Welcome to my Sustainable Urban Garden

My garden is a work in progress, always growing and changing within itself.

My gardens include many herbal beds, raised vegetable beds, raised "citrus heights" citrus tree bed, berry beds, fruit trees, grape arbor, rose beds and many perennial flower beds with annuals too. My greenhouse is still in the transformation stage,
as well as some planting areas.
Enjoy your journey through my gardens, I do!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Planting the vegetable garden and wildlife

Every season that I put in a new crop I mulch the bed, stake the starters, lay a few sticks across the bed to keep out any cats and look at my new beautiful bed with awe.

This month has been a different story.

My cat is a house cat, because cats threaten and kill wildlife. I welcome wildlife on my property. I share figs, grapes, loquats, and plums with squirrels and many varieties of birds. Possums come through here but do no damage and the raccoons wash their hands in my water features which can make it a little muddy, but they do no damage. Many birds are nesting right now and there is a army of cats that belong to neighbors (or no) that is patrolling our neighborhood. I used to tell them that they were welcome to sit in the sun in my yard, but no more. This year they took advantage of my good spirit.

I didn't start planting my heat loving vegetables until almost two weeks ago. I started with peppers, because even though we were still getting this unusual cold, they always seem to be forgiving of the weather. So, the long pepper bed was planted with the Habaneros, Jalapenos, Poblano, Anaheim, all the way down the hotness scale to Sweet Bell's or California Wonder Bell peppers.

Oh, I always love my pepper bed. It is a raised bed so I am able to crowd them in together a little and knowing the growth habits of the different varieties allows me to know who needs a little more room. I am a pepper queen, as they always do so well. They will keep producing until sometime after Thanksgiving or after Christmas in a mild weather year.

Of course they are planted with organic everything - my own compost and mulch (leaves and compost that isn't as broken down). We do have good soil to start with, river bottom soil as the river is just about a mile away. And they like getting only partial day full sun, but late afternoon shade in our hot California summers.

Back to the kicker!
After I plant a new bed I just enjoy watching it, but the next morning I went out to look at my beautiful bed and found a place where digging had occurred, the mulch was piled in an unusual pile. Immediately upon inspection I found the culprit was a cat. Cat feces are not healthy in an edible garden or any garden. Many people try: Cayenne pepper (works until the first rain washes it away) or mothballs (toxic), wiring up a low-current (non-lethal) fence or motion sensor water gun (very expensive). Cats HATE to poop in anything that is wet or step on anything that sticks to or pokes their feet, so some people use chicken wire. My neighbor Cindy resorted to chicken wire. The problem is you can't keep adding mulch or you are just covering the chicken wire and then it is useless and when your plants grow up you can't take the chicken wire out of the bed for the rest of the season.

My method of laying a few branches (saved from pruning) like "pick up sticks", did not work. So I decided to make the bed indestructible to cats. It looks like one of those torture beds seen in films from ancient times. No cat is going to want to come near my peppers anymore. Of course, once the plants fill out I can remove the weapons of torture. Unfortunately is does not look like a perfect Sunset Magazine bed, but it is a real way to keep your beds from becoming contaminated with cat poop!

For some reason it is hard to see the vertical sticks sticking up all over the bed. It is more evident on my paste tomato bed filled with Amish paste and Sausage paste tomatoes which a I planted a couple days after the peppers.

The tomato cage helps to keep them out too. It is hard to see the cage, but it is homemade (out of heavy wire fencing with 6" openings) and has been used for more than 20 years. So, this was an easier bed to secure. Here is a close-up below of the mass of upright sticks!

It also helps to have lots and lots of sticks/stakes. They are useful for all kinds of things in the garden, from this deterring cats use, to staking and supporting new starts, supporting plants laden with heavy fruit, to becoming the uprights for shade cloths (I just use a staple gun to hold the shade cloth to the stakes) during different times when a plant maybe stressed from the sun.

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