Archive for ‘Critter Problems’

April 23, 2017

Revamp, Renew, Revive (a.k.a. – What The Cats Left Behind)

Sometimes we can dream, make plans and see our dreams come to fruition, but then a couple of cats come along and sabotage our dreams in a flash.

As a landscape designer, I’ve been trained to try and plan for everything when designing a site; accessibility, location, exposure, sight lines, potential hazards, storage, screening, water, fire, gardens, pets, allergies… the list goes on.  Somehow, in the years I’ve been doing this, I was never trained to envision that new cats will move into the neighborhood 4 or 5 years down the road and use your dream project as a toilet.

Unfortunately, it happens and it has happened.  I’ve been gardening for many years and have had rabbits destroy plants, squirrels steal fruits and veggies to take a bite out of them and leave them behind and deer do pruning for me. While all of those things are annoying, it is nothing like finding your neighbor’s cats’ waste in the space that you grow food in. It is infuriating, disgusting, repulsing and when you have a young child, dangerous to their health.

When I discovered the cat mess in my garden, I knew immediately I needed to stop this from happening again, but in the back of my mind I also knew the damage had already been done and can’t be fixed so I would need to come up with a new plan. I know for a fact these cats kill birds and rodents on a regular basis so the likelihood of the cats having toxoplasmosis is pretty high, meaning it’s also in their poo and likely in our garden now.

So what am I going to do about it? Revamp, renew and revive.

I’ll be honest, when I first started thinking about how to handle this, my first thought was to gather the poo and deliver it to my neighbor’s doorstep, but I didn’t think that would be appropriate or make for a very good neighbor relationship. It could be argued that neither is moving into a new neighborhood behind a nature center, feeding the birds and then letting your cats out to kill the birds, spray your neighbor’s house and use their garden as a litter box, but I digress. Poo delivery is out.

I also thought about fencing, but we already have a privacy fence around the back yard and since we live on a corner, we are restricted on both the height and location of the fence, not to mention fences can be costly.  Plus, a fence in front of a fence wouldn’t look so hot and… cats can jump. Fencing is out.

I thought about putting a deterrent spray or powder around the garden, but I would have to be diligent about applying it in order to (hopefully) keep them out.  Not what I want to spend my summer doing. Spraying is out.

I thought about getting a motion activated sprinkler, but I know myself.  I would sit there smugly thinking I’ve got them, evil laugh to myself envisioning the cats being startled, hair standing on end and getting sprayed and then promptly forget that the sprinkler is on and end up being the recipient of the cold blast of water instead of my neighbor’s cats.  Sprinkler is out.

Finally, I settled on the plan I was really dragging my feet on… move the garden.  It’s hard to say goodbye to 5 years of planning, planting and work, but it really seems like the best option. It’s time to revamp the front garden and move the food to the back yard.

So the new plan for the front is to leave the honey berry, currants and perennials where they are and turn the veggie space into a cutting flower garden. This will allow the space to be utilized for something attractive and still stay in line with my chemical-free “bee safe” yard and better yet, turn it into a pollinators paradise.  My loss turns into a win for the pollinators.  I call that a win-win.

On to the renewal and revival!  The back yard garden was all but abandoned over the past few years with my energy being focused on the front yard garden, pregnancy, new baby and lack of time. Now that I’m past the initial anger of the situation, and our newest is old enough to hang out with me in the garden, I’m really embracing the revival of our back yard.

Here’s a little peak as to what I’m doing with the raised beds. Any guesses?

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More on that in the near future!

Happy spring, happy planting and cheers to an abundant season!

Kate

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July 21, 2013

Dismembered

As I was doing my daily walk through in the garden today, checking for ripe or ripening fruits and veggies, signs of insects, and the need for water, I noticed some wilted squash vines.

