Pet-Friendly Gardens and Plants

Think that your garden is a paradise for your pet? Think again. Did you know that poisonous plants, ponds or pools, and pesticides are just a few of the dangers lurking within the confines of your seemingly safe garden area? If you’re an animal lover and the proud owner of a dog or cat, chances are they’re allowed to venture freely around you home and surrounding lawn. If you’re also a fellow gardener, chances are you have a beautiful garden somewhere on your property. So if you are a loyal pet owner that just happens to love gardening, consider implementing a pet-friendly garden. This will allow your pet to enjoy being outdoors without the worry of possible dangers to them or your garden.

Pets have certain needs, as well as their own ideas, regarding their territory within the yard; and unfortunately, these things are oftentimes overlooked. Most of us, at least those who have children, do our best to keep our gardens safe for kids, but we unknowingly forget about our pets. In fact, there is probably more information floating around that tells how to keep them out of the garden rather than how to create a pet-friendly garden environment. Designing and planting a pet-friendly garden based on your pet’s needs is an important factor to consider, especially if your pet is permitted to run free throughout the property. It is usually not too difficult to teach your dog to stay within certain boundaries. As dogs are more prone to digging for purposes of play, designate an area of the yard to accommodate this, especially for puppies. Keep all toys within this area and encourage children to play with them only within these boundaries. If your pet is particularly unruly, raised beds and/or fencing may be needed. About the only major problem associated with cats in the garden is their desire to use it as a litter box. This, too, can be fixed by keeping the soil in your pet-friendly garden moist. Cats prefer dry areas. Typically, the driest areas of the garden are close to the foundation of your home as concrete often takes moisture from the soil. Keeping this site moist with a layer of plastic and mulch should help alleviate any littering problems. Cats might appreciate a designated place for them as well. Create this spot away from the rest of the pet-friendly garden with plantings of their favorite grasses and catnip for chewing. You could also opt to create an outside litter area nearby as well.

Include various paths within your pet-friendly garden. For instance, if there are areas of the lawn that have been worn down by your pet from frequent traveling, you can incorporate paving elements or some form of mulch along this area, tying it in with the rest of the pet-friendly garden. Avoid bare areas within the garden; this will only invite your playful pets to dig. Choose pet-friendly plants that are not easily damaged by the wear and tear associated with pets. Groundcovers like creeping thyme, sweet woodruff, and periwinkle work well. Grasses are also tough-growing plants, and there are numerous ornamental types available, none of which pose any threats to pets if ingested. Cats are generally less apt to eat plants, other than grasses. They seem to be more choosy in what they will or will not put in their mouths, unlike dogs. Dogs are curious by nature and are much more likely to chew on nearly anything.

There are many popular garden plants that are quite harmful, even deadly, to pets. In fact, commonly grown plants such as foxglove, lily-of-the-valley, yew, oleander, and kalanchoe contain cardio-toxins and can cause heart failure if ingested by pets. Other common garden plants, such as rhubarb and daylilies, are particularly dangerous to cats as they can lead to kidney failure. The autumn crocus can cause multiple reactions in both dogs and cats, including renal failure and liver damage. Even plantings of rhododendrons or azaleas can prove harmful to pets as they contain toxins causing gastrointestinal problems. Other potential hazards to your pets include mushrooms and cocoa hulls. You should avoid placing any of these within your pet-friendly garden.

There are, however, many pet-friendly plants to choose from that are considered quite safe for placing into a pet-friendly garden. These include marigold, snapdragon, pampas grass, bamboo, cornflower, crape myrtle, and many others. Check the Animal Poison Control Center for a more detailed list. When you are choosing plants for a pet-friendly garden, you should try to avoid conifers, like pine or cedar, especially if your pet is a dog. These can quickly turn brown if urinated on. An alternative to this would be tough evergreens, such as magnolia.

One of the best ways to prevent your pet from damaging delicate plants in your pet-friendly garden is to place them in containers or raised beds. The use of hanging baskets, window boxes, and trellises may also be helpful in a pet-friendly garden. These can provide the pet-friendly garden with additional interest without the worry of becoming uprooted by pets. Implementing a few prickly plants into the pet-friendly garden around your most prized flowers may also help. Most pets do not appreciate the smell of vinegar or moth balls. These can be incorporated within the pet-friendly garden to act as a deterrent in specific areas you do not wish your pet to go. Orange peelings work well with cats; they do not like the smell of citrus. You can also incorporate natural animal-repelling plants such as citronella or scented geranium. For other, more pet-friendly areas of the garden, keep plantings close together. This helps prevent plants from being trampled on since pets would rather go around than through these plantings. It may be a wise choice to put attractive fencing around areas of the pet-friendly garden that will be eaten by you and others, such as vegetable and herb gardens. You wouldn’t want to take a chance of having the family pet relieve itself there. Alternatively, you can grow these in containers as well.

Ponds and pools are another threat within gardens. Curious pets might fall in and if unable to get out, will drown. Try to avoid these features or at least add fencing around them if possible. Pesticides and herbicides are the most common type of poisoning in pets. The most dangerous types of pesticides include snail and slug bait, ant and roach traps, and mouse bait. Slug pellets are especially dangerous to cats since they find them to be quite tasty and will ingest the pellets if run across. If you have a problem with slugs or snails, use an alternative approach instead such as beer traps. If at all possible, try to avoid using any type of chemicals in the garden, especially the pet-friendly garden.

If you have pets and love to garden, implementing a pet-friendly environment is a good alternative to maintaining the best of both worlds.

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