A Gardener's Diary: Repel those felines

If April showers bring May flowers, everything should be blooming soon. All my rain barrels have been overflowing and I counted 56 milk jugs full. These I will put next to the plants that need more water and they will be ready when the plants need it.

Some of you have asked me how to keep cats out of your gardens. I found a few tips on the Internet that I would like to share today. Sometimes it will work for one and not the other. Do not use moth balls as they are toxic. Here are several easy, safe and effective ways to deter cats from using your garden as a litter box, but, unlike moth balls, they don’t pose a health hazard to cats or humans.

There are many herbs that cats don’t like to be around, including lavender, rue, geranium, absinthe and lemon-thyme. Other anti-cat plants are marigolds and pennyroyal.

Also, a German professional gardener, Dieter Stegmaier of Essingen, has created a hybrid so repulsive to cats, they stay a yard away from it. To some it smells like schnapps, and is actually a pretty and hardy plant with blue flowers that bloom throughout most of the summer. Its Latin name is Plectranthus caninus or Coleus canina. I don’t know if it is available around here.

Use large flat river stones in your garden beds to make the soil less diggable, and so less attractive to cats. Besides, river stones are pretty. You can also use them in houseplant pots to keep the furry little darlings out of those.

Regarding uses for mesh onion bags: If you have indoor cats and have trouble keeping them out of your plants, just put the mesh bags around the base of the plant. They don’t like it because it gets caught in their paws and you can water as usual.

Cats don’t like tea leaves, so empty your used ones onto the garden soil. Orange peels aren’t the only fruit rinds cats don’t like. Lemon and lime peels work too. Or mix two cups of rubbing alcohol with a teaspoon of lemon grass oil and spray it if you want less mess. Empty your coffee grounds around your garden. They tend to shy away from it, which can be toxic for cats and dogs. Sprinkle black pepper or cinnamon to discourage them from showing up. Convince them to find another place to hang out by mixing two tablespoons each of cayenne pepper and powdered mustard with five tablespoons of flour. Then add a cup of vinegar and five cups of water to make a potent spray. Spray it around your garden.

A half-teaspoon of chili powder and a half-teaspoon of cayenne pepper mixed with a teaspoon of dish soap and some water makes a good spray to keep cats out of your vegetable patch. Just be sure to apply it to the plant leaves only. If either the strong pepper or the potent powder is on the ground, cats can pick it up on their paws and then get it in their eyes while washing themselves.

You could also try using a sprinkler that is activated by a motion-sensor. All it takes is a time or two of getting dowsed with water to deter any cat. It can work for intruders, too.

Too many cones from those trees? Use them between plants. I use pine cones on the banks between my perennials. It also deters the quails from taking their dust bath and uprooting my plants.

For more information: 250-558-4556.

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast in the North Okanagan and member of the Okanagan Gardens and Roses Club. Her column appears every other Wednesday.

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