Spring is finally here! With the long cold winter behind us, many of us are itching to welcome the warmer weather by getting out and doing some gardening. However, the last thing that we want to do is to create a yard that is impractical, or even unsafe, for our pets. Here are some pet-friendly gardening tips that can help to ensure that our gardens are safe and enjoyable for the whole family.
Tragically, all too many pets become sick or even die as the result of ingesting common household substances that are toxic to them, and many of these potentially deadly poisons can be found in the garden.
- Poisonous Plants. While we may love to take the time to stop and smell the roses, many of our dogs and cats do not stop at sniffing. If we make the mistake of assuming that our pets somehow know which plants they shouldn’t eat, it could lead to disastrous consequences. It’s important to know what we’re putting in our garden and stick to plants that are not toxic to animals.
- Cocoa Mulch. The color and aroma of this mulch make it very appealing to many gardeners. However, it is also irresistible to many dogs. Cocoa mulch is made from cocoa shells and is toxic to dogs. Ingested in large quantities it can be fatal. Other types of mulch may also contain chemicals that are harmful, so it’s important to check labels. Pet-friendly mulches include shredded pine, cedar, or hemlock bark. You may also want to consider using stone or gravel – as long as your pets don’t think those are tasty, as well!
- Pesticides and Insecticides. Many of these products are just as poisonous to our pets as they are to the pests that they are designed to eliminate. Safety-conscious pet parents will want to avoid using any toxic chemicals in areas that are accessible to pets. Thankfully, though, this doesn’t mean that we need to surrender our gardens to the bugs. Depending on your specific type of pest, there are many natural, non-toxic alternatives.
- Fertilizers. Like pesticides and insecticides, many commercial fertilizers also contain chemicals that are dangerous for our pets. A safer option would be to use organic, pet-friendly fertilizers or compost. A word of caution though: many of these fertilizers may contain ingredients that, while not toxic, are still quite appetizing to dogs. It may still be necessary to keep pets away from freshly fertilized gardens until the product has dissolved.
Beyond Garden Safety
None of us want to experience the frustration of spending an entire weekend planting the perfect garden only to find that our curious canines or kitties have uprooted a good portion of our work a short time later. Let’s be honest – dogs will be dogs and cats will be cats (and isn’t that why we love them?) Pet-friendly gardening takes into consideration more than just our pets’ safety. We also want to create a space that allows them to behave naturally (without wreaking havoc on our landscaping efforts). Here are some things to consider:
- Keep them out of the garden. Some people prefer to simply fence off certain areas to make them inaccessible to pets. (Making sure, of course that any fencing does not pose a risk of entanglement.) Another option is to use natural, non-toxic substances as doggy deterrents. Possible options are dried mustard, red pepper flakes, coffee grounds, or bitter orange.
- Make your dog a path. Many dogs love to skirt fence lines or the area along foundation of the house. Leaving a perimeter wide enough for them to patrol comfortably may prevent them from trampling your plants. Some pet parents have also found that creating a doggie path through the garden is helpful.
- Consider raised bed gardening. Sometimes raising a garden bed up a foot or so is all that’s needed to discourage pets from charging through.
- Provide a designated spot for digging. Dogs love to dig, so it’s understandable if they can’t resist the nice soft soil of a freshly planted garden. As an alternative to having all of your roses or tomatoes uprooted, provide a spot where digging is encouraged. You may have to get the ball rolling by allowing your dog to watch while you bury a tempting treat and then encouraging him to go uncover it. Eventually he should catch on.
- Prevent lawn burn. As much as we love our dogs, we don’t love what they do to our grass. For most dog owners, brown patches scattered around the lawn are a fact of life. You could control this by confining your dog to a specific area of the yard. Or you could try Dog Rocks, a natural, pet friendly product that makes dog urine grass-friendly by neutralizing the nitrates it contains.
When it comes to gardening you can have it all – a beautiful yard and happy, healthy pets. Pet-friendly gardening may take a little extra research and effort, but your pets, and your plants, will thank you for it.