Sunday, October 17, 2010

Cleaning Up the Vegetable Garden

Well I finally got down to business after seeing this yesterday.

It was time to put the vegetable garden to bed for the winter.  I had already begun cleaning out the beds but the hard frost we had two days ago killed off what little was left.  So in I went, with hoe in hand, removing the frozen tomatoes, the blackened marigolds and zinnias.  Despite the frost I did manage to find a few goodies and we enjoyed our final fresh salad of the season last night for dinner.  Made from a few small leaves of lettuce, a beet, onions that had been buried and the last of the cherry tomatoes.  Oh I miss summer already.

When I put these raised beds together in the spring all but one had the grass dug out from beneath them.  As I pulled the remaining plants out of the beds I was surprised to find how deep the zinnias and tomatoes had dug themselves in.  Their roots extended wide and deep, penetrating into the forked soil below the range of the raised boxes.  Obviously removing the grass and digging into the soil below the boxes was the right thing to do as the plants took full advantage of the extra space.  It also allowed insects and worms to travel through to the boxes from below.  I found numerous worms making themselves at home as well as a violent ground beetle.

There is however one box that did not have the sod removed.  I layered newspaper over the grass instead and placed the box on top and filled it with dirt.  I thought now might be a good time to go in and remove that grass.  This box, oddly, is the one our feral cat Priscilla has chosen as her litterbox.  As soon as the plants were removed she moved in and has made herself at home.  Priscilla was found, just recently, to have a case of tapeworms.  Yup, that's gross and seriously unsanitary.  So I decided to kill two birds with one stone.  I removed all of the dirt from the box and used it to fill up a flower bed that we are building.

We've been removing grass out of this area for the last month to expand the bed and it needed to be topped up with soil.  As there won't be any edibles grown here I don't mind placing the contaminated soil in this spot.  Once the soil was removed from the box I was able to scrape back the newspaper and assess what work needed to be done to the grass below.  Good news!  There isn't any grass.

Running my fork through the newspaper I found that the grass had been composted and all that was left were some roots.  All that is necessary is to turn the soil and loosen it up.  Then I can fill the box with soil again.  I'm leaving that job until spring though.  In the meantime, I covered up all of the boxes with layers of straw (and when I ran out of straw I used cardboard).  The straw will keep the soil warm, and keep the weeds and cats out.

In case you're wondering, there are a few plants still sticking out.  One of these is the perennial chives and the others are carrots.  Since we had such as seriously large haul of carrots I thought I might attempt overwintering a few.  The thought of fresh carrots in the spring has me attempting this trick.  I'll report back to let you know how this works out.

Also, Priscilla is now receiving worm medication.  I found a nice veterinarian who sold me some tablets which you can put in the cat's food.  All of our feline friends have now been treated.  Even so I'm still working on keeping the cats out of my beds.  The biggest problem seems to be there is nowhere on this property that isn't covered in grass.  Cats like to dig and hide their mess.  The texture of wood mulch and dirt are highly attractive to them as they can easily paw through it.  I'm wondering if it would be completely insane to dig an area that would be just for cats to use.  Ya, okay it would.  Chances are, being cats, they would turn their noses up and dig in my garden beds anyway.


  1. Hi Marguerite, This is my first visit to your blog . . . I read your comment over at Bernies about leaf blowers and thought I had to visit. I totally agree. I think your idea about making a kitty waste place is a good one. They will do it in the fireplace if you do not. Assuming you have a fireplace. Neat how you have all your veggie beds all covered for the winter. We have not had a hard frost yet, but last night must have been pretty chilly for many of the leaves fell overnight and in todays wind. Looking forward to exploring your world. ;>)

  2. I think making an outside kitty waste box is a great idea. Make one of your raised beds and fill it with sand. Cats love sand because they are basically lazy when it comes to digging skills.

    My cat is angry with me and today she peed on my towel that I had place beside the bathtub while I was bathiong. Maybe she needs an outside cat box too, and maybe she needs to go outside.

  3. Hi Carol, welcome! You're right, if you don't give cats a place to do their business they will simply make a place for themselves. Maybe creating a bed for them isn't so crazy after all.

    Cheri - oh I'm sorry for you. I've had a number of cat litter issues and it's always soooo frustrating. The reasons varying from moving house to new cats to urinary crystals. Guessing the problem is the hardest part. or maybe it's stopping myself from strangling the cat? Might I suggest either Nature's Miracle or Anti Icky Poo. (yes I know my cleansers)

  4. Hi Marguerite, Glad to know the newspaper worked so well. I wonder how it would do if I put it over a patch of weedy flowers that keep coming back? :)

    My cats also like to "do their business" in my bark mulched garden. (grrr) We have a long space along the side of the house that is fenced in that we use for storage. Great minds think alike as I was considering digging out some earth there and putting in some sand and then covering it with mulch so that they have their own summer "latrine". I live in hope! :)

  5. Worked for us. When we were renting for a year before we moved into this new house. We made a raised bed, just 2 rows of loose bricks. Filled it with shredded garden waste. Worked like a dream. Two cats were totally cooperative.

  6. That's great that you are leaving carrots in the ground for next year Marguerite. I suppose your ground doesn't freeze during the winter nor do you get any snow that's why you have to cover it?

  7. Ms.S - The newspaper was great but we also had about 6 inches of dirt piled on top of it so that was definitely a contributing factor. I've read about people piling cardboard, newspaper and compost over grass to make beds and now I can see how this would work well. Building an outdoor cat box doesn't seem so far fetched now after all! who would have guessed.

    Diana - That's great to know! I'm definitely considering making a cat box now.

    Melanie - LOL, quite the opposite. Ground will be well frozen and snow will be 4 feet deep if we have a regular winter here (zone 5). I covered the boxes to help prevent weeds from taking hold and keep the cats out(they don't like the texture of straw). I've also heard it helps keep the soil warmer so you can start gardening that much sooner in the spring.