A Plant A Day Till Spring – Day 33 – Pineapple Sage

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“A Plant a Day till Spring” will highlight one plant a day, starting on the winter solstice (December 21, 2013)… And ending on the vernal equinox (March 20, 2014)… If all goes to plan I will be starting with old Snowdrop photos from 2013… And ending with new photos of Snowdrops in 2014…

The temperature right now is a cool 0 degrees… Wind chill of -20… And I have been awake since 2 AM because the cats were restless and disturbed… Immediately after waking up I could feel the “ripple” in the ambient energy around me (This may make me sound really crazy – I promise I’m only a little crazy)… Something wasn’t right… We were not alone… The cats knew it… And I knew it… I just understood it a little bit better than them… They were obviously afraid… But I find it interesting… Almost comforting to think there is more to life than just the physical…There is more to this life than just you and I…

Despite the lack of sleep… I am in a good mood today… How good of a mood you might ask… Like “Pineapple Sage” good… Anyone who knows me knows I am a fan of all things Salvia… I even love the word “Sage”… What a great name… Sage… I also like Lavender… Maybe I’ll combine them… Lavender Sage Condello… I like it…

Salvia elegans… Better known by the common name “Pineapple Sage”… Lesser known as “Tangerine Sage”… Is by far one of my favorite plants… It is one of those garden plants that I could not go a Summer without planting… I grow it right beside my front porch… When the neighborhood kids visit… I like to have scented herbs for them to play with… Gardening is meant to be hands on… And kids learn with their hands… Herbs and children just make sense…

Insignificant for most of the year… Pineapple Sage grows nothing more than foliage for 90% of the growing season… It is photosensitive… Meaning it flowers when the hours of daylight decrease to a certain point… This occurs as summer stretches into fall… This plant will double in size once it begins to flower… The end of the season stretch is what signals to me that the blossoms are not far away…

*Bright lights… Including street lights and porch lights… Can interrupt this light cycle… This can result in the plant never coming into bloom… Similarly… This plant can be forced to bloom by controlling the hours of light and dark… Not that it provides a benefit to you or the plant… But 12 hours of light and 12 hours of dark will trick it into thinking it is fall and force it to stretch and bloom…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

If you want some science – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Salvia_elegans

New To writing and never had to cite sources before… These “Plant a Day Till Spring” posts are simply intended to kill time until spring when I start writing more… My source (where applicable) is Wikipedia.org… The photography is all my own… And I am adding my own information…

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… Although this website is free… I sell prints of my photography here – www.society6.com/chriscondello – or you can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com – Although it isn’t a requirement… It helps…

Remember to tip… My Bitcoin digital wallet address is – 1JsKwa3vYgy4LZjNk4YmPEHFJNjPt2wDJj

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Practical Permaculture – Four-Legged Pests in the Urban Garden

Squirrel1

“Watching” – © chriscondello 2013 – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – How you view squirrels is often based on what you grow… I know people who love them… And I know people who call them “tree rats”… A simple solution is to get a pet… You would be surprised what a dog will keep out of your yard…

I’m doing so much gardening right now… All day… Every day… The last thing in the world I want to do right now is write about gardening… But I’m going to try… Sort of…

Now… If you have a garden of any type… You probably have a few four-legged pests… In my neck of the woods… The issues are cats, dogs, raccoons, groundhogs, squirrels and rats… Options range from fences to traps… Your preference most likely will be based on beliefs that are really none of my business… The following post is meant to look at the subject from both perspectives… This article deals with the trapping and disposal of rabies vector animals… Or… Just getting along with them… With a few tips on the domesticated relatives…

I’m going to start this post on the subject of cats and dogs. To be completely honest, there is very little you can do to domesticated animals to keep them out of your yard without raising a few eyebrows. I have actually written about cats before, you can check it out right here… All you can really do is defend your garden…

Dogs are not typically a problem unless you have a neighbor that lets theirs run free, which is typically illegal in any populated area… A simple call to the police can fix this, remember they are pretty limited in what they can do to said dog, or dog owner. Fencing will typically have to be installed in an attempt to exclude the dog, little else could legally be done without bordering on animal abuse… My best advice for dealing with a troublesome dog… Become friends with it… You would be surprised how the simple act of befriending the animal will change the way you look at its in-discretionary practices… in short… You wont mind cleaning up after the beast so much if you are friends with it… Just saying… Perspective…

