My avocado tree has avocados for the first time this year. It’s something like 8 years old and it started from a seed sprouting in my compost heap. I’ve watched and hoped and waited and worried and now it looks like something’s really going to happen.
Then on Saturday I went to a class about managing backyard pests (which was pretty much about doing very little except making an environment for pest eating bugs). In this class the instructor mentioned that he protected his avocados from possums with exclusion bags, he even had a sample to show the class. (Similar bags help against fruit flies, but I’m focussing on the possums for now.) Of course my real worries are just starting. Those darned possums will obviously steal my fruit!
A light bulb went off in my head. I have rags, I have a sewing machine, I have twine, I could make my very own possum-excluder-avocado-protection-bags.
So I went home, lugged my old Singer (I love this antique but it does weigh a tonne) out of the closet, rummaged through the rag bag and started making my excluder bags. It’s an incredibly simple process:
Step 1: Find a suitable rag or cut one from any lightweight cloth (you want good airflow and for it to dry quickly after a rain). Make sure when folded in half it can hold a mature avocado with room to spare.
Step 2: Sew a long hem for the draw string.
Step 3: Sew up the bottom of the bag.
Step 4: Sew up the side the bag (make sure you don’t close the draw string entrance/exit).
Step 5: Turn the bag inside out (or actually, right side out).
Step 6: Thread bag with a draw string of some sort (I used garden twine) leaving it long enough so the bag can tie to the branch and hang over the fruit.
Repeat for as many avocados as you want to save.
All that’s left to do is find the fruit you want to protect and cover it in your little bag. You shouldn’t have to open the bag until the avocado is ready to harvest. This is a bit of a problem for rookies like me who don’t really know how to tell when an avocado is ready to harvest but one step at a time.
Here’s one of my vulnerable avocados.
Here’s the same avocado with its own little protective bags.
And here’s the whole tree with 11 excluder bags protecting 14 pieces of fruit. One bag holds 3 pieces and one holds 2, the others each hold only 1. I’d protect more fruit if I could get a ladder up to them but if the possums focus on the unprotected fruit (the biggest and best looking right now) and I get the others, I’ll be a happy woman. And if it does work, next year I’ll make more and I might try it on my mango tree as well.
I have been warned. I understand possums have been known to rip down bags and eat the fruit out from inside – but it’s worth a try.