Pests are always a concern for me—rats and mice get into my animal feed, hedgehogs eat my cucumbers, brush-tailed possums strip the bark off trees, slugs devour the strawberries, aphids infest the lettuce—but springtime is the worst season for pests.
And English sparrows are perhaps the worst pest I deal with.
Sparrows are a problem year round. In autumn and winter, they roost in the sheds, covering everything with their droppings. They rummage through the compost pile, spreading kitchen scraps everywhere. In spring and summer, they nest in the gutters, causing rainwater to back up into the house instead of going down the drains. Or they nest the sheds, where they make an even bigger mess than they did roosting there all winter.
But the most annoying thing the sparrows do is eat seedlings. They sit in the trees and watch as I plant out my peas and lettuces, then descend upon the garden and gobble them up as soon as my back is turned. Nothing is safe from them until it is at least 30 cm tall.
Until a few years ago, the damage was minimal. The neighbour used to poison the sparrows, and their population was relatively small. Since he retired and sold his farm, however, the sparrow population has increased dramatically. The new owner doesn’t poison the birds…which I’m happy about on one hand, because it is not a humane death (I hated finding dying birds on the property–horrible to watch). On the other hand, the sparrow population has reached plague proportions.
Which means spring planting is an exercise in pest control.
Everything I plant has to be covered with bird netting for a few weeks or it is eaten to the ground. And once I remove the netting, I’m sure to lose some plants as the birds strip half the leaves within a day of the covers coming off.
I suppose I should take the Panamanian approach to planting—three seeds in each hole—one for me, one for God, and one for the pests.