My stomach fell. I kept looking, scanning all of the squash vines trying to figure out how many got hit. I was certain it was squash vine borer. Upon closer inspection of the longest wilting vine, I lifted part of it to start looking for the point of entry and found that the vine was completely disconnected from the rest of the plant. Somehow it had gotten broken off. I thought it was odd, but then remembered that we got rain this morning, maybe the storm was stronger than I thought. As I walked around I continued to find more wilted vines. I switched my thought process. It looked like they were cut. All of them were on the street side so I started thinking it was a person who did it. A garden hater. A squash hater. Maybe they don’t like the vines trailing into the yard. Stupid garden haters.

It took my husband pointing out that it seemed a little odd that someone would just cut watermelon. He suggested that it seemed a little too specific. Watermelon haters! Okay, really? Even I couldn’t believe that. I continued scanning the dismembered vines and realized that whoever did this was definitely after the watermelon. They went under, over and in between other squash vines to get to them, cut them off and leave them for dead. At this point I was wishing it had been squash vine borer damage. At least I would have been able to do a little surgery to the vine and get it on its way to recovery. But not this. Cut and done. I found only a couple of vines untouched: those riding along the top of the straw bales. Based on the way they were cut, I’m thinking rabbits did the damage.

That and the fact that they left this.

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When I found this teeny weenie watermelon with bites out of it, I was ticked. A deer would have eaten the whole thing, even if it were not sweet.

A friend asked tonight if I swear at the rabbits. My response?
“You mean calling them little effers and telling them to stay the hell away from my plants if they know what’s good for them and they better watch their backs because I’m totally sending the dogs out to kill them? Nope. I don’t”

So I guess my time was coming, being so bold as to plant in my front yard, but after I finished up cleaning up the dismembered vines and balling in them up in a fury that my arms are still paying for, I sprinkled a little more deer and rabbit deterrent around the perimeter and said a little prayer that it keeps them at bay.

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That and I plan on swiping my son’s night vision binoculars and parking myself in a chair with a sling shot.

Until next time,
Kate

April 4, 2013

Daffodils – More Than Just Another Pretty Face

a-to-z-letters-d

 

 

 

 

Daffodils, some of the first flowers to appear in the spring, even before the trees leaf out, brighten up dark corners and otherwise still groggy gardens.   They remind me of the sunrise, the centers ranging from yellow to peach to orange with the bright white petals like the rays reaching out.  Even the pure yellow daffodils shine brightly like a the mid-day sun.  But there’s more to daffodils than their pretty face.  They can serve a purpose in your garden as well.

Daffodil

Daffodil

Daffodils are guards in the garden, defending it from both encroaching lawn and from four-legged predators.  When planted densely, daffodils will keep grass out of planting beds, making weeding a much lighter task.

Often times, many of us will plant a fruit tree in the middle of our lawn.  Unfortunately, lawn is not a fruit tree’s friend.  The lawn competes heavily with the trees for water and nutrients in the surface of the soil during the heat of the summer.  Daffodils, on the other hand, are relatively deeply planted bulbs.  They will begin to establish themselves when planted in the fall, put on growth and bloom in early spring.  Then, about the time the trees need water and nutrients, the daffodils begin to die back, reducing their need for water until fall when the tree begins to go dormant and process begins again.

In addition, daffodils help defend fruit trees against predators.  As a member of the onion family, they contain a toxin that deters many animals, including squirrels, deer, gophers and mice from gnawing on the tender bark when planted close to the trunk off fruit trees.  One word of caution, however, although daffodils are in the onion family, they are toxic to humans and should not be ingested!

Other benefits of daffodils are that they are a perennial bulb, therefore only needing to be planted once and will return year after year. They will also gradually reproduce, making them a great bulb for naturalizing under a tree or in a shade or woodland garden.

 

Naturalized Daffodils

Naturalized Daffodils

One last fun note about daffodils – their faces follow the sun throughout the day.  This is fun to observe both for kids and kids at heart.

