While growing up, I spent every weekend I could with my paternal grandmother. She was an avid gardener and instilled a love of gardening in me. Perhaps it was just the time we spent outside together, or perhaps it was the promise of taking a break as a reward for hard work, a concept which I grew so fond of that she would later tell me I wanted to take a break every 5 minutes. Regardless of the reason, she taught me the value of putting forth effort to achieve a desired goal and that hard work would be rewarded. She grew up on a farm, during the depression, in the rural south. This shaped her in ways I never fully understood until many years later. I did, however, even as a child, understand that she grew flowers for their beauty and fragrance and that she didn't grow fruits and vegetables because she didn't have to. The only exception was one apricot tree. After seeing how much I enjoyed the strawberries and cream one of her neighbors shared with me, she planted a strawberry patch just for me. This event would later become a rather momentous occasion in our history together, but enough reminiscing, I must return to my springtime tale of feline woe.
My gardens are cottage style with plants springing up in unexpected places as seeds fall and sprout where they choose. Years ago, I planted a border of flowering herbs in my vegetable patch to attract bees and beneficial insects. The plants have long since escaped the confines of the border and bloom freely throughout the vegetables. I don't mind as it has resulted in adding beauty and fragrance to the vegetable patch while attracting bees for pollination. The downside of this is that I now have several catnip plants growing throughout this area. Where the leaves covered them throughout the winter, they are already growing and the mere process of clearing the leaves away sends out a fragrance that beckons to cats from yards away. Stray cats seem to adopt us, and soon, one of them was happily nibbling on catnip and rolling around in the warm, freshly tilled soil. I don't begrudge him his indulgence of catnip, as I plant it for my feline friends after all, but I envision trampled seedlings in the months to come. If I didn't already have a surplus of house cats, due in part to taking in strays, these garden pests would enjoy a trip to the vet and a home inside but sadly, this is not an option. So, I continue to feed them outside, offer them shelter, and even allow them to sleep inside our enclosed porch next to a heater on cold nights and ponder how to defeat these feline garden nemeses.
After much research, it appeared that my best options are introducing smells cats dislike (such as citrus peel, coffee grounds, and lavender) and utilizing chicken wire. Unfortunately, these cats must have missed the memo that citrus peel was supposed to keep them out of the garden. Last summer I introduced a recycling bin for coffee grounds in the office and utilized the grounds for mulch around acid loving shrubs and as an addition to my compost pile. My feline friends did tend to avoid the areas where I used the grounds, but since I'm currently between day jobs I'll have to try to encourage a nearby Starbucks to give me their grounds or resort to other methods. In the meantime, I'll try planting my vegetables in small areas at a time so I can surround the area with chicken wire until the seedlings have grown large enough to avoid being destroyed by a frolicking feline. Hopefully, if I allow them access to small patches of catnip, they'll allow me the undisturbed use of the rest of my garden.