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Question: I’d like to grow some root vegetables and greens in my raised beds, but there are a lot of neighborhood cats that hang out in my yard, and I’ve found evidence of them using my beds as litter boxes. So I only grow veggies that don’t lie on or touch the soil. I’d like to grow other veggies and not worry about cat poop. Can I make these beds safe for root veggies or greens? — Lisa Febe
Caitlin Wilson: It sounds like you’re aware that cat feces can carry some pretty unpleasant parasites and bacteria. The infection risk is low, but you should always wear gloves when you work in the garden. Root vegetables won’t be harmed by the cats or their excrement, but they’ll need to be thoroughly scrubbed after harvest (preferably before they go into the kitchen, too).
For deterring cats, covering the soil or making it hard for them to dig in may work. Landscape cloth, chicken wire, or super-coarse mulch may be enough; cover crops will probably just make the garden more interesting to explore (and offer hiding space for prey). Cats also don’t like strongly acidic scents, so citrus peels scattered around or sprayed, or diluted vinegar might deter them from spending too much time in the garden. Some people re-use plastic forks by sticking them tine-side-up in the garden to deter cats from turning their garden beds into litter boxes.
Caitlin is the Senior Managing Editor for Heirloom Gardener.
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