Many of the daffodils relatives, in the onion family, will serve the same purpose in the garden.  Allium, the tall blue, white or purple puff-ball on a stick, which resemble fireworks in the sky, will add color and can be found in a variety of heights and sizes.

Allium

Allium

 

 

 

 

 

Chives and garlic chives again, provide the same defense against predators and will also attract beneficial insects to the garden, such as teeny-tiny parasitic wasps, plus they have the added bonus of being edible.  And we all know, I’m all about things being edible! 🙂

Chives

Chives

 

 

 

So there you have it. Daffodils (and alliums and chives and garlic chives) are much more than just another pretty face. 😉

Kate

July 11, 2012

And… we’re back!

Wow!  It’s been a long time since I’ve written.  Ages!

How have you been?  This summer sure has been busy, hasn’t it?  But don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten about you.  In fact, I’ve thought about you a lot.  I have lots of pictures to show you as to what I’ve been up to when I haven’t been working, but just haven’t had a lot of time to sit down and write.  Hopefully your summer is equally busy, so you totally understand. 😉

 

Chickens at Linden Hills Farmers Market

 

So where did I leave off?  Ah, yes.  Chickens!  The chicken class was awesome.  Loved it!  If you live in the Twin Cities and are thinking about getting chickens, I definitely recommend taking the Backyard Chicken Basics class at EGG|PLANT Urban Farm Supply before you jump in and get those cute and cuddly chicks.  The class is filled with good information to prepare you for raising chickens.  I thought I’d take the class, order my chicks while I was there and be raising them this week.  I still want to get chickens but, thanks to the class, realized that I have a little more preparation to do before bringing these feathered friends into our backyard.

And speaking of the backyard, this spring was so busy that I didn’t get my garden planted until just a couple of weeks ago.  Holy lateness!  Thankfully, most of it is coming along nicely so far, although something or someone did manage to sneak in and dine on my sunflower and pea shoots, but it could be worse!  Now that things are growing its obvious that my garden could definitely use a little more sun.  I finally contacted an arborist to “take care of” my overgrown volunteer trees so my plants can grow a little stronger.  He’s scheduled to be out in the next couple of days to check everything out so hopefully the balance of the summer my garden will have full sun exposure instead of just part sun!

Peas to please

Greens in the garden

Radish ready for picking

As some of you may know, I spend a good deal of time volunteering at my son’s school.  I help some of the teachers with the Botany unit and coordinate the school garden with a couple of friends.  Even though my home garden got a late start, the garden at school is doing great!  Last year about this time we were just getting the raised beds built and the arbor/pergola constructed.  This year the kids were able to plant before school was out and the children taking summer school classes are now reaping the benefits in their school lunches!  It’s truly awesome to see how much the kids enjoy the garden and trying the food that comes out of it.

 

And since we’re on the subject of food, I’ve also visited a few more Farmers Markets.  Some small, some simple, some large, some with excellent presentation and even visited some in the rain.  I’ll do write-ups on those in the very near future so you can get a taste and see if you want to check them out.

What else?  Insects and diseases.  You can’t have plants without running across those.  Let’s start with Dutch Elm Disease.  While Emerald Ash Borer is getting lots of press these days (as well it should) Dutch Elm disease is still going strong and continuing to make its way around the Twin Cities (along with the rest of the country).  A couple of years ago we lost two large Elm trees in the front yard.  They were big old Elms, they had survived the initial wave of Dutch Elm Disease back in the 70s so I figured they would be okay.  I was wrong.  They left a huge hole in the yard and burnt out lawn, not to mention the habitat that disappeared for the birds and critters.  Well, not wanting to lose the last large Elm in our yard, I decided it’s time to bite the bullet and spend the money to protect it.  Treatment for this tree isn’t cheap, but it is guaranteed for three years and is still cheaper than the cost to remove the tree if it died.  So in addition to protecting a tree that would take 70 years to replace, it was kind of like getting a three-year insurance policy on the tree.  It’s worth it to me.