Squirrels were at one time a problem for me, but the great cat population boom of 2011 has limited the squirrels in number.  We still have a few of them, but their presence is welcomed as they are really enjoyable to watch. The problem with squirrels for other people is the fact that they like to rob bird feeders, and bury nuts in gardens when they are storing them for winter. You can either trap the squirrels and relocate them… Account for the squirrels in your budget and simply feed the things… Or eliminate all food sources for a few years… If possible…

In nature… A nut-tree can only sustain so many nut eating animals… Occasionally… A tree will have a heavy bearing year… This is an evolutionary response done in attempt to allow seed germination… You see… Most years the squirrels will have no problem cleaning the nuts up under a tree or two… Because of this… Only so many squirrels will live in an area…  Because a tree aims to reproduce itself… It will compensate by dropping extra seed every once in a while… You want to do the opposite… Eliminate the original habitat by practicing meticulous cleanup for a few years… I can’t stress enough how many of these problems can be solved with regular maintenance… It’s almost laughable…

© chriscondello 2013

“Groundhog Food” – © chriscondello 2013 – Hamnett Place Community Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA – Instead of mowing the food to the ground… Let it grow… Groundhogs and bunnies love clover… The trick is to make more clover available than your garden plants…

Groundhogs are the bane of the vegetable garden, wherever food is grown, groundhogs are not far away. Groundhogs tend to be territorial creatures, this territory is based on food availability. I have seen people build fences that go a foot into the earth, and the groundhog still finds a way into the garden. Another common practice is trapping, in my experiences a new groundhog will typically move into the old groundhogs hole within a week… It’s worth a mention that while it is perfectly legal to trap and relocate pests in the state of Pennsylvania, it is illegal in other states… Not to mention ecologically unsound…

Trapped animals are very commonly relocated by the trapper, great care should be taken in the disposal of these animals. Although it may be legal, I am against the idea of rabies vector relocation. which a groundhog is. Often times these animals get relocated to the closest park, where they encroach on the native species and often end up fighting to the death over territory… I just don’t see how this is more humane than simply ending the animal’s life… On the same note… I have attempted to kill trapped animals before… And I just can’t do it… No matter how big of a problem it has been for me…

So I’m sitting in my backyard earlier this summer… Momma raccoon is on the neighbor’s roof with three babies… Momma groundhog is in the backyard eating clover with her baby… And momma squirrel is running through the trees with her babies… I’m sitting in a chair watching the future garden chaos grow before my very eyes… Did I freak out?.. Absolutely not… Why you ask… Because I know how to work with these types of animals… And the first step… Is to make your neighbors available food easier to acquire than your own…

Another option… Is to simply plant a trap crop… A trap crop is simply a plant that you grow to distract the groundhog away from the plants that you grow for your own consumption. This can be as simple as a bunch of clover, sunflowers, sweet peas, or any of the Brassica. Plant them far away from your own garden, but close to the animals home. Make it easier to get to your trap crop than your vegetable garden, this can be accomplished using a small fence or tall border.

Raccoons are one of my neighborhoods biggest problems, I have had to super glue bricks to the bottom of my garbage cans before just to stop the damn things from knocking over the cans every night. If you live in an area with animal control, they should always be your first call. You never want to mess with a raccoon unless you absolutely have to, the danger involved can be life threatening.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

“Wand Flower” – © chriscondello 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – I love wandflowers… This has nothing to do with pests… Just a nice photo…

The neighborhood raccoon problem for me does not involve my garbage cans, it presents in small holes in my lawn where he was digging for grubs and worms. I actually caught him in my backyard one morning digging up my newly planted fig tree in search of grubs, I almost shit a brick… I had been staying up until 2 in the morning trying to catch this bastard in the act… And here he was coming in the first light of morning… Anyway I chased him up into a tree… And gave him a stern poking with a piece of bamboo… I did this three mornings in a row… And he still would come the morning after the garbage was picked up… I recently read somewhere that human urine can be a deterrent… Scientific fact or cruel prank?.. I’ll let you know soon…

On another… Cleaner note… I have personally had success using coffee grounds… I read about it on the internet a while back and being a daily coffee consumer… It fit the budget… I simply throw them out in the garden and yard after I am finished with my coffee… Of the three known raccoons living in my immediate neighborhood, I have had no recent damage… I thought the grubs had just all emerged and the food source was now gone… But after some digging… I have realized the grubs are still in my soil… It must be the coffee…

