Saturday, October 17, 2009

Cats in the Garden

We talked a while back about gardening with Dogs, but what about all of my kindred spirits out there who are cat people? And what about you poor folks who’s neighbors are cat people?
It seems the worst thing about gardening with cats is finding little “presents” in the flower bed while you are digging. Kitties seem to like the same loose soil that plants do. There are a number of ways to deal with this, some more appealing than others.
I have a brick planter in front of my house, covered by an overhanging roof. In the winter, the soil in this planter is much dryer than soil in the outlying areas, so the cats would use the planter as their bathroom, leaving a rather offensive smell. I cured this by throwing several tangerines in a blender with some water and pouring it along the back of the planter. The cats don’t like the smell of citrus, especially tangerine and left it alone for a good month or more. Another idea that works is to keep the soil moist. Cats search hi and low for a dry spot to poop in. I eventually solved the problem for good by planting a low, evergreen hedge (sarcococca) in the planter and keeping it trimmed tightly so there is no room for cats to get in underneath and dig. Now I’m rewarded with the sweet-smelling winter flowers of the sarcococca instead of the not-so-sweet smell of cat scat.
Similar problems can arise in the winter with cats digging beneath your deck where the soil is dry. Skirting around the deck is just about the only way to cure this.
I think the worst problem with cats is finding cat poo in your vegetable garden. You don’t poop in their food dish, why would they think this is OK? There are several ways to handle this. One friend remarked that since they had built a deer fence around their garden, they didn’t have deer, but they also didn’t have the annoyance of cats. If you don’t live in deer country though, fencing your garden to this degree can be a little drastic. You could try fencing around the garden with 5’ wire fencing with 2” openings, but you will have to use metal posts since a cat can (and will) climb a wooden post. Since the cats are looking for loose dirt, one friend of mine sticks plastic forks – tines up- in any patch that he has just cultivated. He keeps a bucket of them by the garden path. Another friend keeps the cats out of the garden by giving them their own sandbox at the back of the property. Believe it or not, I think this has been the best solution out of all of them. The cats would much rather poop in sand than have to dig in irrigated soil, so they use that and leave the rest of the garden alone.
My last solution is any one of the sprays available to keep animals away from your garden, but you won’t want to spray this on your vegetables and you need to repeat spray often.
Since we have talked at length about cats and their bad habits, in all fairness, I think I should also include some fun elements to put in the garden for those of us who do love our cats. The first is height. A cat loves to climb and have high spots to survey their domain. The carpeted cat towers are great for a covered back porch or deck. A wooden ladder leaning against a tree can be great fun. They also love warmth. Our cat, Dashiel had a favorite flat rock by the studio that he loved to sleep on in the sun. When he died we buried him under it so now it’s his headstone. Patio chairs are often claimed by the cats to sun themselves on. If this bothers you, give them their own sunny blanket or towel somewhere else.
Last but not least – Spay or neuter your cat so that we don’t increase the population. Free kittens are always available at your local shelter, you don’t need to grow your own.
If you have other tips and tricks about living with cats, I’d love to post them on the blog. Simply reply in the comment box.


bryn said...

Where are the rest of the pictures? Kittens keep you young!

Moonstone Gardens said...

Yes, my darling daughter, they do keep you young. The best way to see the kitten pictures is to click on "Our Grandmother's Gardens" in my blog list, then scroll down the sidebar until you come to the picture of Foos and Visa, clicking on this will take you to the Cat House, where your kitten pictures are.

jodi (bloomingwriter) said...

We have seven cats, only the two oldest of which go outdoors without supervision. Since we don't have a veggie garden, we don't have to deal with that, but they do go in the greenhouse soil bed over winter, which doesn't unduly alarm me, and is easily cleaned out come spring.They keep the rodent population down to a dull roar indoors and out, but don't seem to bother the birds, maybe because they ARE elderly and can't be bothered, maybe because the birdfeeding areas are quite open so birds can see cats. And yes, we have a cat cemetery out back where beloved felines of the past have been returned to the earth...
These kitties of yours are gorgeous!