The catproofed terrace
April 9, 2013 8:07 PM   Subscribe

I am looking for ideas for adding privacy, plants, and catproofing to the rather large terrace at my new place. You can see a picture of the terrace here (with bonus cat).

Terrace facts:

- About 6 feet wide by almost 40 feet long.
- One story above street level. (Only garages are below.)
- No secret ingress or egress routes. The only way onto or off the terrace is through a patio door to the apartment. There are no adjacent objects or balconies that can be leaped to from this terrace.

Terrace goals:

- I'd like to improve privacy, at least up to the level of the top of the iron railing.
- I'd like to use plants, to maintain a respectable appearance from street level.
- I can't permanently modify the terrace or railing (this is a rental) although I can probably subtly tie planters to the railing.
- I'd like to keep this mystery solution pretty but cheap.
- Even better, the solution should cover/obscure the little "ledge" at the base of the railing, to eliminate feline temptation to try to jump up there.

I am only a novice at gardening but not a total newbie. I was thinking maybe using some ornamental grasses? I am not sure what sort of planter/container would be low profile enough to keep from taking up too much terrace space but hold enough soil to support the grasses. But that's just one idea.

I do not want to do the common "bamboo wrap" around the railing because, frankly, it looks a little low rent and this location is very visible from the street.

BTW, this is in Southern California, so looking for planting ideas that will rock on year round.

Any and all ideas welcome! I'm willing to think inside or outside the box.
posted by thebordella to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
It makes a difference if you want to cat proof the entire terrace or just part of it.

I was going to suggest netting hung from eyebolts and zip tied to the railings of the railing, but sounds like that would be too much permanent attachment. How about vinyl latticework in the 4x8 sheets? Scroll down for the bog standard cheaper version. Again, you could work something out with zip ties or wire. No matter if you plant grasses or other garden plants, you still want to give them pots that are big enough to hold moisture as well as supply room for root growth. Some grasses would be nice, but a few planters full of color would "fill" the space better than just plain green. I just sent this site to a friend who is terrace gardening for the first time.
posted by BlueHorse at 8:29 PM on April 9, 2013

We had a similar situation (at a rental) and used zip ties and chicken wire. It looked super ghetto, but then, if you get thin wire it won't be super visible from the street. If we'd been there longer we would have re-inforced with stakes and put potted vining plants all over to (eventually) hide the wire. You could do a quick-vining annual (like Sweet Peas and Runner Beans) while you wait for a perennial vine to come through.

Try "You Grow Girl" (book and website) - she knows tons about urban container gardening.
If you google "cat enclosure" or "DIY cat enclosure" you'll get some good results... they point out what works/doesn't etc. (ie Cats dislike wobbly surfaces and being upside down, so having it leaning in at a slight angle helps; and chicken wire is goog 'cause it's not sturdy enough to climb, etc...)

Cute cat.
posted by jrobin276 at 8:39 PM on April 9, 2013

If your cat will try and tear through it, get deer netting; if he'll just nose it and go "huh ok" then you can use bird netting which is lighter and cheaper. Then grow climbing plants up it! I did this at several apartments and had no complaints.
posted by The otter lady at 10:19 PM on April 9, 2013

I have a similar terrace, though mine's a bit deeper. I was going to suggest a pergola structure with green plastic-coated wire (it looks more garden-y), but yeah, as you're a renter, the pergola would be too permanent. You could do something more temporary with the same sort of wire though. You should be able to buy it in large widths (that will be your height), in long rolls at garden/DIY stores. It's not too expensive.

My terrace looks like this, you can only see larger fencing on the bottom part, which was there when I purchased the place, and a greenish shadow that's actually that lighter wire fencing above it.

There is one drawback with cats and any sort of fencing, which is "woot woot kitteh adventures!!" That pic shows a stronger wire below the edge of my patio roof; that wire actually helps support the fencing and keep it straight. Even despite Mister Adventure Cat putting all his weight onto it. You could probably do something temporary like that: delineate the area you want to enclose with thicker support wire, then fill it in with the fencing. You can buy super-long rolls of thick wire for pretty cheap too.

Plants probably won't work to keep kitty in, cats will go through them, especially if there are tempting sounds on the other side that they want to investigate. And see that yucca beneath Furry Butt in the second photo? It's flattened because he sat on it. Cats loooove playing jungle, the more plant cover the better. Your best bet is some sort of fencing. Plants do help for privacy though, and if you put up a fence with supportive wire, you could get something that climbs, like bougainvillea (bit of a slow grower though), wisteria, grapevine... those all do well in hot, sunny climates. You'd just need to be careful about pruning, since they do tend to grow where they can (neighbors).
posted by fraula at 1:25 AM on April 10, 2013

I'd get rolls of bamboo fencing. It'll give you the privacy you seek and it doesn't provide a foothold for kitty. You can do deer/rabbit wire, or mesh on the opposite side, but keep the bamboo on your side.

You can do a tiki theme out there, with fun furniture, lights, and lots and lots of plants.

You might even want to do something about the actual deck, either astroturf or some outdoor carpeting to brighten that up.

P.S. Kitty is patrolling the HELL out of your terrace!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:43 AM on April 10, 2013

Oh, missed the part about bamboo. I thought the Mahogany wrap was nice and upscale.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 5:45 AM on April 10, 2013

Looks like netting and a frame is what you need. Keep in mind that kitty will climb anything you put up, so nylon screens are not what you want. Since this is a rental, construction is problematic. A second-story ledge is not beyond our cats' notions of what a do-able jump is, but your kitty may not be so adventuresome. I'm hard-pressed to imagine a standing wall that a kitty can't climb that would be practical for this sort of balcony.

My first choice would be to bolt a wooden ledger on the wall and then construct an awning-like frame for the netting. (Any scheme that fastens the awning to the wall will do fine.) Iron pipe would be a good choice for the framing, as well as the posts. Size them to fit with the existing railings. I would place the netting on the inside of the existing iron railing and secure it along its entire length.

About planters: we found that using a layer of 1"-minus smooth gravel in the tops of planters discourages kitties from thinking that planters are a sand box.

When we bought our house we put a roof and screen setup on our 22 X 12 foot deck. We had no issues with permission, of course, but it was expensive. So, our indoor cat got a nicely screened porch to play in, and, until we came up with the gravel scheme, a bunch of planters to ruin. Nevertheless, the little bastard eventually escaped. Fortunately he was sensible about his freedom, and also, we live at the edge of town, where traffic and loose dogs are not an issue. He now has outdoor privileges at his whim, as do the several other rescue cats that live with us. I mention this because, if a cat wants out, he usually can eventually figure out a way to make this happen.

You are a good person for thinking of your kitty. I know he'll love to have the extra play area, and your seat in cat-heaven will be assured.
posted by mule98J at 11:46 AM on April 10, 2013

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