As far as garbage scavenger animals are concerned, it is important to remember that the animals can proliferate because of an availability of food. If you can eliminate a large portion of that available food, the animals will have to spread out over a larger territory, and the problem will solve itself. Remember that raccoons and rats serve an important purpose in urban environments… One that not many people are willing to do themselves… Cleanup… When someone throws their McDonald’s cheeseburger on the street, a human does not clean it up… So although they can be annoying… They are a requirement of the urban eco-system…

A wild animal will almost always take the easiest path to its food… If your garden has a fence around it… But your neighbors does not… The animal will eat your neighbor’s garden… If your garbage can has a lid on it… But your neighbors does not… It will be their garbage all over the street… Awareness and planning are often the key strategy… People always want a magic trick… I’ll give you a magic trick… Put the lid on your garbage can… If your cans are old and subsequently fall over… Spend $40 and get some new cans… Preferably ones with locking lids… And skip the wheels because they always fall off when the garbage men throw them back to the sidewalk… This makes them easily topple…

Now… I am not going to sit here and claim that I don’t have problems with animals in my gardens… I have not reached some kind of “hippy nirvana” as far as garden pests are concerned… What I have done is gotten to a point where I am able to isolate the problem… And in most cases eliminate the problem… And here’s the kicker… I have done it without killing anything… Mostly with persistence… But equally important is experimentation… Believe me… Some mornings I have wanted to kill something… But often it has been as simple as placing a few bricks over the soil in my garden where the animal likes to dig…

I would also like to add that 99% of the Raccoon related problems I am consulted on could be solved almost immediately by acquiring a new garbage can with a locking lid… Likewise… A groundhog really just wants food… You can either perpetually eliminate the things… Or account for his belly in your overall plan… Remember… Entering a yard or garden is often a risky move for a garden pest… At least it should be… If there is an easier source of food somewhere else… It will almost always go for it… The trick is often to make that easy source of food somewhere other than your personal garden…

This may be my last permaculture post for a while… I am gardening 10 hours a day… Five days a week… A guy has to eat… But because of this… I really don’t want to think about gardening when I get home… Sad… But true… We will just have to see what happens…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

https://chriscondello.wordpress.com/2013/05/10/practical-permaculture-keeping-cats-out-of-the-garden/

Practical Permaculture – Keeping Cats Out Of The Garden

Jingles

“Miss Jingles” – © chriscondello 2011 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – One of my favorite kitty cats on the street… I have chased her out of my garden a million times… Then I feel bad and end up calling her over for some “purrrrrs”… I’m a sucker for kitties…

I love cats… And I have three of them… Cheech, Chase and Callie… They are our house kitties and I wouldn’t trade them for any animal in the world… I understand why people have kitty cats, and I would never want to harm a cat in any way. But, I absolutely hate when they crap in my garden… Which has become an every night occurrence in my neighborhood… As it always seems to be this time of year…

The problem seems to be the worst during the winter months when the plants are still hibernating, this is the season I find the most crap. Spring tends to be a difficult month as well because it is when I find the remains of the winters craps. Basically it will remain a problem until my plants grow over every square inch of garden space in my yard.

First off I want to stress that if you live in an urban environment, there is ALWAYS a leash law. Animals are not allowed to roam freely through the streets, they are required to be contained to the owner’s property. People seem to universally understand this law as it applies to dogs, what they don’t realize is it also universally applies to cat owners as well… As far as the law is concerned… Cats and dogs are one in the same… They need to be contained to your own property… Always…

Dicentra

“Dicentra formosa” – © chriscondello 2013 – My Garden – Wilkinsburg, PA – This was also originally a photo of cat damage… But who in the hell wants to see photos of that… Instead… Here is one from my garden…

Now, this isn’t always possible… I get it… People like cats… People rescue cats… If you have more than a few cats, it is impossible to keep them inside all of the time… But there should be a reasonable expectation that they will be inside at night… Which is when they seem to do the most damage… Alley cats are a different story… You can’t kill them… But I don’t think you should feed them either… We just kind of have to live with them… And their crap…

Last night… I lost a $30 plant because a cat decided to take a crap right where I had it planted… So please don’t tell me they do not cause damage… I have probably lost hundreds of dollars worth of plants to cats in my neighborhood over the past 4 years… But it seems to only happen at night… So I really have no idea which cat is doing it… They are like little crapping ninjas… I swear to God… I have no idea how they do it…

So how do you deal with the cats without hurting them in any way? A quick search of the internet brings up a million products claiming to be safe and non-toxic. I have tried a few of these without any results, I think alley cats senses are already so screwed up that these products have no effect. The neighborhood cats around here, probably drink nastier shit than any of these products on a daily basis… They don’t even notice them.

