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How do I protect my plants from pests and other elements?

With many threats in our surrounding environments, protecting our seedlings is of all importance…
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When it comes to protecting your plants, you are also protecting your investment. There is nothing worse than coming outside the morning after a big or small planting project to find the new seedlings ripped to shreds by pests! While there are sprays out there such as Plantskydd, a natural repellent, using a ‘Plant Guard’ or sleeve as some people call it, is the most guaranteed and long-term way to insure against your plants future and allow them to survive and thrive. But with so many options out there and different threats, how do you choose?

Click here to view our Comparison Chart: makes it an easy decision!

threats
The first thing to ask is what I am protecting my plants from? In NZ, what is needed in one end of the country can be completely different from the other end due to a range of factors. For example, in Central Otago, the plants will need to be protected from the koni (rabbit), the curse of the deep south, while in Rotorua, the pesky pukekos may be more of a threat to the plants with their vicious habits. So, wherever you are based on Planet Earth, consider your geographical location and its local inhabitants and weather patterns.
 
What pests or animals are you protecting against?

This is probably the most important thing to consider as once a pest has mauled or attempted to eat your plants, it can be very hard to save and a very costly and time-wasting exercise. You could also be too late to replant by the time they have got their paws, teeth or beaks into them. The height of the guard is imperative to consider when it comes to pests. Below are the key pests and what to note:

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RABBITS are prolific and will eat almost anything. They particularly enjoy eating the soft tender leaves on freshly planted seedlings and can easily strip a plant of its foliage before it is established enough to fend for itself. If rabbits are the only pest present in your area then a 300mm high guard should offer sufficient protection. Ensure there is no space below for them to burrow under the guard.

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HARES are prolific and are known to climb up plants and will eat almost anything. Consider a double method for this, so pair a guard with a natural repellent. Bear in mind that to protect from hares, your guards must be a minimum of 450mm high so the hares can’t reach over the top. Ensure there is no space below for them to burrow under the guard.

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PUKEKOS are usually looking for plant roots to eat and have incredibly sharp beaks and claws that can pull a plant out of the ground in no time. Consider a guard made with strong materials which won’t tear or be damaged from them. Minimum height should be 300mm. It is important to make sure the plant root ball is tightly compacted when planting so they can’t reach it.

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SHEEP like to nibble on the soft foliage so if planting with sheep in the area, it is well advised to protect your plants. The guard will need to be at least 900mm – 1.2m high. Consider using a guard that can be retrofitted and wrapped around larger plants.

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COWS are not a pest exactly but they do have a taste for plants and trees, so for plantings in paddocks or areas where cows may be, it is best to consider a tall and robust guard with a heavy stake and high enough to protect the whole plant. Use a 1.2m guard or a mesh guard which can be cut to size. Also consider using a guard that can be retrofitted and wrapped around larger plants.

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WILD DEER can be a pest in some regions and can very quickly cause extensive damage. For deer, use a guard with heavy stakes at least 1.2m high. Consider using a natural repellent as an extra deterrent.
 
What are the weather conditions in your area like?

Geographical area and weather conditions can have a huge impact on the growth of your plants. These can also affect the plant guard and you need to know that the guard is strong enough to stand up against the elements.
  Where there are high winds or the plants are in an exposed area, ensure that you choose a durable plant guard and consider adding an extra stake to your plant guard for reinforcement.
  Where there is potential for flooding, ensure the guards are correctly installed and sturdily held down. Where there is strong currents, it is often hard to stand strong against this type of natural force, however a mesh guard could be worth considering.
  Hot sun can have a detrimental impact as plants grow. In this case, consider using an open mesh guard to allow air flow or a biodegradable guard which creates its own microclimate. If you are using sprays, try a guard with closed sides and open the punch holes on the side of the guard for airflow after you finish spraying.
  Coastal planting can be threatened with harsh salt wind and sea spray. A solid guard works well in this application with a minimum of two stakes for reinforcement against the winds. The height of the guard will be dependent on the height of the plants you are protecting.

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Plant guards protecting against hot sun & high winds in the lower South Island.
 
What size are the plants?
Plant protectors range in size from 100mm internal diameter up to 250mm so there are a range of options to suit the size of your plant.
 
plant-1 For natives grasses such as Caryx varieties, a smaller pre-assembled guard works well as can be easily installed and removed later.
plant-2 For the small to medium plants such as Lancewood, Kanuka & Manuka, a wrap around or pre-assembled guard will work well.
plant-3 For the larger plants such as Griselinia, Pohutukawa or Fruit trees, the wrap around guard is the recommended option for ease of install.

Biodegradable or Plastic?

This is an ethical choice and is very pertinent currently with the goal to reduce our footprint. Plastic guards last longer and are generally reusable and businesses will usually offer a takeback programme so if you are considering this, ask how they can be sustainably disposed of once their lifecycle is complete. Biodegradable guards ensure you can install them, knowing there is no harm to the earth and will biodegrade saving you the removal time. The key thing to note with biodegradable guards is that they will break down in 1-2 years depending on environmental conditions.

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A biodegradable plant guard Combo at Styx Mill, Christchurch.
 
Do you need moisture retention & weed control?

Will you be spraying near the seedlings? If you are, the solid sleeves offer great protection from spray drift. As an earth friendly alternative to spraying, a biodegradable weed mat which can be purchased in rolls or precut squares to suit offers an excellent long term weed suppressant solution. Mats are fast and easy to install at the time of planting and offer great moisture retention and weed control providing ideal growing conditions for most plants. This plantguard & mulch mat combo will offer a premium solution to protect and nurture your investment. It is best to ask yourself this as the time of planting as you don’t want to retrofit these later. The options are offered in a variety of sizes and fibres such as EcoWool, EcoJute, EcoCoir & TerraFibre Hemp to suit your application.

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A winning combination of CombiGuards & EcoJute to help these plants survive.
 
In this age where we are trying to bring our surroundings back to nature. Plant protection is becoming a necessity and this is one of the many imperative steps towards retaining the beautiful natural NZ environment that is in danger of disappearing.

You can be confident that however small or large your planting project is, there will be a solution so you can insure against any threat to your environmental investment.

Click here to view our Comparison Chart: makes it an easy decision!
 
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