Now that I have a small place of my own with no private ground for me to plant in, I have started to container garden on my balcony. It's a pretty good sized balcony, about 5'-6” deep by 30 feet wide or so. Last year was my first year and it did not go so well. I had several tomato plants purchased from farmer's markets plus a jalapeño seedling given to me by a friend. The tomatoes and the jalapeño were struggling. I think the solid guardrail around my balcony did not allow the plants to get enough sun but still they were growing. Rounding out the my little farm was a nice Italian sweet pepper plant, which was the champion in the bunch.
The harvest was not very good overall but the Italian peppers looked promising. One afternoon, the wife and I came home I decided to check on the plants. To my horror, some of the larger tomatoes and all of the Italian peppers were picked clean. There were some skins, stems and a few leaves heaped in a corner of the balcony. My balcony is on the second floor and there is no way to reach it easily unless there was a large ladder.
It had to be some animal.
Slowly I began to notice every critter around the neighborhood and wondering if that squirrel was the culprit or if that huge crow looked suspicious. Then I began to hear an annoying “hreeeeeank” on a regular basis. Our neighborhood is very quiet so why hadn't heard this before? It was a large blue jay, an arrogant, loud, specimen. Suddenly, I saw it everywhere: on the carport, in the cypresses outside my kitchen window and down the street on the fence of the Montessori school.
I should have known that a tree filled neighborhood such as ours would have lots of critters. There are squirrels, songbirds too numerous to count and the occasional bird of prey circling above the creek about a quarter mile away.
So this year, I decided to do something different: I built a table from scrap wood obtained from my local lumber yard. They allowed me to raid their scrap piles and soon all I needed was some 4x4s cut down to form my table legs. I placed the pots on top to clear the solid guardrail enclosing my balcony, this way the plants would get more sunlight than sitting on the bottom of the balcony.
One day, I was sitting at the dining table when I noticed something fast and blue move across my field of vision. It was a blue jay. The little bastard was standing on the rim of my jalapeño plant, which, I have to say was growing really well with the extra sunlight it was receiving. All my plants were, actually. Now there was a threat. I stood up and yelled at the bird. He looked around casually and went back to inspecting my peppers. Next, I walked up to the window and banged on it. This time it moved to an adjacent pot and I swear it said “meh” to me. What the hell? So I opened the sliding door and he did not move until I was about 10 feet away. The balls on that bird.
So, I went back down to the lumber yard and brought back all manner of redwood scraps. Some 1x1 strips about 4 feet long, some 2”x1/2” strips leftover from a trellis project and chicken wire. The next couple of hours saw me make a hideous but effective cage screwed into the side of my table. I wanted to make as few cuts as possible and waste as little as possible, hence the asymmetry of the bracing. What the cage lacks in aesthetics, it makes up in sturdiness. I believe the whole thing cost me less than $75, including the 4x4 post I purchased and had cut at the lumberyard. I figured it was a decent investment against losing all that time, water and effort growing our plants.
Now, that bastard bird perches on the top of the cage and I just know he is pissed he cannot access all the goodies growing inside. I shall prevail.