If you have "no place to go," come here!

Thank you, lambert, for the peat moss! I think.

funny pictures of cats with captions

While lambert is spending his Memorial Day weekend planting his garden, I thought I'd brag on my here-in-Florida-where-you-plant-at-Easter garden a bit (hence the cute little bunny rabbit).

You might also have surmised, from the caption, that my first garden this year did not survive. You would be correct.

First Garden

I decided to try the raised bed thingy. I had some materials lying around that could be made into beds, and the back yard is fenced with a picket fence that could double as a trellis, all I needed was some dirt, easy-peasy, right?

So there I was, standing in the big box garden shop, buying dirt - or rather, trying to decide among the 57849 kinds of dirt you can buy in the big box garden shop. Fortunately we have cell phones for this.

me: (walking up and down the aisles of dirt) Dad, when we used to plant gardens as kids, your dirt recipe was 1/3 cow manure, 1/3 topsoil, and 1/3 ... what? I can't remember.

dad: (after a pause) I can't remember either.

It was at this juncture that I turned the corner into the next aisle and saw:

Far be it from me to ignore omens from out of the blue, and besides, not only did I vaguely remember peat moss being involved all those years ago, my dad thought it sounded right too. So home I went with many bags of cow manure, peat moss, and topsoil.

I planted tomatoes, yellow squash, zucchini, cantaloupe and watermelon. Yum! And nasturtiums, because they're supposedly edible too. I watered it faithfully, little green shoots sprouted, and along came the torrential rains and mashed it all to little green piles of mush. Yay.

The good news is that at least it wasn't eaten by cute little bunny rabbits.

Also, the soil texture in my new raised beds didn't seem quite right, and also, by this time I was beginning to feel a bit more ambitious.

Second Garden

A previous resident had put in a garden bed, larger than my little raised beds, that was direly overgrown with weeds wildflowers, mostly the ones with teeth, which is a large part of why I had ignored it the first time around.

So I dug it all up, tree roots and cobra vines and all, tilled in some of the remaining cow manure (and none of the remaining peat moss), buried a soaker hose a couple of inches below the surface, and planted my second batch of seeds. To protect the seedlings from marauding cats, rats, mice (maybe not the mice), squirrels, possums and birds (and thunderstorms!), I constructed cages from all those basically-useless wire storage cube thingies I had lying around, planning to drape a couple of tarps over the whole thing if torrential rains threatened again.

I also decided to try the Three Sisters method of planting (and according to wikipedia, I didn't do it right). Still, I have lots of green shoots that are on track to outgrow their cages shortly.

The garden:

Closer view:

Close up, from above:

Close up, from the side:

What much of the rest of the back yard looks like (and also pretty much what the present garden bed looked like, pre-digging):

But at least I have pollinator attractors in all that wilderness:

Given that I didn't follow instructions on this second planting, and given that we're having a bit of a heat wave here, I fully expect that there will be a Third Garden, and maybe even a Fourth, but until then, since I started this post with a cute little bunny rabbit, here's another one:

 Call Me Buttercup!

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Submitted by hipparchia on

they were going to substitute for the bookshelves i didn't have at the time, but the cats kept dismantling everything, so i eventually got real bookshelves.

NWLuna's picture
Submitted by NWLuna on

Or you want a cat to hang out in your barn and do rodent patrol?

If the former, put out small amounts of tasty food in the same spot for a few days. Gradually spend more time nearby, closer and closer. Or gradually move the food dish closer to your deck or back yard. one of your local cat rescue orgs and ask them!

Submitted by lambert on

... and it seemed to be occupying a niche occupied by last year's woodchuck.

And I did leave a dish of milk there.

However, there's a lot of traffic there, so maybe someplace farther away would be better.

Any suggestions on "tasty"?

Submitted by hipparchia on

but the mesh cubes aren't really all that sturdy. i bought them because i was looking for a portable and lightweight alternative to shelving.

not sure what your question is - are there stray or feral cats in your area and you want one (or more) to come live in your barn, but without necessarily turning it into a pet? put out a reliable source of clean, fresh food and water where you want the cat to hang out. maybe even a shelter (or just a cat door into your barn).

that's what i did - i just put out food and water for the local ferals, the way that other people put out bird feeders. i wasn't planning to actually adopt any of them, but one of the neighbors started putting out traps and poison, so i rescued the family that was hanging out around my front porch.

if there aren't already any cats in your area, consider adopting an outdoor pet that somebody is giving up, or contact your local animal shelter.

lesson to be learned, for any outdoor or indoor/outdoor pet, male or female - get it fixed!!!

some resources on feral cats (there's often just a fine line between "feral cat" and "barn cat"):

i got some good general information from a group in my area

the humane society has information, as well as a map for finding local groups in your state

alleycat allies is a good source of information, as is urban cat league has plan for building winter shelters for feral cats

NWLuna's picture
Submitted by NWLuna on

or the same effect as, can be nearly achieved by just not stepping on the footage you designate as planting beds. Raised is a bit better if you have excessively soggy soil. But if the problem is more one of the soil drying out too fast, raised beds will dry faster than level beds.

