A catio for our cats

We have been talking about getting a catio for our furry girls pretty much since they came into our lives, and they’re five now so it’s been an epic conversation! I’ve never had house cats before, in fact I never considered it, but when we moved into our house, our previous cat, Willow, was hit and killed on the road, so we made the decision (controversial to some) to keep our girls as house cats. They were tiny kittens when we adopted them so they’ve never known the outside world. I wouldn’t keep a cat inside that was used to going out.

Over the last few months we’ve been home with the girls a lot more and have had more time to consider and research the catio. There are a number of companies who sell ready made catios, but boy are they expensive! We started looking at them and then did some research on YouTube and decided that we’d be able to build our own at a vastly reduced financial outlay, so I got planning.

The catio is essentially a wooden frame with cat safe wire mesh attached to make it secure, but it was actually harder than I anticipated to design it. The basic shape was easy enough, but then I had to consider exactly where the screws should go to avoid drilling into another screw where three lengths of wood needed to be joined, and I had to bear in mind the width of the mesh and where we would need additional struts to allow us to attach it. Even with all my meticulous, pencil-chewing planning, we still had to tweak the design as we went along, but we got there.

I think we ended up with three trips to B&Q for supplies.

It’s a good job I’ve got quite a long car because we needed eight 2.4 metre lengths of wood in order to make the catio big enough to clear our back door.

Our first attempt went a bit wrong – I’m still not entirely sure how it happened, but I think it must’ve been something to do with the conversion from inches which we measured in, to centimetres which we cut in! We won’t dwell on that!

Newly measured, and double, triple and quadruple checked, we got going again – luckily we were able to reuse most of the bits of wood that we’d cut so we didn’t waste much, and this time the frame fit over the door and window. We decided not to include a door because this would’ve made the design more complicated and expensive, and we have another door into the back garden so it’s not necessary.

So far, so good!

The timber we used was only thirty eight millimetres wide so the frame was quite flimsy whilst we were still assembling it so we had to be really careful as we moved it around.

Soon we got to the stage where we could staple some of the mesh onto the frame so it became more stable.

We chose the mesh carefully because the cats may decide to climb it which could hurt their little paws. This mesh is plastic coated and is sold as animal proof. We made sure that all the edges are secured and/or tucked away so curious paws can’t find them.

I picked up a few hanging pots to go on the outside of the catio, as well as some quirky additions to prettify the whole thing and I moved some of my existing posts to make a feature of it. We picked up some cheap fake grass for the bottom to soften the look. We’re really pleased with how it turned out.

I picked the plants up from Webbs last weekend. I needed plants that wouldn’t get too big for the four around the sides, and two that will trail for the top corners. Obviously they all had to be cat safe too, just in case!

I’ve wanted an ornamental kale for ages and this was the perfect opportunity.

The cats were a bit hesitant about the whole affair to start off with …

… but they’re getting more and more used to it now. Tink even scratched the door to ask to go out there yesterday.

Next job then, it would seem, is to get a cat flap so they can let themselves out there whenever they fancy. It’s nice to know they can get outside in a safe and secure way to get some air and some sunshine.

Six on Saturday 9th May

Well, I’ve had a lovely day! Probably the best lockdown day so far. We had a day in the garden yesterday clearing away loads of weeds, and it inspired me, so this morning I decided to take the plunge and go to stand in the queue at Homebase. Actually I stood in two! I queued for about half an hour to get in, and I have to say, the queue was very well managed and I was never within six feet of anyone else. Then I had to wait to be let back outside to the garden section! Again, very well managed. Well done Homebase. I decided to make the wait worth it, and I spent rather a lot of money, but, let’s face it, I’m not spending on anything else other than food so I think the bank manager will forgive me. I spent the rest of the day alternating between planting my new stuff, sitting in the sun and playing swingball.

Number One – Garden Hardware

I got the two terracotta pots from Homebase today. I decided a while ago that I’d like lots more pots around the garden. I know they take more work in terms of watering and maintenance, but I love the look of lots of pots. The plastic beige and grey pots I found in Poundland a couple of weeks ago (where social distancing is not adhered to effectively because of the limited width of the aisles, so I won’t be going back there for some time!) I think I’ll plant the pots with pansies and petunias that I bought today. I’ve put them in the greenhouse for now because, after the glorious weather today, apparently it’s going to be 10° tomorrow! The trellises and sunflower stakes came in a delivery today from Blooming Direct. I’ve put the stakes in place ready for the Sunflowers in the greenhouse once they get big enough to plant out.

I have twenty seven Sunflowers seedlings so I’m not sure where they’re all going to go! I guess they won’t all make it, but even so, I think I should’ve ordered more than five stakes!

Number Two – Sale Table Finds (oh sale table how I’ve missed thee!)

On my way back from Homebase I called into Halls, our local garden centre, because, although they’re only operating on a click and collect or delivery basis, I did notice that they had a half price table set up outside. I picked up a couple of great plants.

A white Camellia which I’ve planted in our bistro …

… and this beautiful Rhododendron.

Gorgeous! I couldn’t resist.

Number Three – Lupin

This was the only blue/purple Lupin amongst a field of pink, so I snapped it up. Such a striking plant. I had a Lupin before from a sale table, but it didn’t make it so I hope this one is more successful.

Number Four – Chrysanthemums

I bought these today as well, and I’ve put them in the pot that the Lupin came out of and another that I found in the dim dark recesses of the garage! Wonderful splashes of colour.

Number Five – Dicentra Bleeding Heart

Finally! It’s flowered!

