Jun 20, 2008

Sunny Days in the Yard

It's a great time of year for locavores in California. We're fortunate to have access to loads of fresh fruit and vegetables from nearby organic farms. I've bought a few pineapples lately, even though they're from more than 100 miles away. They're in season as far north as they ever are, so it's the best time of year to enjoy them, if you're a huge fan like me.

My garden is a mess! I lost over half of my vegetables to the feral cats. Bugs have torn into a couple of the ones I have left. The lettuce is doing really well but I don't really think I'm going to be able to eat it. Despite this feral cat obstacle course, our garden patch has become their litterbox. I'm so annoyed.

I love animals, so the situation with the feral cats has been difficult. They were mostly here when we moved in 4.5 years ago. A neighbor died and his wife dumped his unspayed cat outdoors to live the rest of her days. She had her last litter about a month after we moved in. We helped with the Trap - Neuter- Release of that last litter. Or we tried too. We didn't get any cats in our traps but they were all rounded up that year.

Our neighbor used to feed them. Then he was evicted (Owner Move In eviction and the place is still empty 25 mo's later) and asked us to feed them. I said no, because I get too attached, but Blake, my housemate, took up the task. This year we stopped feeding them because I really want our yard to be open to birds. A new neighbor feeds them two backyards away anyway. So now they eat there and shit here. So frustrating. But we've got birds, bees, and butterflies in our yard now, somethings we didn't have before. Our plums aren't just rotting on the ground, the birds are picking clean the ones we don't take. And we do leave a lot of them because the cats shit right under part of the tree, so we don't eat anything that falls there.

I've posted on Freecycle for some chicken wire because the cinder-block/tomato cage attempt is failing. I just don't think I can risk toxoplasmosis for my lettuce. And the smell of cat shit is really not appetizing if you're running out to pick something fresh for dinner.

But I really love growing my own food, even just a tiny bit of it. We're still watering everything with greywater from the shower. In fact, soapy water seems to quell the bugs if I pour it on the leaves. And my yarrow is attracting lady bugs, which I hope will start to check whatever's eating my broccoli.

All of the natives are doing very well. The viola penduncalata came into seed! I'm collecting that seed and horkelia, yarrow, bee plant, clarkia, and fringe cups. I'm giving some back to the guy who grew these plants, Greg Gaar, who runs a native plant nursery out of the Haight Ashbury Neighborhood Coalition's recycling center. Some I'm giving to another naturalist guru, Jake Sigg, who needs local seed from natives for a restoration project. And some to my teacher friend, Holly, who works with youth on horticulture projects. It's rewarding to be part of the cycle.


Anonymous said...

I have no idea how something like this would fit into the Compact, but I have heard Predator's Pee keeps them away: http://www.predatorpee.com/. It simulated the pee of the cat's natural enemy and makes them avoid the area. I've used similar things inside the house for my cats to get them to calm down and it worked.

Anonymous said...

I have a suggestion for you. If you put down chicken wire or even pig fencing, the cats can't scratch because they run into the metal. They hate that!

Anonymous said...

I've used the extra large landscape bark chunks as mulch in the past to discourage cats from using an area for a litterbox. Try to get as much of the cr*p out as you can, then lay down a good layer of the bark chunks and see how that works for you. It's generally pretty good for the plants, too.

good luck.

Anonymous said...

Another good idea....buy a big bag of sand and put it in an area away from your garden . They love sand .