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Latest posts by Dinah


Posted: 19/12/2014 at 02:13

OK, I am very lucky because I live in a remote area, and cats are the only way to stop lots of rodents pouring out of the barns and into my house. So I have 11 of the furry little darlings at the moment. I am a very keen gardener, and love having the cats around when I am digging, potting up, putting things in trays and so on. I have two solutions to the problem that you might be able to put into operation, but it all depends if you have access to the countryside.

Cats in towns are not so easy to deal with. First, they need a big area of rough soil that you regularly agitate. Under a shrubbery, a nearby hedge or a coppice is absolutely great. Under shrubs and hedges is the best if you lift the crown of the shrub  or hedge - i.e. lift or prune off the lower branches so that the cats can get under them easily without having to crouch down at all. Then, each week you give the earth around the shrubs a good rummage with a long (as long as possible) handled hoe, or possibly a rake if that's what you have. Add leaf mould if you find the roots are too near the surface to get a good litter. The cats go "oh wow, a proper toilet" and compete with each other to use the designated area. This is the carrot method.Second (the stick) method is best used with the above carrot. You need plenty of old, rusty stock fencing, so you must were gloves when handling it. If you go out on forays into the country, especially rugged sheep country, you will find that shepherds and farmers regularly replace their fences. When they do this they often leave the rusty old rolls in ditches or on road sidings until they can get round to picking them up. Choose a sheep area if possible, because shepherds are very, very busy people, and it is a chore to collect and dispose of rusty fencing rolls. Stock fencing consists of wire rectangles, so you will think at first "well the cats will get through that". It's a bit more complicated than that. 1) they don't like the rusty texture at all, 2) it will be crinkly and not geometrician by the time you pick it up, so will have lots of raised and lowered areas, adding to the complexity with which a cat can find a good gap, while still being able to make a quick exit if anyone sees him/her. 3) rusty stock fencing is damn near invisible when it is put down on soil with plants dotted about in it. This is good for you (you won't notice the stuff once it has settled in) and it is great for confounding the cats. Cats have notoriously good eyesight, but only if the obstacle is over a foot from their faces. That means that if they are rummaging around, and there sensitive little whiskers keep brushing rough hard only slightly visible stuff,  they won't want to be messing about in the area for too long.

Kittens are worst to deter, because everything is a big adventure, but they are easier to shoo off, don't make such big messes and soon grow up. Someone mentioned that only bold cats do it on the surface, this is true. Unfortunately you get the odd cat that seems to think that major earthworks are needed for each visit. This is worse for young plants, but once your stock fencing has buried bits, and protruding bits it will help stop even the most fastidious cat. If you are lucky, you may find enough rusty old fencing to put a double layer down, and that is a brilliant deterrent. The problem with chicken wire and similar is that if it is not suspended and crinkly above the ground it is quite comfortable and easy to walk on. A-symmetry  and unpredictability, along with a rough texture is much better. You can put the same stuff over groups of pots, and seed trays - I have no problems with either now that I employ the carrot and the stick, and believe me - my garden is always full of cats who only poop in the proper places!

One very important warning! Because the stock fencing is so well camouflaged you may trip over it, so mark the edges and make sure they don't overhand paths.

Wild Flower Identification Needed.

Posted: 18/12/2014 at 19:36

It isn't a very nicely dried sow-thistle is it? I recognise it as something that I see regularly when I'm walking the dog, it grows all along the mountain lanes, but I've never seen it in transition from fresh to dry.

azalea wind damage

Posted: 29/06/2014 at 01:23

Just to thank everyone who helped with this - Two of the cuttings have rooted! I am delighted, delighted and triply delighted as I now have 3 lovely plants to treasure, and a whole lot more faith in things turning out for the best after a storm.

Hierochloe odorata v/s leather jackets

Posted: 07/06/2014 at 16:03

Strange. I am wondering if Hierochloe odorata (buffalo, vanilla, holy) grass is resistant to cutworms/leather jackets? Practically everything else left in trays in the yard was affected this spring, but not a shallow tray of this grass/herb, despite it being moved around to get the best of the weather. I would have thought (being a grass) it would have been one of the first to go. I know the taste of vanilla comes from a chemical called Coumarin that is also present in Cinnamon, but I can't find any references to insecticidal properties online. Does anyone happen to know this? I ask because I was thinking of using it as a companion plant if it is resistant or repellant.

Keeping wind off a windy allotment

Posted: 11/05/2014 at 02:30

For a low hedge try Sea buck-thorn. It is the plant with orange berries that you sometimes see growing on dunes. The Prunus Spinosa (sloe) is another tough little tree to make a wind shelter belt, and you get the fruits which can be used in wine. It is most useful for areas with poor anchorage due to a lot of sand in the soil (it's often used to support crumbling cliff-side pathways and roads).

