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LifestyleColumnistsJessica Damiano

When to uncover your fig tree — plus, keeping cats out of the garden

Jessica Damiano wraps a fig tree to protect

Jessica Damiano wraps a fig tree to protect it over the winter. Photo Credit: Ed Betz

DEAR JESSICA: When would you recommend uncovering my 3-year-old fig tree? It has been doing well, but we hope to yield more fruit. Are there any tips you can offer?

— Joy Grasso-Krebs,

Bayville

DEAR JOY: Uncover your fig tree on a cloudy day just after the last average frost day, which is April 15.

Figs require plenty of sunlight, so if surrounding trees are casting shade, consider trimming them back. They also appreciate moisture, which can be aided by mulch applied at the end of May. Fertilizing with a 5-10-5 product can help the plant along, just be sure to follow package dosing directions carefully.

DEAR JESSICA: Do you have any advice for keeping cats out of my garden, off my lawn and from relieving themselves on said garden and lawn?

— Carmie DeAngelis,

Brightwaters

DEAR CARMIE: Cats have an aversion to the scent of the herb rue (Ruta graveolens,) so planting it around your property, particularly where you see the most feline activity, should help deter visits. Be aware, however, that some people experience photodermatitis, a blistery rash, after touching wet leaves and exposing skin to sunlight.

Cats also aren’t fond of water, so setting a motion-sensor sprinkler in the area is sure to run them off, as well.

A few years back, I caught flak from a couple of cat-loving readers after I suggested sinking plastic forks, tines facing upward, into soil surrounding plants to protect them from cat damage. I, too, love cats, and I stand by the advice and assure it poses no harm to them, excepting freak accidents, of course.

If you are concerned, here are the reasons I offered at the time:

Animals typically paw at foreign objects or obstructions before proceeding, and if they don’t like the feel of something, they back away. It would be impossible for cats to walk on the forks — which should be sunk into the ground with their tines facing up and about half their handles visible — and unlikely for any injury to occur. In fact, it’s possible some cats might even enjoy rubbing up against the forks. Still, if it makes you uncomfortable, plastic spoons or Popsicle sticks might offer some level of protection. The goal is to provide an unpleasant obstacle, not to cause any harm.

Spring learning opportunities

The Cornell Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County will hold its 35th annual Spring Gardening School on April 22 at Longwood High School in Middle Island. The program will run from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and will include beginner to advanced sessions taught by Cornell educators and master gardeners.

Advance registration ($65) is required, and the program includes a continental breakfast, boxed lunch and snacks, plus all sessions and workshops, horticultural exhibits, soil testing and a plant clinic. A plant sale and raffle also will be held.

To register, visit ccesuffolk.org or call 631-727-7850, ext. 207.

The Nassau CCE’s Spring Adult Environmental Horticulture Education Program is underway, with one day of presentations scheduled each in April and May at the group’s East Meadow Farm:

Sessions on April 8 (Flower Garden Design Basics, Perennial Gardening and Rose Gardening Basics) and May 6 (Gardening for Busy People with Limited Space, Garden to Table Vegetables and Herb Gardening) cost $20 per presentation (or $35 for all three on either day) for walk-ins; preregistration is $15 per session (or $30 for three in one day.) Visit ccenassau.org for more class and registration details.

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