May 26, 2006

The joys of townhouse gardening

Dead arborvitaeAt least in our town, "urban densification" is the new buzzword. Urban sprawl, i.e. ever new suburbs encroaching on farmland and wilderness is out, denser neighbourhoods are in. This, of course, means a lot of apartments - not a gardener's dream - and townhouses.

For me one of the advantages of townhouse living is that it prevents me from spending my whole life tending an over-large yard. One of the disadvantages is that I am thrown in close proximity to a lot of people who have doubtful concepts of civic responsibility. Many of my neighbours are obviously of the opinion that it doesn't really hurt anything if their beloved pooch gives the local shrubs an occasional sprinkling. And if their pooch were the only one doing it, perhaps it wouldn't matter. Problem is, quite a few of them think this way.

In the summer, the dogs concentrate their efforts on the exterior of the numerous large planters set out front and no real damage is done. In the winter, my little arborvitae was an irresistible target and I didn't really realize it until the damage was clearly visible.

What to do? First of all, be thankful I bought a very small one, so I'm not out of pocket very much. I doused the poor thing regularly once I was aware of the problem, but it was too little, too late. I considered trying to talk to the neighbours in question, but I don't even know who all of them are and there is no guarantee they will take effective action. A flyer campaign? A lot of time and effort for very unlikely results. Phone the city? Yeah, as if the darling doggies are going to sit and wait for the by-law officer to turn up. (Please don't get me wrong. I truly like dogs.) I finally decided that a physical barrier was the best way to peace with the neighbours and health for my plants. So I put in a simple folding wire fence (you can see it on the right in the photo), the tallest I could find. It doesn't do anything to deter squirrels and little to slow down cats, but it keeps dogs and delivery people out.

Now I have to dig out the dead shrub and replace it, all without trampling the existing plantings. Fun...


Karen in Ottawa said...

Hi Janet,

I found your blog today very humourous, about the dogs and all, and the neighbours. I hear you sister. I solved the cat problem. I did as you suggested with the pine cones in a small garden, but couldn't fill my huge perenniel garden (full length of fence like yours) with enough pine cones, so I mulched it to death. NO CATS!!!! Yeah. I went to the Carp Farmer's Market today and bought some new babies and visited the home farm (Acorn) of one of the vendors at the market and picked up some gorgeous annuals and more herbs. So much fun. I love that place, Acorn Farms. I was so impressed. Really nice people with tons of gorgeous plants ranging from perenniels, annuals (gorgeous baskets of course), vegetables and herbs (my favourites).

Janet said...

Qualifies as black humour, eh?

I'm glad to hear that pine cones worked for you. I'm a little surprised about the mulch working as a cat deterrent though; I've seen them dig through mulch to do their thing. What kind of mulch are you using?

Anonymous said...

My dad ( passed away 17 years ago) had problems with dogs urinating on his prize regal lily. He hid a copper mesh under it and attached a low wattage battery to it. He chucked when ever he heard a dog yelping as it ran down the street after receiving a jolt in a tender spot. He never did really elaborate the mechanics of it all with me, but I can well imagine after a cousin of mine dared me to "do it" over an electric fence. Now that is strange humour!

Janet said...

If you ever figure out how your dad did it, let me know! What happened when it rained?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this post.
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