Peat moss is the very devil to get damp again after it dries out. But that's from my experience with potted plants. Don't know what % it has to be in the garden to make that a problem.

Submitted by hipparchia on

and as far down as you can dig too, where i live, so something with moisture-holding properties was the idea. i thought peat moss would fill the bill, but i've decided to rely on the soaker hose plus a lot of mulch for this experiment.

Submitted by Lex on

When i built my raised beds, i started by turning/tilling in large quantities of peat into the sand that the beds were to be built on. Then i built and filled. I did use some peat mixed into the bed soil, but didn't need much because of the soil i filled with.

The problem with turning quality soil into sand or building on top of it is that after a few years the good soil tends to disappear into the sand. Peat binds the sand, slows drainage, etc.

It is awful to get wet the first time. If i'm using as part of a soil mix, i like to add peat and soil to a wheel barrow or on a tarp, mix them and then spread. It helps, but you'll still notice some hydrophobic qualities until you get the peat well wetted once.

Submitted by hipparchia on

yeah, i noticed it floating to the top of the water puddles in both garden attempts (there was already some peat in the thin layer of topsoil that i added to the second bed). a lot.

i'm already plotting my third garden attempt, whether or not the second one bears fruit [or vegetables, as the case may be]. my plan was to lay down another soaker hose along the fence and just pile hills of (storebought) topsoil on top and planting more vining things (my neighbors have offered to turn any extra cucumbers i grow into pickles, for one thing). i'll try turning the remaining peat moss into the sand below first.

Submitted by Lex on

Overly dry potting soil (mostly peat) does an amazing trick. You water from the top, it forms puddles on the top of the soil, then runs straight through the pot, drips out the bottom and manages not to actually wet the soil!

Your next plot is as good a plan as any and very little effort. Your hills might run off in heavy rains, but that's a very good way to plant vining vegetables anyhow.

Interesting that the one thing a rabid animal needs is something the disease makes it afraid of. Allahu akbar and all that.

Submitted by hipparchia on

that's always been one of my dad's favorite sayings, and i've always taken it to heart. glad to learn that it might actually work!

and yes, i've had several houseplants like that. fortunately the destructocats have usually found a way to fix that for me.

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Submitted by NWLuna on

At least you won't have drainage problems! Soaker hoses and several inches of mulch should really help. Look forward to updates as summer comes along.

Submitted by hipparchia on

besides all the sand, the lot slopes rather drastically too. i plan to leave a lot of the "wilderness" growth in place because of that.

Submitted by lambert on

I don't have a sandy slope; I have a clay-ey river bluff. So totally from the armchair, water is going to move down that slope and therefore swales could be cut along the contour to capture it.

Here are some threads on these issues; I don't proffer them as solutions, but simply examples of people learning to see; "you can learn a lot by watching." In particular, where the plants are already happy.

Also, since you are, after all, in the tropics, it might make sense to think about some perennials now; if I had thought about trees five years ago, I would have some now. Shade, roots, moisture... Maybe nut or fruit trees (which are, after all, edible...)

Also, hugel culture seems trendy and might work for you:

Submitted by hipparchia on

is where i'd have to pull/dig them up. and the very happiest plants are the cobra vines and dewberries, ie THORNS. i take occasional swipes at them with various garden implements to more or less keep them at bay, but mostly we just have an armed truce.

also, although i'd like to stay here for quite some time, i'm only renting. permanent major landscape alterations are mostly out of the question.

shade, i has it. lots of humongous old oak trees. i'm considering maybe having a couple of patio trees in largish containers though.

Submitted by hipparchia on

but pots are more expensive than plain old piles of dirt. :)

Submitted by lambert on

... though I haven't tried it yet, is to drill holes in the bottom of biggish PVC pipes, and then shove the holed ends into the ground. Fill them with water, and the water feeds out gradually into the soil through the holes.

I've thought of this (a) because I've got some PVC pipe and (b) because I really just hate soaker hoses (the feel of them and the way they behave).

Submitted by hipparchia on

one of my neighbors tells me a former resident had actually installed a garden with an irrigation system somewhere here on the property. we walked around trying to find some indication/remains of it, at which point i decided i liked soaker hoses after all.

if it turns out that i have to put in stakes or a trellis for the squash and beans, i may try incorporating the pvc pipe waterer idea into that.

Submitted by hipparchia on

there's a bamboo farm around here somewhere, i could probably have bamboo pipes this summer.