Friday, 9 March 2007


Some people love cats. Others, like an old friend of mine, would rather put them on a one way, 200-mile train journey and never see them again! But whatever your feelings about felines, chances are you probably don't want them digging up your garden. So, what do you do?

With the exception of a few plants, catnip being the main one, cats really aren't out to destroy your beloved perennials or garden vegetables. What they really like is the soil. Most cats think the outdoors is their litter box, and a patch of dirt is an invitation to come do their business. It also makes a great place to play or roll.

If you have cats yourself and find that they are bothering the neighbours, you could try to keep them in your own boundaries to keep neighbourly relations on a friendly footing. One way to keep your own cats from roaming into the neighbour's garden is to make your space attractive to them. In an out of the way corner of the garden, plant a patch of catnip, the aphrodisiac of cats. Spread some sand for sleeping nearby. Or, if your feline companions prefer to keep you company in the garden, leave a cat-sized play area in one part of the garden. Make sure you plant or mulch the rest of the garden so your cats have no other place to roll and will stay in their designated area.

If you don't want your neighbour's cats in your garden, you will need to take more drastic measures. Try spraying the intruder with a blast from the hose or a washing up liquid bottle. Most cats will turn and run although some actually enjoy water, especially on a hot day. For these, you must try other tactics, like planting rue. The blue foliage makes this an attractive garden accent, but cats can't stand the odour and will make a wide berth around the planting. Thorny roses also deter cats. There are many other herbs that cats don’t like to be around, including lavender, geranium, absinthe, and lemon-thyme


Some gardeners use homemade remedies. Although I can't personally confirm the success of these methods, it won't hurt to try them.

Sprinkle your plants with crushed pepper. Cayenne is also said to work though you will need to reapply it after every rain. Or try ground-up grapefruit and lemon rinds. Or make a tea of rue, hot pepper liquid, or lemon juice to spray on plants.

Commercial products like predator urine and cat (and dog) repellents also are available at many garden centres, I have mixed reports of these and some people claim that they actually attract the cats. Try to get rid of unwanted cat visitors with devices that use sound and light to scare them away. These can be expensive though.

Another possibility is to lay down mats, which have soft upward facing points. It won't hurt you--or the cats--to walk on these, but most cats don't like to step on them.

If you have bird feeders near your garden, move them to a new location or hang them higher than a cat can jump. Otherwise, cats may continue to visit your garden in hopes of catching birds.


Finally, remember that cats are not daft. They can be taught. Sometimes a stern "no" is all it takes to teach a cat to stay out of the garden.

Here are some other ideas that will keep you (or the cat) out of therapy for a while. Try putting a length of hose pipe and in the flower bed. The cat stays away because it thinks the pipe is a snake. There is a plant on the market called Coleus canin, which is said to repulse cats from your patch. Cats don’t like tea leaves either; so empty your used ones onto the garden soil. Cat owners are similar to dog owners in the respect that they have to consider others when they let their animals out of the house. If you are responsible about your pet, it will not only live longer, but you will also be on better terms with your neighbours!


Alpines are great for giving us a burst of early spring colour. They sometimes go unnoticed because unless they are large clumps you need to be up close to get their full beauty. Some of the earlier varieties will have finished flowering and will be in need of a bit of a haircut. Lightly trim off dead flowers of moss phlox, saxifrage and aubrietia once they have faded. Excessive growth should also be trimmed to keep plants tidy. Rooted portions can be potted up separately and if you would like to increase your stock levels, most alpines take brilliantly from small cuttings


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