Critter Control

Since I live in a small town that is fairly densely populated, I don’t get to enjoy watching a picturesque scene of wildlife frolicking across my backyard, with the exception of the occasional scurrying bunny, squirrel, or chipmunk.

When I do encounter wildlife, it is usually not enjoyable.  The other day when I was walking my dog, I swear I was dive bombed by flock of Ravens (I’m not sure if that is what they were, but they were like crows on steroids with bigger bills) that were perched along my roof and my next door neighbor’s roof (picture a Hitchcock bird attack).  It was terrifying!

BUT the wildlife that I fear most is… the evil cats.

I know it is a fairly common gardening problem, but I have literally been pushed to my limit with cats using my garden beds and planters as litter boxes.  It is so freaking nasty to come across a landmine while I’m digging in the dirt.  To try and protect my garden beds, I have tried bamboo skewer grids and sprinkling cayenne pepper around my plants without much luck.  I have also considered more, let’s just say, extreme deterrent methods… but I won’t go into detail.

The cats should consider themselves lucky because on a recent shopping trip to the Farm Market I bought an organic animal repellent that is produced locally (and who doesn’t love to support local businesses?).

The product is called Weiser’s Nature’s Defense (http://natures-defense.com/) and it is non-toxic and environmentally safe.  It is also easy to use – you just sprinkle the granules in or around the area that you want to protect.  It should be sprinkled twice for the first week and then once a week for maintenance.

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It claims to defend against:  Deer, Rabbit, Squirrel, Mice, Rats, Moles, Voles, Shrew, Skunk, Chipmunk, Woodchuck, Gopher, Groundhog, Porcupine, Elk, Beaver, Armadillo, Raccoon, Possum, and Prairie Dog.  Most of which don’t apply to me (I would love to see an armadillo or prairie dog around town!).  BUT most importantly, it also deters Domestic and Feral Cats.

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The product literally looks like a spice rub.  It contains garlic, cinnamon, clove, white pepper, rosemary, thyme, and peppermint.  Sounds delicious. 😉

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Particularly for cats, it says to sprinkle it every time you find a nasty nugget to discourage them from using the same spot over and over again.  This is what the product looks like sprinkled on some dirt.

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So, I am hopeful that this animal repellent will work.  Unfortunately, I sprinkled the granules in my onion patch and less than an hour later I saw an evil cat sitting / chilling out in my onion patch.  Luckily it wasn’t squatting, but I’m sure it had bad intentions or had already done its business.  My corgi (Goldie) and I chased it away, but I was bummed that one application of the product didn’t seem to deter the cat at all.  Needless to say, after I brought my dog in, I “seasoned” the patch much more heavily.

The product does say to allow a week for it to take its full effect…  Sigh, gardening is truly a test in cultivating patience and restraint.

Growing Sweet Potatoes Experiment

Yeah, SCIENCE! (Breaking Bad reference)

Who doesn’t love a good science experiment?  Unfortunately, I don’t think I inherited a lot of my Dad’s scientific genes (he was a chemist), but I do get a kick out of trying new things that seem a bit weird and nerdy.  And ‘geek’ is now ‘chic’, so why not totally geek out?

With this experiment, I am trying to sprout sweet potatoes slips (tiny potato vines) from organic sweet potatoes that I bought at Whole Foods (Japanese & Jewel).

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And yes, I probably looked like a total weirdo in Whole Foods whipping out my phone and taking pictures of the sweet potato displays and foraging for the gangliest looking ones that might already have some little roots.  It’s a wonder they let me out in public.

With a little water, the sweet potato will start to grow roots out the bottom and then the tiny plant vines (slips) will grow out of the top of the potato.  Once planted in a garden or container, each slip should produce approximately 10 sweet potatoes.

The method to grow slips that seems very nerdy / Bill Nye-esque to me is sticking toothpicks in a sweet potato to keep it propped above water in a jar.  Even though I consider myself to be a garden geek, I found a lazier method that I thought I would try first.  I saw it posted on The Outlaw Garden at http://outlawgarden.com/2012/04/25/grow-your-own-sweet-potatoes/.

So as you can see below, I chopped my sweet potatoes in half and just stuck the chunks in a plastic takeout container.

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Then I put the chunks cut side down and filled the container with about 1 inch of water.  And yes, my Japanese sweet potato is somewhat anatomically correct.

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Below is a picture after a week.  The Jewel seems to be progressing with a few very small roots, but no slips have emerged up top.  I think the little bumps are where the slips will pop up.  The Japanese just seems to be chilling out and it might just end up in my composter.

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Even though I’m not using the scientific method to make a groundbreaking discovery, I think Bill Nye the Science Guy would approve of my sweet potato growing experiment (although I guess he now supports GMO’s, so maybe not).  I also think my Dad would be proud.

I hope this experiment is as successful as my last garden-related experiment – ripening green tomatoes in a cardboard box using an apple.  The rotting apple naturally releases ethylene gas which ripens fruit (geek speak is so hot)!

Last year, I successfully grew “red, white & blue” (‘mercia!) potatoes.  Below is a picture of my potato patch that took over my entire raised bed garden.  Despite my obvious talent for growing potatoes, the thought of growing SWEET potatoes never even crossed my mind!  Unlike regular potatoes, you can’t just cut up a sweet potato and plant it in the ground as a tuber root veggie.  And unlike regular potatoes, sweet potatoes are a hot summer crop.  Speaking of hot…

What do you call a stolen yam?

A hot potato.

Hehe, yes, I am garden geek.

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Knowledge is power and geek is chic.