Japanese Beetles

And while we’re talking insects, guess who’s back?!  The Japanese Beetles.  They have been rearing their iridescent heads again.  While the population hasn’t been anywhere near what it was last year (at least not yet), it seems to be growing by the day.  At first I saw one, then a couple more, and so on.  Many mornings and evenings you’ll find me in the garden with my peanut butter jar of warm soapy water trying to flick off as many as I can find and leave them to, well, drown.

Red-femured Milkweed Borer

Ooo… and speaking of insects, I had a new (to me) insect sighting this year too.  The Red-femured Milkweed Borer.  Have you seen them?  Their coloring is quite stunning.  I found them, ironically enough, on my milkweed. 🙂  Unfortunately I don’t know a lot about these guys.  They seem to be migrating our way due to the climate change and warmer temperatures.  The closest information I could find on them came out of Missouri and as far as I can tell they are neither a “good bug” or a “bad bug”.  They are just there.  If you know anything different, please share!

Snapping Turtle

There have been a couple of other neat non-insect related sightings in our yard this year too.  The first one took place on Memorial weekend.  The dogs were barking out the front door and when I went to see what they were barking at I saw a fairly decent sized snapping turtle on the front sidewalk.  “OH!” I thought to myself, “That’s what you’re barking at.”  After a couple of days of hanging out around the house she burrowed into one of my flower beds and then after a day or two, she disappeared.  Neighbors are pretty certain she probably laid eggs but we won’t know for sure for a few more weeks.  I’ll let you know if there are suddenly little snapper babies everywhere.

Robin

We also had a pair of robins nest under the grape vines on the pergola in the back yard and give birth to three babies.  It was fun watching the nest, waiting for them to hatch and watching the parents feed them.  I was even lucky enough to witness the first attempted flight of one of the babies!  So amazing and so funny!

Garter Snake #2

What else?  Snakes.  Have we had snakes! One of our dogs is very good at catching snakes. (I really wish this wasn’t one of her talents!)  Thankfully we only have garter snakes, so she’s not chasing anything really nasty, but man, these are some of the longest and fattest garter snakes I’ve seen in a long time!  Got a snake problem?  Call me.  I’ll send her over.

I’ve picked up some cool new books too.  A chicken book, gardening book, sustainable living book and of course some cook books.  I tried out a number of new recipes out of the cook books and from a couple of blogs too.  I’ll share some of them later this week.

 

Loaded Raspberry Canes

Oh my, I nearly forgot!  Even though my veggie garden got a slow start there has been no shortage of stuff to eat.  As my Mom would say, we’ve had “a bumper crop” of raspberries this year.  Each year I think I’ll “make stuff” with them, but this year, like most other years, I find myself eating them before I can really make anything.  (Unless you consider a yogurt parfait “making something”.)

Beginning of the blueberries

I’ve also gotten a handful of blueberries, quite a few golden raspberries and the grape vines are loaded, although not ready to eat yet.

The pear trees have a handful of pears on them again too so hopefully I’ll be able to snag one before the squirrels get to them!  Sadly, no fruit on the apple trees again this year.  It appeared as though they were invaded by leaf rollers.  Once things slow down a little I plan on planting a few companion plants in the vicinity of the apple trees to see if I can improve things for them.

The Yurt

Oh, and one more thing to share with you.  I helped build a Yurt!  If you already know what a Yurt is, excellent!  If you’re like me, you’d say, “A what?”  A Yurt.  Basically, it’s like a semi-permanent, round tent.  I’ll go into more detail on that later.

So there’s a glimpse as to what I’ve been up to.  I’m planning on writing more and filling in the gaps as the week progresses.

In the meantime I hope you’re able to get outside and enjoy the summer weather even if temps have been in the 90s and 100s like it has been here.

Until next time…. happy summer and happy gardening!

Kate