I’m hoping it has a growth spurt this Summer because it’s still quite small. This was from a sale table, so I guess it didn’t have the best start in life but it seems to be reasonably happy now. I’ve seen some fabulous Dicentras on Instagram that dwarf my little plant, but I love it and its little rows of hearts just the same.

Number Six – Self Seeded Oxalis, or is it?

I thought this was Oxalis that had self seeded from a plant I bought from Castle Bromwich Hall Gardens a couple of years ago, but now I’m not so sure!

Whatever it is, I’m very happy that it decided to grow in our garden because it’s very pretty indeed. Surely a weed is only a weed if you don’t want it? I’ve learnt to be a lot less precious about weeding in our garden. It’s somewhat rustic in nature which means it’s never going to be perfectly manicured so I’m embracing the imperfection and I’ve left seedlings that in previous years I’ve whipped out before they’ve had chance to develop and it’s resulting in some delightful flowers, and it means less weeding for me – win/win!

I hope you’ve enjoyed a little insight into our little garden haven. I can’t tell you how much we’ve appreciated our outdoor space over the past weeks. If you’d like to have a sneak peak into other bloggers’ gardens, nip on over to the Propagator’s page.

End of week two of lockdown ….

…. and I think I have lost the plot! Yesterday I went out in the back garden and combed the grass!

Ok it’s not quite as loony tunes as it sounds! I didn’t comb the lawn (although it probably is currently long enough to style a Mohican!) No, I combed my grasses, which isn’t quite as odd, I think!

I have quite a penchant for grasses, in fact, I’ve just ordered three Imperata Red Baron (Blood Grass) from Blooming Direct when I went on there looking for Begonias (I did order the Begonias too) and after the dormant Winter, they just need a bit of a comb through to get the dead fronds out ready for them to regenerate and get beautifully willowy through the Summer. The green grasses above are my 50p Stipas and the pink one in the middle is a Cordyline.

The weather was so lovely yesterday, hence the social distancing breach in many parts of the country. I don’t understand why people don’t see that the more they flout the rules, the tougher and more restrictive the rules will get and the longer this awful period will go on! I drove hubby to and from work (he’s a key worker) and we were quite shocked by the number of people out and about on our local high street. In relatively close proximity, there’s a Tesco Express, Sainsbury’s Local and Nisa, a greengrocer, butcher and hardware store, two newsagents and a cafe that’s still doing takeaway so people were out shopping. Stay in people!

Anyway, I came straight home after dropping hubby and took advantage of the weather in a safe way and busied myself in the garden for the first time this year. I tidied up the greenhouse which, joy of joys, was over 23°, and I sowed my first seeds of 2020.

I sowed two different kinds of Sunflower, Teddy Bear which, as the name suggests has a round, fluffy flower, and Autumn Beauty which is tall with flowers in orangy Autumnal shades. These were a Christmas present.

I also sowed some Dutch Sweetpeas. These were a present given to my Dad at the Christening of my second cousin (or first cousin once removed or however it works! My cousin’s daughter). He doesn’t have a garden so gave them to me to grow on. Luckily the instructions were in English as well as Dutch!

The Sweetpeas are in the propagator, the Teddy Bears are in the green bamboo pots and the Autumn Beauty are in the black pots. I don’t have any labels so I’ve made a note on my phone.

After this I cleared a patch behind the greenhouse which gets a good amount of sunshine, and I exploded a seedbom which was also a Christmas present.

Fingers crossed we get some pretty bee-friendly blooms later in the year.

Next up, I prepared my raised bed and sowed my first veg seeds of the year. Lovely Petit Pois! I did two rows last year and got a decent crop, but this year I’ve sowed four rows so I’m hoping for double the harvest because I really do love Petit Pois. Through the Winter, whilst there’s been nothing growing in the bed, the local cats have been making use of it, so in an attempt to save my newly sowed seeds, I’ve improvised a cover.

I’ll have to sort out something more permanent sharpish to get in place when the seeds start to sprout. I’ll give it some thought because I don’t want a repeat of last year when a poor hedgehog got caught up in some stray netting (hedgehog was fine).

I came across a bag of Gladiolus bulbs in the greenhouse that I’d forgotten I was given free at Gardeners’ World Live last year. The bulbs didn’t look too healthy.

I planted them anyway – you never know. If they survive the squirrels we might get some Gladioli.

Back to Begonia! I went to empty last year’s Begonias from my hanging basket into the compost bin, but when I cleared the debris from the top, I discovered new growth on every single Begonia in there!

I’ve excitedly hung it back up and am now keeping everything crossed for another beautiful display in the Summer. If not, I have twenty four jumbo plug plants on the way in beautiful yellows and peaches. I’m planning to put some of these in my wheelbarrow planter and I also plan to add lots more pots to our garden (when I can get out to buy some!) so any surplus can decorate these.

After a bit of weeding and general tidying, I decided to call it a day and come in. We couldn’t have our usual Saturday night Chinese takeaway because they’re shut, so we had a yummy pizza and garlic bread from the freezer for tea and a couple of glasses of Sauvignon Blanc may have been consumed (for relaxation purposes, you understand), and I decorated our living room window.

Some of you may have seen the article in the press about putting teddy bears in your window to help cheer passing children, and I’m sure everyone (in the UK at least) will know of the growing movement to display a rainbow in your window in solidarity with NHS workers and other key workers who are working hard to keep us all going. I have the odd teddy bear living around and about our house, so I’ve relocated a couple to our living room window and I crocheted a rainbow to hang above them.

It’s hard to get a decent photo from outside because of the reflection so I’ve added a view from inside too. If it cheers one child, or child at heart, then it will be a job well done.

Back to work tomorrow (in the back bedroom), but only for four days this week. Let’s hope the weather’s kind for the four day weekend so I get some more work done in the garden.