Gardening is fun. Furthermore, gardens are pretty. Some gardens also produce fruits and vegetables. Not very long ago, production of fruits and vegetables was more of a priority for more gardens. Some big gardens generated firewood and a bit of forage for livestock. Contemporary abundances allowed gardening to become more aesthetic than utilitarian.
Such abundance may not seem so apparent while so many of society could benefit from a bit more. People work more than ever to earn resources to purchase produce that they can not grow in their gardens while working so much. It has become more feasible to do so. Landscape maintenance is just another expense that many would prefer to eliminate.
Nonetheless, some popular features within modern home gardens evolved from formerly utilitarian features. Many such utilitarian features were common within the infrastructures of home gardens prior to the development of any modern technology that replaced them. Some were popular only because such technology was either expensive or uncommon.
Shade trees are among the most traditional and perhaps more recognizably utilitarian of landscape features. Although, even they have evolved. With modern air conditioning and insulation, their shade is less important than their aesthetic appeal. Window screens and rain gutters are also modern technologies that made particular garden features obsolete.
Window boxes, which are now mere ornamental features, were originally popularized for aromatic vegetation, to repel insects from windows. Rosemary, nasturtium, ivy geranium and petunia had always been some of the more popular repellent plants for this purpose. They do not obscure much sunlight as they cascade delightfully outward and downward.
Foundation plantings, which now merely soften the perpendicularity of vertical walls and horizontal garden spaces, were also utilitarian features. Compact and resilient shrubbery or perennials inhibited erosion caused by rain falling from eaves above. They obstructed splattering mud from below also. Indian hawthorn and lily of the Nile were quite effective. They could survive through summer without much irrigation, but then survive excessive moisture through winter.
Snails and slugs really enjoy all the new seedlings and fresh foliage that is growing in the garden while the soil is still damp from earlier rain, and the weather is getting warmer. They are neither too smart nor too fast, but they are very hungry, and do their damage at night when no one is watching. They hide before the sun comes up.
The same lush foliage that they eat is also where they often live. However, they also live among lily-of-the-Nile and some ferns that they do not damage very much, as if they think that no one will look for them there. They also hide under any sort of debris and in valve boxes. Removing such debris and unwanted weed foliage diminishes their habitat.
Pieces of damp cardboard intentionally left out in cool and damp spots in the garden overnight can attract snails and slugs as they seek shelter in the morning, and then be flipped over during the day to collect and dispose of the surprised snails beneath. It is sneaky, but effective. People who happen to be up late can hunt for snails while they are out and about. Otherwise, hunting for hiding snails and slugs by daylight takes a bit more diligence.
Saucers or plastic lids containing puddles of beer is supposed to keep snails and slugs out drinking until they get roasted when the sun comes up. The problem is that the beer gets washed away whenever the garden gets watered. Besides, it does not really kill very many victims. Salt around the most susceptible plants likewise gets washed away, and can be toxic to the plants that it is supposed to protect. Keeping water in drainage saucers below potted plants is a problem for drainage, and allows mosquitoes to proliferate.
Copper tape that can be purchased from nurseries or hardware stores is an effective barrier for snails and slugs, but only if the susceptible plants are completely surrounded, and only if leaves or stems that extend over the copper do not touch anything outside. Copper tape can be self adhesive or stapled to wooden planters. Bare copper wire is just as effective. If wrapped around tree trunks, copper tape or wire should have some slack to allow for growth. An extra bit of self adhesive copper tape pressed against itself to form a tab that it can be pulled apart as needed should work well. Copper wire only needs a small loop of extra wire.
If this looks familiar, it is because it is the second big camellia to be killed here in the same manner in not much more than two months. The damage is not fresh, likely because the gopher that caused it started chewing on the roots as soon as the other camellia was removed. The other camellia succumbed about two months after a similarly damaged cherry tree was removed.
We are now concerned for a remaining third camellia in the same spot, as well as others in the vicinity. There is also concern that the gopher may take interest in something else, such as the birches. We would typically find and destroy any gopher that causes such problems. The difficulty here is that the area is thoroughly covered with a dense layer of Algerian and English ivies.
All evidence of gopher excavation is obscured. Even if we could locate such excavation, it would be very difficult to cut through the thicket of ivy without collapsing the tunnels that we would need to put the traps into. It would be excellent to get rid of the ivy as well as the gopher, but that would be a major project for another time. As voracious as gophers are, they don’t eat ivy!
For now, we can only watch the adjacent camellia and other camellias in the vicinity for distress. Of course, by the time a problem is noticed, it will likely be too late to do much about it. We could only apply blood meal, and hope that it works as a repellent. These camellias get blood meal as fertilizer anyway, so would only need more applied off schedule and around the trunks.
The remains of the deceased camellia were removed from the site, and respectfully interred into the green waste recycle bin.
Anyone who has ever owned a cat knows that no one owns a cat. They do whatever they want to do, whenever and however they want to do it. They take orders from no one. If they decide to use a dry spot in the garden as their litterbox, or a tree trunk as their scratching post, it is impossible to dissuade them. They are so smug and arrogant. It is no wonder that so many dogs dislike them.
Cats live in our homes and gardens because we are not as sensible as so many dogs are. We succumb to their charm and devious mind control techniques because they really can be adorable when they want to be. Fortunately, most of us would agree that this sort of symbiosis is mutually beneficial. An occasional delivery of a dead rodent proves that some cats actually work for a living.
As pompous as cats are, they are surprisingly tactful about their poop. Cats that are confined to a home leave it in their litterboxes, and even bury it with kitty litter that absorbs the objectionable aroma. From there, it can be collected and disposed of by human servants. In the garden, cats seem to put considerable effort in burying it out of the way, where it is less likely to offend anyone.
However, what is out of the way to a cat might not be so conveniently situated for others. The most refined and regularly watered gardens might not leave many options for cats, who prefer dusty and dry spots. There is not much to deter cats; so the best option may be to plant and occasionally water something in problematic spots, in conjunction with providing a litterbox somewhere else.
Sneaky cats sometimes use flat or parapet roofs where there is plenty of dry gravel and perhaps other dry detritus. For most single story roofs, it is nearly impossible to obstruct access; but in rare situations, it might be as simple as pruning trees and shrubbery back farther than cats will jump. Obstruction of access to the dusty dry soil of basements and crawlspaces is easier since it usually involves relatively simple repair of vent screens, access hatches or windows.