Question: I'm in Pennsylvania, but my question is universal. I love cats, but I've got them scratching up my soil and digging up plants. What can I do?
Answer: Cats love soft, freshly tilled, loose soil to lie on and use as a litter box. The key to deterring felines from digging in your garden is to create an environment they don't like. In freshly seeded areas, try placing chicken wire over the tops of the beds until the plants get established. In between perennial plants, try placing thorny branches of brambles or roses on the ground. Cats hate walking on sharp objects and will avoid roaming in that area.
You can also try homemade and commercial repellents, such as hot pepper spray and animal urine, to ward off your cats. You'll have to reapply the sprays periodically as plants grow and especially after rains.
Question: Each year my cucumber and squash leaves get a white film on the foliage. The leaves eventually yellow and die and I don't get many fruits. What's wrong?
Answer: It sounds like your vegetables are being infected by powdery mildew. This fungal disease thrives during periods of warm weather with cool nights. Unlike many diseases, powdery mildew doesn't need moisture to spread. Favorable conditions for powdery mildew include dense plant growth and low light intensity, so be sure to space plants far enough apart so the leaves aren't shading each other and good air flow can circulate between the plants. Look for disease resistant varieties, such as 'Diva'.
If you already have powdery mildew on the leaves, you can try a homemade baking soda spray (1 tablespoon baking soda mixed with 1 gallon of water), a commercial spray based on potassium bicarbonate (such as GreenCure), or one containing Bacillus subtilis (such as Serenade) to prevent its spread. In fall remove and discard all diseased foliage.