Scarecrow's in the garden

Protect your crops or just add a retro twist to your garden with a stylish scarer.

By Lee Ann Bramwell

Lots of people have the impression that Kerikeri is rather conservative, but they wouldn’t have thought so had they cruised our main street just before the local garden safari a few weeks ago.

The safari is preceded by a scarecrow competition, with businesses making all sorts of creations and displaying them outside their premises.

This year’s crop was pretty amazing, but the most remarkable was the scantily clad creature who took up residence in front of the lingerie shop.

She certainly turned a few heads – possibly even hearts – and starred in many a photo, usually taken by the female partner of a besotted bloke.

Our local competition has been going for years, but it’s only in recent times that these old-fashioned bird scarers have become trendy again, possibly as other methods of protecting the fruits of your labours aren’t so much fun to make.

Last year, The Partner and I made a time-consuming and divorce-promoting enclosure of timber and netting to protect our plums.

The difficulty was that the birds still got in, ate their heads off, and then couldn’t remember how to get out again. I spent half the day running down to the orchard to liberate them.

We tried the CDs in the trees route, which sort of worked – although my insistence that the birds were only scared of his country music and not of my acoustic jazz didn’t go down that well.

I tried to bribe our three cats to do bird-deterrent duty, but they prefer stationary food to stuff that flies or runs away.

And when I suggested to The Partner that I spend the days in a chair in the orchard, reading a book and idly waving my arms at the interlopers, he was less than impressed.

He said a scarer would have a longer attention span than me, and wouldn’t require deliveries of tea or wine on a regular basis.

Which brings us to scarecrows. I’ve never had one, but I am informed that they do work. However, a fat, straw-stuffed figure standing in the garden will only scare birds for about a minute unless it moves or makes a noise, so you need to organise random movement.

For instance, a lightweight scarecrow suspended from a post will move in the wind, and if it’s holding a bunch of balloons, that’ll do the trick. Half a dozen aluminium tins on a string will clang and flash, while wind chimes also work.

Mind you, a scarecrow doesn’t have to do anything. It can be regarded as a garden sculpture or a funky focal point, adding a bit of retro charm to the garden.

Whether or not you want it to be effective, a scarecrow is pretty simple to make. You need two pieces of timber, some string, clothes, straw and a few felt pens – plus whatever other adornments you choose.

Make a cross with your timber, nailing the horizontal piece (the arms) to the vertical piece about two thirds of the way up.

Dress the cross, tying the sleeves of the shirt and the bottom of the pants with string, so the stuffing doesn’t fall out.

Add hands (gardening or rubber gloves) and feet (an old pair of worn-out socks or boots.) Stuff the clothes with straw and you’re away.

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