A space saving alternative would be a willow hedge. You can weave in the willow branches to keep them back in place, they are very supple so make good wind protection, and you can cut them right back. You will get far better results if you do keep pruning them to size, since you will also get straight, supple stems that will look attractive too, and they come in several bright colors. You will need to choose one of the more compact varieties - of course, since some would grow too big too quickly.  If you use the cut stems among the vegetables as supports (they are excellent for this purpose) they may well take root; but you can then pull them out and hand the rooted whips on to other allotment users for wind breaks.

Human irrigation system

Posted: 11/05/2014 at 02:08

Never good news that Mike, but yes, I know people who have gotten better quite quickly after the treatment. Make sure they do everything they can, it's a world where the assertive get what they need, so don't be afraid to make a fuss if you think any aspect of your treatment is substandard. Also, live for the moment. Worrying never helped anyone recover, so get stuck in there and enjoy all the sights of spring! Good luck and a speedy recovery.

morrisions and a kwiw

Posted: 01/05/2014 at 23:58

I know about Kiwi because I grew about 10 of them from seed. They are cut back almost completely by frost, but each spring they sprout up and grow very quickly into very attractive vines. Mine have wonderful red stems and the leaves and stems are covered with soft, red spines. They have yellow flowers. Mine are growing outdoors, but I do live on the coast and have a moderated climate due to the gulf-stream. They don't seem to mind the searing north wind, or the salt that the winds bring now that they are well established, but I provide a bit of shelter each spring when they sprout up by putting a large potted grass plant on the northerly, seaward side.

You will think this is a bit daft, but seriously, you will need to watch that any local cats don't get at them while they are young and supple. Cats love Kiwi plants even more than they love cat-mint, and will roll all over the plant ecstatically pulling off leaves and biting through stems. I've made a wire-netting frame for the lower part of the plants so they are protected where they can easily be reached. Once established there seem to be few problems with the plants and they are very easy to grow - you can sprout the seed easily in a tray covered with a plastic bag. You can use the seed of a fruit from the supermarket if you are looking for a few extra plants for fertilization. It doesn't seem to matter which specific variety you use. Great plants! I've had lots of fun growing them.

Whats eating my seeds

Posted: 01/05/2014 at 23:43

Oh! I just thought, if you do put the cat/cats in the poly-tunnel, don't forget that cats seem to be very interested in eating slug pellets. I have to dig out little pits in the soil and cover them with half coconut shells pinned down firmly with tent pegs if I ever put the pellets down. Most of the time it isn't worth my using slug pellets because it is such a big operation making them cat proof - better using saucers of beer or citrous fruit skins to collect them.

Also, you'll probably find this obvious but others may not know, don't use mouse or rat poison anywhere if you do have cats. Cats have even be poisoned by eating a mouse that was dying of poison, and they sometimes eat rat poison despite it's blue and cereal based nature - horrible thought, but worth keeping in mind. Sorry to go on and on when your question was so straightforward - one thing always seems to lead to another in my garden!

Whats eating my seeds

Posted: 01/05/2014 at 18:45

This one I may know. Mice or rats I think. Maybe squirrels if the poly-tunnel is well secured all but a high vent. I notice that you have some affiliation with cats. If you cover the plants/seed trays with chicken wire (against possible mistakes re: litter tray look alike) and put the cat/cats in there for a few hours each week on a shady day, the smell of the proximity of them is often enough to deter a rodent.

I have read lots of complaints about cats in gardens, but out in the countryside we know exactly what cats are for (beside being some of our best furry friends). They prevent rodents from getting into places where we are storing food, seeds, grain, bulbs etc. Keeping the cats off growing plants (and bird feeding areas for that matter) is no problem, you just put wire over the treys, tables and beds. I suppose they could be more of a problem to some people than the rodents in towns and suburbs were keeping things looking tidy and containing children in small areas is important, but I think that out in the countryside they are the most humane and effective solution (short of a ferret perhaps).

For those concerned, since fortifying my bird table I have had one bird death this spring, which related to some accidentally split bird food - rather sad but not too bad a record considering there are 11 cats cohabiting here. No mice or rats in the house or sheds - not a whisker.

Truly evil weevil

Posted: 01/05/2014 at 17:48

Thanks dove. We have quite a few bats too, so maybe when the grubs hatch the balance will be restored. I love the idea of farming a big crop of grubs for the bats, it seems so much more worthwhile.

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