I was at the Royal Agricultural Fair twice this week. First to be a judge in the Canada Cooks the Books competition and again for Poultry Day to check out the chickens. The following are some of the highlights of this year’s show.
Japanese Cockerel and Pullet
We are excited about hosting a wild bee nesting box in our new garden as a part of a study on wild bee populations in urban habitats that is being conducted by Scott McIvor through the Packer Collection (PCYU) at York University. You can see how the nestboxes are constructed here.
We can’t wait to see if any bees take up residence in the little paper cells. In his enthusiasm, Davin started checking hours after the PVC box was installed. Needless to say there are no bees yet but I did see one resting on our compost bin and another came out of a hole in the ground as I was digging up sod. We are also curious to see how general insect populations change as we introduce more diversity to what is currently a plantless yard.
Scott is also tracking cavity nesting bee populations on green roofs. If you have a green roof and would like to be involved you can get in touch via TO Bees.
One of the unforeseen negatives we inherited with the new house is a Legion of Cats who have taken up residence in the yard. They’re not strays, just neighbourhood cats that have decided that since no one else was using it, the’d make the yard their playground. And so they’ve made themselves very comfortable back there: basking in the sun, scratching in the dirt, and pooing all over the place.
Hey, I love cats. I have a 16 year old furry baby of my own. What I do not love is cat poo co-mingling with my food. It’s not just gross, it’s also unsafe.
You know who else loves our yard: squirrels. I like squirrels. I really do. That one squirrel we had on the roof garden was bad enough. So far I’ve counted 4 different squirrels visiting the backyard. It’s like there is one cat for every squirrel. Aren’t cats and squirrels supposed to be mortal enemies? Shouldn’t we have one or the other ravaging the yard, not both, and surely not both AT THE SAME TIME? It’s like the cover of a Watchtower pamphlet back there. Predator and prey cavorting together in a Utopian land. This is not right.
So I’ve taken it upon myself to launch a campaign against the Legion of Cats and their squirrel familiars. Step one is to give the unmistakable impression that there is a new creature in the yard who does not abide by their antics. I run out there several times a day, arms flailing and my voice raised. So far they get skittish when they see me in the window and they run when the back door opens. Unfortunately, they always come back. I can’t say yet whether or not the strategy is working but I’m keeping at it and have until spring to establish some kind of boundary. The problem is, we are die hard cat lovers and I think they are starting to see through my ruse.
I’ve dealt with cats (and squirrels) a few times over the years, but every cat is different. What works for one doesn’t always work for others. I know how to keep them out of particular spots, but what I’d like to achieve ultimately is to get them out of the garden entirely.
I’d send my cat out there to establish dominance but she’s having none of it. She thinks she’s a human and finds these new creatures fascinating and very intimidating.
- Super Soaker: I don’t want to hurt the cats. I just want them to think of our yard as inhospitable. Most cats hate water.
- Water Scarecrow: Like the super soaker, but there when I’m not.Meighan had success with this one. The only negative is that there will be plants in the garden that I’d rather didn’t get sprayed. I also wonder about having the hose hooked up to it all day long.
- Coyote Urine: The trouble here is that I also have a cat and would like her to have the chance to enjoy the backyard. If it scares off other animals, it will surely scare her, too.
Have you had any successes keeping cats and squirrels out of your garden?
First there was a fat lump of a thing found in the Yardshare Garden here in the west end while planting squashes. And then a few weeks ago we found Leopard Slugs (Limax maximus) in our friend David’s plot at the Leslie Street Allotment Garden on the east side of Toronto.
Prior to these two sightings I had never seen slugs of this size in Toronto, or this part of Canada for that matter. Our slugs are tiny little things called Gray Garden Slugs (Agriolimax reticulatus). Tiny, but pervasive! Until recently I could always ease my mind with the knowledge that while their numbers are legion, at least we don’t have the massive banana-type monsters.
And now we do.
These new slugs are European introductions, although there is speculation that they could have come from British Columbia. There is a scientist in Toronto who is currently tracking their occurrence, and while it looks like the Leopard Slug hasn’t really reached my part of town, it will soon enough.
And I thought I had my hands full with the four neighbour cats that have made our quiet yard their hang out. I feel like I’m in a horror movie, waiting for the giant insect army to invade.
- More on another giant slug found in Etobicoke, the suburb west of my home. It’s very pretty, but no thanks.
- A video (narrated by David Attenborough) of Leopard Slugs mating. Very fascinating, but again, not in my backyard!
Today, as I was going through folders of photos I took through the spring and summer months, I came upon this cheap and cheerful water feature my friend Barry devised for his garden. It looked so classy, yet was unbearably simple and didn’t cost a thing.
All he did was take three terracotta saucers of varying sizes and stack them into one another. He set overturned plastic saucers underneath the top two layers to give them height. Brilliant!
The water feature did encourage a lot of wasps to a warm and dry part of the garden, which may not be your thing, but it turned out to be a simple and stylish way to encourage and keep these beneficials doing their work in the garden. No one has ever been stung.