Gardening: What to do about possums?

Soft and furry.. a possum mother and baby.

Soft and furry.. a possum mother and baby.

I AM receiving an increasing number of inquiries about possums, but I don’t have the answer and have unsuccessfully tried all the proprietary products myself.

A reader in Downer tells me she finds it almost impossible to grow anything in her garden because of the presence of possums.

The local daily must have been having a slow news day recently when it devoted a whole page to one man’s obsession to have the Territory rid of our furry friends.

We have possums in our garden, but we have no serious problems apart from foraging in the compost heap. I found just one half-chewed apple out of the entire crop on our apple tree and the veggies and roses are left alone.

The only plants they do eat are parsley (and only in winter) and English spinach, though they do love apples. Bananas are bad for them.

Possums are protected under the Nature Conservation Act 1980 (ACT) and the internet lists numerous local firms specialising in possum control, but beyond that I can be of no help.

AMONG the many varieties of fruit trees, the persimmon tree, Diospyros kaki, is worth considering.

Grown in China for hundreds of years, this deciduous tree has glossy broad leaves changing to brilliant yellow and red in autumn followed by bright orange fruit.

Persimmons… delicious and store well frozen.

Persimmons… delicious and store well frozen.

The fruit is either astringent or non-astringent. The astringent variety needs to be squishy overripe to remove the astringency. I prefer the non-astringent variety, which can be eaten firm like an apple. Simply peel the skin and eat fresh or freeze for future use.

Two of the most non-astringent varieties are “Fuyu” and “Jiro” grown by Flemings Nurseries and available at local garden centres. The fruit is borne on the new season’s growth, so it is important to encourage as much new growth as possible by cutting out laterals that have previously borne fruit. As with most fruit, you will need to net the tree.

THE UN World Environment Day, on June 5, is the time to do something positive for the environment.

It’s the day for galvanising individual actions, however small, into having a positive impact on the planet.

But with block sizes getting smaller, it’s getting harder to do in many urban environments.

Where once a row of individual homes stood, each with their own garden of trees and shrubs, they are now replaced by the wall-to-wall concrete of massive unit developments. Even block sizes, of an average of about 800sqm, are now reduced to between 270sqm to 400sqm.

On the positive side, it is up to those still with room to plant trees and shrubs to do just that.

I like to encourage children to be involved in planting trees and shrubs and, as the UN special day falls on a Thursday, perhaps a planting could take place the weekend before with, maybe, a label giving the details of who planted the tree and the date, and a photo of the event. If you have the space, plant a fruit tree for summer shade, its beautiful blossoms, fruit and autumn colour.

Jottings…

• Once leaves have fallen, check that no ties attached to support stakes are cutting into trees and shrubs. I suspect some have been in place for years and they can ringbark small branches.

• Prune Acers (maples) now, checking for any dead, diseased or damaged branches. With no sap flowing, pruning at this time prevents undue “bleeding” that happens with spring pruning.

• Band fruit trees with sticky bands (available from garden centres) to stop insects travelling up the trunk.

• Get rid of saucers from under outdoor container plants and raise them off the ground to prevent deadly water logging and root rot.

 

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