Losing the broccoli to pigeons – mid Jan

Pigeons eat brassicas. I know this because I spend a fair proportion of my working life writing about pigeon damage to oilseed rape crops.

Despite this, and the fact that my allotment neighbour complained to me just the other week about how the pigeons had eaten all of her brassicas, I decided to leave them exposed and vulnerable.

In my last post I was just starting to salivate over the promise of lots of purple heads, and duly headed up there one weekend to pick my first harvest.

Let’s just say it was disappointing.

Broccoli florets
Before…

Having whipped up a frenzy of excitement at home for the first sprouting broccoli I arrived at the plot to find my beautiful, healthy, robust brassica plants annihilated.

The lovely purple flower heads were gone, and the growing tips shredded. One pigeon even shat on a plant just to really rub in how much he had enjoyed the banquet.

Luckily they didn’t eat all of broccoli which was ready, but it was very slim pickings. Dinner was sparse.

Purple sprouting broccoli pigeon attack
After the winged beasts had been in

The motto of the story is, if you aren’t growing brassicas near enough to be able to scare them off, then they need to be netted again in January.

I hate netting my plants. This is partly my own fault because I haven’t yet got round to constructing proper frames which can be netted and then just popped over the plants.

I prefer instead to dot canes covered in upturned milk bottles around the place and then haphazardly stretch the nets over this construction, held down at the edges by some plastic pegs.

Brassicas destroyed by pidgeons
The full extent of the devastation

It’s cheap, and relatively effective, but does mean I will not be weeding that area again until the net comes off – wrestling to get it off each time is just too much of a hassle.

Leaving the weeds means they grow through the net at the bottom and there comes a point when you couldn’t get the net off even if you wanted to.

For this reason, as soon as the cabbage white butterfly is out of the picture in the autumn I whip all the nets off and free my brassicas.

It’s a flawed bit of construction, but does mean you get to have broccoli for dinner, so instead of harvesting I set to work netting what remained of my crop.

Netted brassicas
It’s not pretty but it should do the job nicely

The good part about it being sprouting broccoli is the plants which have been eaten should produce more stems, so if the net holds up there should still be adequate broccoli for my needs.

I can’t blame Mr Pigeon for sampling my florets, they really are worth growing. I am not a fan of the type of broccoli sold in supermarkets at all – I don’t like the thick and woody stem and find the whole thing rather tasteless.

 

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