It’s spring! Time to start prepping the yard and planting your garden. But if you have a dog or cat, have you thought about the dangers that may exist in your own backyard? Before you dig up that soil, consider creating a pet-friendly garden that both you and your pet can enjoy without any danger to them or your landscaping creations. Here are some tips to help you create a pet-friendly garden at home.
Create balance to reduce havoc. There should be a mix of grass, plants and paths in your garden. Not only is it pleasing to the eye, it allows your pets to be pets without being destructive. Have grassy areas for them to expend energy so they won’t trample your plants, and install stone paths for them to walk on instead of trailing through soil.
Protect your hard work. Prevent your pet from damaging precious plants by placing them in containers or raised beds when possible. Choosing window boxes, hanging baskets, and trellises to showcase plants and flowers allows less chance of disaster. Plant items close together to prevent pets from trampling the area (they are more likely to walk around tightly-knit plants than through them). Consider incorporating natural animal-repelling plants such as citronella or scented geranium for extra protection.
Be choosy about landscaping material. Don’t use anything thorny or spiny in your garden landscaping to avoid eye injuries. Digestive tracts can go haywire if rocks, wooden or rubber mulch are ingested. If you have a dog, avoid cocoa mulch since it contains the same toxicities as chocolate.
Designate a play space. Try to establish boundaries in the garden, and designate an area where digging is allowed and toys can be played with (if you have children, make sure they play with your pets only in that space).
Define a “relief” area. Consider using a fence around vegetables you may be growing for your own consumption to shield against pet “business.” Cats, especially, tend to treat a garden as a litter box. They prefer dry areas to relieve themselves, so you can alleviate this problem by making sure your soil is moist. You can create an outside litter area or create a spot away from the rest of the garden with cat-friendly grasses and catnip – kind of like their own little oasis!
It’s ok to be shady. If your pets are going to be in the garden for long periods of time, make sure there are shaded areas where they can cool down and relax from the hot sun. Have a source of fresh water they can drink while they are there, too.
Use a fence for safety and privacy. Dogs will try to fit between fence gaps or try to jump over the top. They may use patio furniture or garden statues to help them climb higher. As a result, you may need a small fence or possibly a high privacy wall depending on the size of your dog. Be sure to avoid large gaps between the fence and the ground, which could make for an easy escape by simply digging. To avoid drowning, fence in pools and ponds for pets that may not be able to escape should they fall in.
Avoid chemicals as much as possible. Pesticides and herbicides are the most common type of poisoning in pets. A few common culprits are ant and roach traps, mouse bait and snail and slug bait. If you have to use fertilizer, wait at least 24 hours after administering before allowing your pets back in the yard (and make sure they are stored out of reach).
Popular plants/vegetables that are harmful to pets:
- Autumn Crocus
- Cocoa Hulls
- Tomato Plant Leaves
Popular plants and shrubs that are safe for pets:
- Bachelor Buttons
- Burning Bush
- Crape Myrtle
- Creeping Thyme
- Elfin Thyme
- Honeysuckle Fuchsia
- Irish Moss
- Labrador Violet
- Miniature Stonecrop
- Pampas Grass
- Red-Twig Dogwood
- Rex Begonias
- Smoke Tree
- Snow in Summer
- Sweet Woodruff
Check the ASPCA website for potential toxicity of plants and veggies in your garden.
Creating an aesthetically pleasing, pet-friendly garden is possible when you use the right ingredients. If you’re not sure about a particular plant or object you’d like to add to your garden, consult a local garden professional who may be able to recommend safe alternatives.