When we adopted our wonderful dog Molly just over a year and a half ago, the most common question asked was, “How will you keep her from destroying the garden?” Molly is a terrier mix, and everything we were told indicated that she might be a bit of a menace in the garden. It was winter at the time, and since my garden was still covered in snow, I had plenty of time to focus on the other dog learning I had to do (which was ample) before worrying about how to train her not to tear up the garden, trample and pee on plants, or dig up the dirt. Still, I figured I’d be posting back here that spring or summer with an update or a desperate plea for advice.
First things first: I don’t have tomato hornworms (Manduca quinquemaculata) in my own garden. What you see above is a photo that I took a few weekends ago of a Tobacco Hornworm (Manduca sexta) fatting itself up on my tomatoes. The caterpillars of these two distinct species of moth look very much alike and are easily confused. For reference, the tomato hornworm has v-shaped markings down its sides and a dark black/brown “horn” protruding out the back, while the tobacco hornworm [seen above] has diagonal strikes down its sides and a bright red “horn.”
Despite this distinction I decided to post under the name tomato hornworm because it is the most commonly known of the two.
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?