Thursday, 7 May 2009

Garden pests.

I am a cat person. I don’t mean that I have whiskers and a long tail and lick my, erm, fur. I mean that I have had cats for years. For the sake of impartiality, I love dogs. It’s just that cat’s are easier to maintain.

Like a child with a new savings account, cats leave small deposits. The thing is, these deposits don’t gather much interest. Like a Swiss child with a new bank account, the deposits are usually buried deeply and are not easily seen. The problems began when my sister’s cat came to lodge with us. He is a lovely, affectionate and playful cat but I’m sure he is reincarnated. In an earlier life he was an Apollo astronaut as he loves to recreate moon craters in my flower beds. No other cat that I have been a servant to has done this. TC must also be an amnesiac as he forgets to move all the soil back in to the hole he has just created. I’m sure I saw my elderly next door neighbour pick up and try to light a large cigar he had found on the grass. I hadn’t the heart to tell him!

I didn’t see any tulips in my garden this year. TC removed them. I planted some spring bedding plants. TC removed them. This is a daily (or nightly) occurrence. He even does a balancing excavation act on 12” diameter terracotta pots, one of which had sticks in AND cotton twined around.

I have just taken out the remaining plants as they were looking a little sad where the exposed root balls had dried out in the warm weather. There is now a nice blank canvas for TC to perform his horticultural arts.

I will be setting up my flower bed irrigation system soon and hopefully this will deter him as the soil will be more moist and potentially less attractive to dig in. I haven’t tried pepper dust as yet but I did try citrus peel with no success. It tends to look rather unattractive too. I had great success with some small brown garden stakes intertwined with cotton. The cotton is heavy enough to annoy the cat as he tries to walk through it but not strong enough to cause entanglement problems.

I have covered the tops of the stakes with little ‘test tubes’ for safety. There is nothing worse that the proverbial poke in the eye with a sharp stick and sticks seem to be invisible when you are near them. The ‘test tubes’ used are a little water reservoir for Anthurium flower stems and I usually have quite a few of these hanging around.

I had an early set back with the cotton method though. A neighbour’s cat likes to come along to our house on a regular basis and bully our cats. I had just popped indoors after setting up the first lot of cotton and stakes. The neighbour’s cat was by our open front door and when I went to go outside again, he felt guilty at trying to creep indoors and ran out the door, turned left as all felons do and went straight into the cotton at high speed. He just carried on moving but the neatly lined up cotton was totalled. I repaired it though and it and it worked well for all the time it was there.

Dead-heading flowers was a bit of a pest as you couldn’t see the cotton and it would sometimes break it as you move your hands around the beds.

I have read articles on zoo poo here and there. The idea is to leave dung from predatory animals in the flower beds whereupon cats and deer instinctively avoid these areas. There is a wildlife park just up the road so obtaining the product shouldn’t be a problem but I wondered how you get the lion or tiger to sit just over your flower beds. If you try to shove them in the right area will they bite? If you leave them to it will they run off? Do they dig an even bigger hole themselves and then what do you do. I am not as tough as the old lady in the Madascar movie and don’t fancy saying “bad kitty!” to a 400 lb predator!

I will set the sprinklers to full on and use the cotton and stick method too. When the flowers become established and no soil is visible I shouldn’t have the same problem. Or will I?

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