I’ve taken the message on the side of this recycling bin quite literally and am recycling it by turning it into a salad greens garden.
This house came chock-a-block full of junk, especially the backyard. Not that I’m complaining — we’ve found new uses for a great deal of the items and have saved some money in the process.
First up are the recycling bins: there were several, but we have no traditional use for them as living in a house means we are able to keep a large-sized recycling bin that suits most of our recycling needs. It was practically impossible to keep one recycling bin for any length of time while living in an apartment — someone was always stealing them off of the curb! And now, here, we have too many. Go figure.
Fortunately, recycling bins make great planters, if you can get past the ugly. We’re still in a yard renovation holding pattern as we now realize that a tiller is required if we’re going to manage the back breaking work of levelling it out. I originally thought we could do the work by hand because I’m not a big fan of tillers and may have also been overly optimistic when the snow was still on the ground, and the backyard garden was just a dream. Levelling out a bumpy, slopped garden requires time, something I don’t have right now as we are in a crunch to layout book #3 (due out in Spring 2012!). I also have some stray photos to take. As a result, I can’t get my raised beds in place, which means I can’t plant spring greens or peas. GAH! One of our big goals this year is to become completely self-sufficient in salad fixings. Starting next month (or so), I don’t want to buy a single head of lettuce ever again, if I can help it. This should be easy enough to achieve over the long term as I intend to dedicate a rather large bed to greens alone. So exciting! Obviously, this goal is unachievable if I can’t plant….
Spring is coming; we are on the down-slide out of winter now. Everyone join hands and sing because I think we’re gonna make it (after all).
I’ve been receiving a number of emails from readers looking for spring gardening advice: starting seeds, edibles to grow in containers, favourite varieties, etc, so I think it’s high time for a spring gardening recap. I’ve gone through the archives (11 years worth!) and selected how-to articles that will help you get started or provide a little inspiration if you’re feeling stuck.
To begin, please check out my books as they provide all sorts of advice, projects, and processes to follow that are not available on this website. You Grow Girl is a general guide for small space gardening that covers a wide range of plants and topics, and Grow Great Grub is all about growing FOOD in small spaces.
When we moved, I abandoned the cobbled together grow light setup I had been struggling with for years in favour of beginning again with a much improved, bigger and badder system.
In the old place I had to stuff the grow light shelving system into a corner nook of my office. Consequently, it couldn’t be more than 2ft wide. Have you ever tried to buy a shop light that is only 2 feet wide? Good luck. Yes, they are available, but they are built in a boxy shape and are meant to be wired in as under-cabinet lighting. I had to do a bit of precarious electrical wiring in order to attached a plugin cord to my lights. Because they were mounted and stationary, I had to lift my seedlings up to receive the necessary amount of distance between them and the bulbs as they grew. This meant regularly adding and subtracting stacks of books that I had placed underneath flimsy trays that wobbled and spilled liquid whenever they were shifted.
As you can imagine, this method did not always work out well for the books.
And then there was the shape of the shop light boxes themselves. Boxy shapes with sides that come down straight don’t reflect light well. I made due, but the set up was what it was. At the time I was happy to take what I could get.
So when we moved I abandoned that mess of wires and spare parts with the dream of something less ramshackle in mind. And then… work, life, moving, stuff. Finally, it all came to a head during the Holidays when the unheated front porch froze and several plants that should not have been out there but had no where else to go, froze. I needed a lighting system stat.
Here’s what I built.
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!