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Possums aren’t the cutest creatures around, but they’re usually a harmless sort when they’re in their natural habitat. They’re marsupials just like our beloved kangaroos and koalas, even if they bear a stronger resemblance to rats and other rodents. 

Possums love to burrow in the hollows of trees and nest there quietly. Unfortunately, trees that were once the habitat of possums are slowly disappearing and being replaced by houses. Because of this, it’s not surprising to find possums in roof cavities, or worse, your veggie patch.



Should you get rid of possums in your garden?

While possums are known to eat roaches and are not susceptible to getting rabies, you may have to think twice about keeping a possum around. It’s not unusual to catch possums going through your rubbish bins, chewing through walls, or getting a snack from your fruit trees. Don’t be surprised if the remnants of your last vego meal are scattered all over your yard. Broccoli, lettuce, corn, bananas, and apples are just some of the usual vegetables and fruits that possums scavenge for.

These critters can bring disease, defecate and urinate indiscriminately, and try to take your pet’s food. They also mimic the smell of sick or dead possums when under threat, and the resulting air pollution will turn off any homeowner or guest.

When this happens, you already have a pest situation in your hands.

There’s no need to go all gung-ho on them, though. When it comes to possum problems, prevention is more effective than cure! Just take a look at that little guy with those pitiful, round eyes. We want to get rid of him in the gentlest, most environmentally friendly way. Apart from that, possums are protected in Australia. Killing them to solve a pest problem is considered illegal.



How to get rid of possums the cruelty-free way

Thankfully, possums have a nose that will put the most discerning sommelier to shame. Their olfactory sense is so keen that some scents put them off, literally. These are some smells and tastes that keep possums away:





How do possum repellents work?

Repellents are solutions or devices meant to affect the sense of taste, smell, or hearing of an animal. Using repellents is a more ecologically friendly way of treating a possum problem, as killing possums should be the last resort.

Some repellents contain components of a predator’s urine that trigger a fear response on pests. Another type is the electronic repellent, which is programmed to deter pests using light or sound.



Tips on how to deter possums from your garden:


1. Prune tree branches 

Block off the possum’s access by pruning fruit tree branches that lead to your yard. Install collars around tree trunks using an iron sheet to prevent possums from climbing trees and reaching other areas of your garden.



2. Use bleach to remove possum smells

Possums are attracted to their own smell. Putting bleach on their usual access route erases possum smells and discourages them from using the same pathway to get to your garden.



3. Make an ammonia possum repellent

Make your own natural possum deterrent by placing ammonia in an old can. Put a rag to diffuse the fumes. Alternately, you can make a possum deterrent spray by mixing equal parts water and ammonia. Spray the solution on the sides of your rubbish bins to prevent possums and other pests from rummaging through your garbage and spreading litter over your yard.



brushtail possum on a banana tree



4. Make an animal-based fertiliser stink bomb

Placing stink bombs to block the routes where possums pass is another effective method to deter possums. To make a stink bomb, fill a sock with blood and bone fertiliser and place it along the possum’s path. You can use this to protect your vegetable patch, together with a netting system.



5.  Use hot pepper or tabasco sauce

Hot pepper extract is a popular natural possum deterrent for brush-tailed possums. Make a possum deterrent spray using this ingredient by mixing hot sauce, water, and detergent. Up the ante of your pepper spray by adding cayenne pepper. Use this on plants and fences in your garden to prevent possums from entering your home.



6. Add LED lights to your garden

Not only do LED lights make your garden look attractive at night, but they’re also used by some homeowners to deter possums from entering their yard. Switch on a few fixtures in strategic places in your garden and you won’t be seeing possums anywhere near them.



7. Use fish oil spray

Possums apparently hate the smell of fish oil, and refrain from entering rose gardens sprayed with this repellent. To make your own fish oil spray, mix half a cup of fish oil with 1 litre of water. Use this on rose shoots and you won’t be seeing possums go near your roses again.



8. Make your own garlic possum repellent

Garlic is another ingredient you can use to get rid of possums. Every home has garlic in their pantry (you can grow garlic in your garden too!), so it’s a good deterrent during possum emergencies. Make your own garlic spray by mixing 2 tablespoons of crushed garlic with one litre of hot water. Let the concoction stand overnight, then strain. You now have a possum repellent you can use on fruits, leaves, and other plant parts that possums love to chew on.



9. Use Quassia chips spray

Quassia chips come from the bark of a South American tree, but you won’t have trouble finding them in Australia. Most nurseries have Quassia chips because they’re a popular component in a lot of possum repellents. Make this possum deterrent by adding 100g of chips to 2 litres of water. Heat the mixture for one hour, strain, then add a tablespoon of detergent to the solution. When you’re ready to use, dilute 1 part Quassia chips concentrate in 4 parts water, then spray. 



10. Make Lapsang Souchong tea spray

This all-natural solution made of 4 heaping teaspoons of Lapsang Souchong tea boiled in 2 litres of water is an effective possum deterrent. After boiling the tea and water together, let cool then strain the liquid. Spray the solution on your garden to prevent possums from eating your plants. Make sure to make a new batch and spray your plants every two weeks, or after it rains.



11. Make a repellent from molasses 

Molasses gives baked goods an extra layer of sweetness, but did you know that it can also act as an effective repellent against possums? Just mix 1 cup of molasses with 1 litre of water then stir well. When the molasses has dissolved completely, put the solution in a spray bottle and spritz on your plants.





Pest control and garden maintenance

Regular pest control is necessary when you want to have a well-kept property. Possums and other pests can damage plants and leave dirt and rubbish in your yard. Imagine if you’re having guests over (or worse, you’re planning to sell your house) and your garden has a possum infestation. It doesn’t present a pretty picture at all!

Following the tips above will help free your home of unwanted possum visits. The only thing you’ll have to deal with is the trail of destruction these critters have left behind in your yard.

To refresh your garden, you may need to do more than just clean up rubbish and dead leaves. It won’t be surprising if you have to revive some plants after having parts of their leaves chewed off by possums. Your fruit trees will need extra care as well if flowers are bitten off or destroyed in the wake.

If you feel that a total garden overhaul can be too much to manage on your own, you can call your trusted local gardeners for assistance.  A professional gardening service can take care of your plants as they recover from possum damage. They can also prune tree branches to prevent possums from creeping into your home. While you’re at it, consult with your gardeners if the DIY possum repellents you’re using are safe for your plants.

In no time, you’ll be able to bring back the beauty of your yard and possum-proof your home in the process.


About Author

Jamie Donovan

Jamie is an Australian horticulturalist and landscape designer. He enjoys writing about landscape architecture, garden design and lifestyle topics.


About Author

Jamie Donovan

Jamie is an Australian horticulturalist and landscape designer. He enjoys writing about landscape architecture, garden design and lifestyle topics.