Those of you who have been following this blog for a while will know that I have an on-again, off-again relationship with an outgoing, middle-aged, silvery-gray haired cat named Sir Marley, who belongs to one of my neighbors. What I admire most about him is his taste, as he clearly prefers my garden to anyone else's in the area. What I admire least about him—well, we'll get to that in a minute. When he is sitting in a shady corner of the garden with his feet curled under him, blinking contentedly and purring quietly to himself, I am quite fond of him. Then there's the rest of the time.
Sir Marley and two other neighborhood toms are currently trying to decide just whose territory my garden is, and "mine" does not seem to be one of the options. That is, they may let me think of it as "mine" in quotes, but my thinking has nothing to do with their reality. True, watching Sir Marley sit outside the gate, guarding it against all comers, while one of the other cats slips in over a wall, has its entertaining side. But when I am working in the garden and the scent of tomcat (so nicely enhanced by all that warm sunshine) overpowers the much more pleasant scent of sand cherry blossoms...we stop being amused. Transplanting young seedlings into freshly turned earth with your bare hands only to discover that it's not all earth has its downside as well.
Kindly hold that thought for a moment—well, maybe not that particular thought, but the general idea of bothersome catness—while I blather for a minute about mulch. At long last, I finally managed to pick up 120 pounds of pecan shell mulch from one of my favorite independent garden centers. (Three cheers once more for helpful young men, and for my Dad, who just gave me a nifty hand truck!) Mulch, of course, is a fine thing, especially in a dry climate. It suppresses weeds, shelters helpful decomposers, and adds organic matter to the soil; it cools the earth and keeps it moist; and it keeps the dirt from blowing away altogether, at least until the mulch has blown away first.
|Pecan shell mulch, with bonus woolly speedwell|
Now, to all those virtues, add the fact that it seems to be prickly enough underfoot that cats dislike it. I would never have thought of mulch as an offensive weapon, but it seems appropriate somehow—in keeping with the spirit of organic gardening, where everything seems to multitask, and where the best offense is a passive, even indirect defense. Problems with aphids? Plant flat-blossomed flowers to attract lady beetles and lacewings. Cabbage moth larvae? Put out a shallow dish of water to draw predatory wasps. Cats? Well, obviously, put down some mulch.
I can't decide whether it's more like Quakerism or chess, which is a little disconcerting.
We'll see how well the mulch works over the long run as a cat deterrent. This is only round (what are we up to now, three?) three. Hopefully, Sir Marley will do more contented blinking and purring from the bench and less of the other from here on.
Otherwise, round four may be a dog...
|Pecan shell mulch, with ironic catmint|