Mesh and Remay trying to protect the cover crop from birds. (Mary Lowther photo)

Mary Lowther column: Looking at the garden as Alfred Hitchcock might

Alfred Hitchcock must have been a gardener.

By Mary Lowther

Alfred Hitchcock must have been a gardener. What else would inspire him to make a movie about evil, winged scavengers, hell-bent on attacking and devouring innocent gardeners and their precious seedlings? One can easily imagine him discovering that tiny winged marauders had torn holes in the mesh cover protecting his cover crop and wriggled through to eat every last seed, then rushing to his old manual typewriter to write his next screenplay.

That’s my theory. I came to this conclusion at my Rear Window, watching with Suspicion as The Birds wriggled under my Torn Curtain to Sabotage The Pleasure Garden to drive me Psycho. That, without the Shadow of Doubt, was not what drove me into a Frenzy of action. What finally drove me outdoors was our cat, Mrs. Premise, jumping onto the mesh cover in a hopeful attempt to pin down the avian interlopers long enough to tear through the mesh To Catch A Thief. By the time I got outside the guilty had all departed, leaving The Farmer’s Wife alone with the fragments and some Rope to repair The Family Plot.

Hitchcock died in 1980, which is a shame because were he alive today he might have directed Cats. Given the difficulty of herding cats though, directing a movie full of them might have made the great Alfred think they had hired The Wrong Man.

On the subject of horror stories, according to Science News, hunting felines kill a billion birds a year, and the International Union for Conservation claims that each domestic cat kills nine. I confess to some doubt as to the provenance of these figures, as Mrs. Premise seems unable to catch one even if it sneaks up on her and whispers “Tag, you’re it!” She’s much better at tearing apart stationary balls of wool.

But I digress. My experiment with covering a bed of freshly sown cover crop with gardening detritus didn’t work well enough to try it again. Perhaps there are not enough easy pickings elsewhere for the birds because they pecked through the detritus to eat most of the seeds. I decided to make more of an effort with the last two beds and, once they were cleared of vegetables and sown with cover crops of rye and fava beans, I stuck hoops over the beds and covered them with what I had on hand: Remay spun cloth cover and half-inch mesh. The Remay had holes in it so I clipped them shut with clothes pins. Next year I’ll bite the bullet and buy some new, wide (and preferably beak resistant) Remay from Integrity Sales in Central Saanich.

I battened the covers down with eight foot long lengths of rebar, but clearly the birds found gaps with Mrs. Premise’s hopefully unwitting assistance, because in the last two days I’ve seen three birds inside the mesh, enjoying the smorgasbord. They may look weak and tender, but don’t let that fool you; they can muscle through the most difficult, unlikely gap. It took me three trips into the pouring rain to fix the holes, so I felt guardedly optimistic this morning when I saw a flock of juncos and starlings hopping outside the mesh and alongside the bottom, vainly seeking access. So far.

I just hope Mrs. Premise loses interest in them. Perhaps if I sit down by the nice warm fire, with a lovely cup of tea and my knitting…

On the subject of cats and birds, I read a news story years ago about a town in England that banned outdoor cats, but the bird population dropped alarmingly anyway. Further study determined that the proliferation of predatory rodents (I think they meant rats) led to the eggs being eaten in their nests. Sometimes the internet brings me an overload of information, and turns me into The Man Who Knew Too Much.

Please contact mary_lowther@yahoo.ca with questions and suggestions since I need all the help I can get.

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