Pesky parrots

Another post about roses this morning, but this is a problem that can affect the entire garden. Amy in WA is having trouble with ‘twenty-eight parrots’ nipping leaves and new growth from her treasured rose bushes. I understand how annoying some parrots can be as sulphur-crested cockatoos used to bite through the stems of my flowering flag irises and leave the garden littered with damaged flowers.
Twenty-eight parrots are a sub-species of the very inquisitive Port Lincoln parrot that inhabits south-western and central Australia. Amy has tried a variety of methods of deterring these pesky parrots and is now resorting to netting the roses but wants to be able to access the plants.

polyhoops4To be effective in protecting foliage and crops from large birds, the netting will have to sit at least 20 cm clear of the foliage and be strongly supported. We have found that hoops of 49 mm flexible irrigation pipe are very effective supports for netting (and shadecloth), and allow access to crops for watering, progressive harvesting, feeding etc. The arches are left in position permanently so that plant protection can be provided quickly when needed.
To make the hoops, measure across the area you want to protect and add 40 cm to the width (20 cm clearance each side) to give you the width (diameter) of the arch. Use a calculator to multiply this measurement by 1.6. The result is the measurement of an arch of that width. Add 75 cm to that measurement to allow for slipping the ends of the arch onto wooden garden stakes as shown in the photo. For example, if the bed is 120 cm wide, adding 40 cm gives you a width of 160 cm. Multiplying 160 by 1.6 equals 256 cm; adding 75 cm equals 331 cm, but 330 cm, or 3.3 m. is close enough. Pipe is cut into 3.3 m for each hoop.
If you also want to make shadecloth covers for beds see: Sun and heat protection

P.S. Someone advised me that attaching a large ‘red nose’ (these were produced for vehicles for ‘Red Nose Day’) to a fence near the irises would keep the cockatoos away as they think there is a large eye watching them – and it worked! They didn’t bother my garden again. These ‘red noses’ are no longer available but you could try painting an old basketball bright red, or using a red balloon on a string.

Plant protection

To protect our peas, beans, broad beans and corn from birds, we have to net the beds. We have started using supports made from lengths of polypipe slipped over the ends of metal star stakes, or strong wooden stakes. These arches can be left in position to provide support for netting or shade cloth, as required. Shadecloth will also provide some protection from frost.
Stakes 1.8 metres (6′) in length are suitable for beds that may contain climbing plants or corn. Star stakes measuring 2.25 metres (7′ 6″) can be used for small trees or larger covered areas. For star stakes you will need (2″) 51 mm *** diameter polypipe. Wooden stakes can be used when only (1 1/2″) 38 mm polypipe is available. A semicircular arch is reasonably strong, and this is the easiest to produce for smaller areas.

*** Please Note: Flexible polypipe is still sold in imperial measurements of (1 1/2″) and (2″). Polypipe sold as 50mm diameter is high pressure pipe. It is thicker and less flexible.

This structure over our pea and bean bed was made from 1.8 m. wooden stakes embedded in soil to 30 cm, which is as far as they would go in our soil. This resulted in 1.5 m. of the stakes left exposed. The stakes were positioned on each side of the bed, 1.5 m. apart, with approximately 1.5 m. – 1.8 m. between arches. We used the taller arches here to allow the remaining popcorn cobs to complete drying on the plants. This spacing provided arches with a height of approximately 2.2 m. The structure was erected very quickly and is easy to move if necessary.

To get an idea of the size of the arch canopy you will produce, measure the width of the bed, and divide the measurement by two. Add this measurement to the height of the stakes above the ground. For example, if you are using 1.8 m. stakes, buried 30 cm, you will have 150 cm of stake exposed. If your bed is 1.2 m. wide, half this measurement is 60 cm. Add the two together and you have 210 cm, or 2.1 m. – about 30 cm lower than the average ceiling. If you need a taller arch, use longer stakes.

To calculate the amount of polypipe you will need for each arch, multiply half the width of the bed by 3.1428 (or “pi” if you have a calculator with pi), then ADD 90 cm to allow at least 45 cm to slip over the top of each stake. For a bed 1.2 m. wide, 60 cm x 3.1428 = 188.5 cm plus 90 cm = 278.5 cm. Rounding it off, each length of polypipe would be cut to 280 cm or 2.8 m.

This is an example of a more permanent structure across a series of beds. It is approximately 6 metres wide. The arches are quite flattened and require support in the centre of the polypipe lengths. The gardener has used a strip of flat steel along the centre of the roof, welded to the tops of several galvanised iron pipes set in the ground.