AbandonedQuince©

“Abandoned Quince” – © chriscondello 2013 – Whitney Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA – This was originally a photo of a steaming pile of cat crap… Shot on a cold February morning in the first rays of the winter sunlight… But it just wasn’t doing it for me… So I chose this unrelated photo of a quince bloom behind a 100-year-old abandoned Victorian home…

Some websites recommended using black pepper or cayenne pepper applications in the offending areas. I would put this on the same level as spraying a cat with MACE… I would be livid if you sprayed my kitties with MACE… Therefore… I don’t do it to other cats… Besides the possible nasty physical effects of pepper treatments, they require a new application after every rainfall… And in all honesty, are not the least bit effective. Keep your spices off the neighborhood cats and in your food where they belong… Alley cats don’t need to be tasty… The last thing I need is a dozen “Cajun flavored” cats running around the neighborhood…

Fences are not really effective either, as my backyard is fenced in with 4′ cyclone fence… And I still find fresh crap in my garden EVERY morning…The cats in my neighborhood regularly jump higher than 4′ to snag birds out of the trees. I had a bird feeder 6′ off the ground and had a cat jumping up and snagging birds out of the feeder… Essentially my bird feeder had become a cat feeder… And the occasional hawk… 

I have a few methods that have worked for me to some degree… None of them are impervious though… If a cat has to go to the bathroom… Well… No amount of chicken wire will stop it… I have recently been finding the crap right on top of the garden without any attempt to even bury it… I don’t know what to do about that one, as I have no idea which cat is doing it… All I know is it is getting really old…

If you catch cats in your garden during the daylight, squirt the fucker with your hose or chase it out of your yard. This method has a certain level of novelty and stress release, but, it really isn’t the least bit effective. Cats in my neighborhood prefer the over-night sneak attack, they know when my guard is down. They will wait till I am sound asleep, then rip plants out of the ground and piss and crap everywhere. They even like to wait till I plant something new, then go to town in the freshly worked soil.

The most effective, and immediate method I have found of keeping cats out of your garden for good is simply… Wait for it… Burying chicken wire under every square inch of your garden… It sounds ridiculous… But it kind of works… Cover your garden in chicken wire fencing before you plant, then simply plant through the holes in the fence.

ChickenWireGarlic

© chriscondello 2011 – Whitney Avenue Urban Farm – Wilkinsburg, PA – Old photo… Sorry about quality… Raised beds oddly resemble massive kitty litter boxes and will almost always attract local cats… I put chicken wire down on the beds to deter them… And it makes a very handy planting grid for garlic…

If you already have an established garden and just have problems in a few areas, spot treat with the fencing. Cats don’t like to dig through the chicken wire and will typically find some other place to crap if they encounter difficulty digging. If the cats are focussing on one specific location, put a rock or other hard scape item right on the spot where they poop… The cats typically seem to get the idea… Plants will also work for this… If you find poop… Scoop it… And plant something in the same spot… Eventually they will no longer have anywhere to poop… And you will have a full garden…

The method that I try to practice is what I call “saturation gardening”, basically I like to fill every square inch of my garden with plant life. If a cat can’t find soil in your garden, it will go somewhere else to poop. Groundcover, especially strongly scented ones work wonders in keeping cats from digging in the garden… Think creeping thyme or creeping oregano, the herbal oils alone are often enough to repel many animals.

In the end… I will just keep chasing the cats out of my garden… The chicken wire worked for a year… But the cats have just started going on top of it… My garden is actively growing and I am actively planting so the problem will soon be someone elses… Until then… I’ll just keep on scooping it up… That’s really all I can do…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

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My Home is Haunted

My cats are up hissing in the dark…
Groaning at apparently nothing…
The static that I feel in my stomach…
Tells me that it’s probably something…

Occasionally for the past three years…
I wake up at two in the morning…
The cats are the only thing to witness…
The ghostly sounds from the flooring…

Even after I wake up to investigate…
The cats refuse to stand down…
That’s when I got up out of bed…
And joined my cats on the ground…

Normally they will fight for attention…
Tonight they don’t seem to care…
Their attention is focused off in the dark…
Refusing to break their eerie stare…

As I write this I’m falling back asleep…
The knot in my stomach has gone…
The cats have started to settle back in…
A sign that nothing is wrong…

I don’t know why this makes me sick…
My stomach will usually churn…
It’s a mystery that it occurs at two…
Or why it always returns…

One of these nights im going to set up a camera, the cats are what make me think its more than a coincidence…

peace – chriscondello

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