who to stop possums eating your garden

How to stop possums from eating plants

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.

Now if anyone tries to sell you some magic anti possum magic, it's likely they are having a go. Or they have never dealt with a possum like Ron.

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!

But is it a possum?

It's been almost 10 years since I first published this post and one thing I have to add is that, it's probably more likely a rat than a possum doing the damage to your veggie patch.

Whilst ring tail possums love new shoots of plants (particularly eucalyptus) and fruit, it's unlikely they are eating the tops of your broccoli and cauliflower off. Put some traps out and rule that out first. Honestly I'd rather the possums than the rats.

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

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64 thoughts on “How to stop possums from eating plants”

  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. 🥦🥒🍆🍅🥕🍑🍓

  17. I know this sounds silly, but this has worked for me in the past. We have the odd tree snake / python around near where I work, you rarely see them, but sometimes you find their shed skin around the place. I collect the shed skins and put them in my garden, when the possums get near the garden they smell a snake nearby and usually decide it’s too risky to hang around in the garden and so stay well clear.
    If you know anyone who has pet snakes, see if they will give you some shed skin or even some used bedding from the snake enclosure for use in your garden. Hope this helps.

    1. Oh that sounds like a an interesting strategy worth a try. I’ve also read people putting dog fur in stockings and hanging them around the garden, I haven’t tried that either.

  18. i use to be able to deter them from my plants with a couple handfuls of cat food placed away from my plants, but that started bringing the family of raccoons that lives next door, so i had to stop…
    since them the raccoons have left, but the possums demolished my catnip and basil…
    can’t get angry though cause i know they’re just hungry, and they also eat a lot of the insets and smaller rodents in the area, so i mean, they’re kinda needed in the area…

    1. Oh I think your possums may be different to ours – in Australia (we don’t have raccoons) they mostly eat fruit and plants

  19. Onions are not safe from opposums. I lost the top half of most of my red onion crop before I live trapped the possum culprit using a large red onion as bait 🙂

  20. I am in Melbourne and just started out gardening – spent good one month to prepare the patches, put seedlings and seeds. The next day its all gone. One thing that has survived and thrived are mustard greens, guess because of its pungent bitter taste.

  21. I moved into a new place a year and a half ago. My old place had some possum problems, but nothing like this. There are 3 very large mango trees in a neighboring property, and I understand the apartment block for possum comment! Though they’re now destroying two of those mango trees too, huge trees almost completely stripped.
    It has been an ongoing battle in my place. I’ve netted in my entire vegetable garden space (11m by 5.5m). And on my upper deck I have 3 large planter boxes, which I’ve set up electric wire around to stop them getting in. It took quite a few revisions of both areas to stop them (they kept finding ways around it), but eventually I seem to be successful, they haven’t managed to get back in for a few months now.
    There seems to be few things the ones around my place don’t eat. However, in my vegetable gardens, the only things that remained undisturbed while they were still finding ways in were my kale and cabbage plants.

  22. Has anyone tried making a garlic spray? I keep reading this works when regularly reapplied but I feel if they are hungry enough then they will eat through anything. I’m about to give up on having a herb garden at as all my money goes straight towards feeding the neighbourhood possums

  23. After reading a one line comment in another post I hung small solar xmas lights around the garden. Put them on the flashing option and no more possums! Apparently the flashing disrupts their night vision. Neighbours probably think I’m pretty weird! But now I think we have a problem with rats. Young capsicum and cucumber plants, as well as the heart taken out of the lettuce. But no paw prints and nothing else trampled – we are planting in slim beds on legs to escape the fig roots. And what we think is orange urine sprayed around, have you heard of that before? Quite a bit of it. Very discouraging, not to mention off putting!

    1. We had rats too, we put out some traps for a couple of weeks caught 3 of them and then no more problems 🤷‍♀️

  24. Just a note to say I love your page. Lots of useful possum-specific information. I am currently at war with the local brushtail possum population… or at least I am now that I am sure they are indeed the ones who are eating the leaves of my silverbeet and perpetual spinach. I have lots of plants but that’s because I want a constant supply available. I don’t mind sharing a few leaves with the local wildlife but I do object to having them eat every leaf on my plants in one night! The baby bok choy plants have not been touched since I put up a white bird netting fence around them, and neither has the coriander which now has a green mesh cylinder protecting it, so so far that barrier method seems to be working for the possums, so this weekend there will be lots more such cages being built for the individual pots. If it turns out they climb over it will be simple to put mesh over the top to close it in. Whatever was eating the zucchinis was not deterred last night by the new white bird net wall and I think that is rats because rats can easily scramble over it, so I am going to put mesh over the top of of that area and use rat-specific treatments for them. It’s a constant battle!

    1. Times are tough for them at the moment. I agree that your zucchini’s are getting eaten by rats. It is a constant battle some times. Hopefully rain will come soon 🤞

  25. Finally I found some information relevant to Australian possums! It’s my first year having a garden and I lost a bunch of seedlings to snails. Some pellets fixed that problem. Then two entire foot tall tomato plants got eaten to the stubs! Any information I tried to find kept telling me about hornworms which I’m not even sure we have in Australia? Anyway, I couldn’t find any signs of caterpillars. Then today I found one of my bigger tomato plants on my deck has been munched on, seemingly from something sitting on the railing. I’ve covered it in lace (it’s what I had on hand) until I can get to Bunnings. I wouldn’t mind sharing my plants with hungry wildlife but they’re not very considerate when they eat the whole dang plant.

  26. I haven’t seen a possum yet, but whatever it is, it’s eating still green tomatoes, chillies and has smashed our passion fruit vine. We just bought a IR trail camera for $30 to see if we can catch the critter in action.

  27. Hi there, great advice! Thank you! I think I’m having a possum problem… I’m losing the tops of everything… silverbeet leaves not stalk, sweet pea tops, my perennial basil tops. Do possums only eat the new growth? Cheers V

  28. Looking after a friends garden for a few months and it’s being ravaged by something, even after 1″ square wire mesh was put over one tub of seedlings. The casualty list so far are all the cos lettuce seedlings, beans, marigold, some of the silverbeet and parsley and even the garlic chives! Worried that there wont be anything left by the time my friend gets home!

  29. My beautiful pots of pansies have been ruined by a possum I think. Seems netting is the way to go?. All my hard work and a broken pot too.

    1. Yes netting is what worked for me. But I would try flashing fairy lights. I have more issues with rats than possums these days.

  30. Great article Nicki, I nearly cried the other day as I reckon I have lost about 20 – 30 beautiful tomatoes this week that I have been grooming since September and some as big as a grapefruit 🥲🥲🥲( I am in Melbourne ). I already had netting fully covering the area but they still got in, I was gobsmacked how they worked out how to climb through the gaps and underneath. Now solved but I have lost the season I fear. I love wildlife these days but are very angry and upset as are others,

    1. Yeah it can certainly be disheartening. We lost our pineapple to rats that we’ve been waiting 9 months for… Now we’ll have to wait another 2 years.

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