopper feet aren’t THAT big.

    We have a longtime family of possums living in our garden. So thought I’d google that possibility & Voila! Culprits discovered! I had NO idea possums ate lettuces!!! Grrrr… 😠 😝

    1. Oh Louise they often take a while to find things, but once they know they are there it’s hard to get them to stop coming back! Try again and cover up, see how you go.

  12. Great Post! I knew possums loved the summer tomatoes but didn’t realise they munch down leafy winter vegetables too. I started a whole bunch of brassicas from seed, kale, broccoli, cauliflower etc… Practically the week after I transplanted them in the patch, the whole tops of the plants disappeared. I wasn’t sure what the culprits were, insects, birds, mice or possums. After reading your post I reckon it was the possums for sure! They are frequent visitors.
    I’ve found a cage and net combo at Bunnings which I plan to buy.
    Thanks for your post! I would probably have remained unsure about my vegie patch raiders otherwise. 🙂

  13. Well I have been growing & eating my vegetables & herbs for a few years – trial & error but some great little crops.
    Went out this morning & our beautiful- huge parsley both Italian & Curly have been eaten but this the first time ever. SO THEY WILL BE BACK !!!!!
    They left the cabbage /lettuce & peas alone so far – so netting over the garden & it will be tonight- no way sorry not working so hard to lose it to possums.

  14. Possums will also eat your agapanthus! Every year I have an increasing number of heads on my deceased grandma’s agapanthus in November. Up until 2015 the flowers were left alone, but that year, when the seed pods formed the possums attacked. Then last year they waited until they were all in full bloom and then pounced. I had 22 glorious flower heads and the next morning I had 22 things that looked like spikey green pompoms. I prayed to all the gods in the hope that the flowers were poisonous, I even slaughtered small beasties (insects in the garden) as sacrifice to the various gods in the hope my prayers would be answered or at least that the flowers would cause a tummy ache. But no. Then a scrub turkey came and built his mound on the veggie patch. I can’t win!

  15. Thanks for the info! This is the guide I go to whenever I planned to introduce new plants to my collection.

    Just an update… my resident possum loves rosemary

  16. Thanks for your entertaining and informative post. For the first time in 6 years my large veg garden in Berry NSW has been attacked by possums. The garden is quite a distance from the house on a 5 acre block. We’ve had possums around & sleeping under the rafters for many years, well before the garden went in. I’ve never seen any sign of them in the garden & assumed it was because the garden was well awat from where they hang out & there is plenty of food sources on the property all year. But I guess it only took one slightly more adventurous explorer to discover this little garden of possum Eden to change things, possibly forever. So I will get the nets out to start with but long term since we are here for the long haul I’ll build a structure over the entire garden. Love having an abundance of fresh organic vegs but also love our wild life so will simply just have to compromise.
    Look forward to following your posts. Happy gardening. 🥦🥒🍆🍅🥕🍑🍓

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