It is spring time! Time to play outside and time to start gardening! With a few precautions, gardening can be fun and safe to share with your dogs. Here are a few tips to help you prepare for the gardening season. Add your tips in the comments below. Happy spring and happy gardening!
Make sure the plants you are planting – including the leaves – are non-toxic. Vegetables toxic to dogs include garlic, onions and chives. Grapes are toxic as are tomato plant leaves. Check the ASPCA website for potential toxicity of the plants (including ornamental plants) that you have in your garden or would like to plant.
Use fertilizers and pesticides as sparingly as possible, if at all. Even “pet friendly” or “non-toxic” products can cause problems, most notably gastrointestinal upset. The more natural and organic your garden, the safer it will be for your pet.
Do not use metal lawn edging anywhere in your yard. The protective plastic covering will come off, and your dog will run across the exposed edging. You will be mourning the amount of seed packets you could have bought for the amount that the laceration repair cost, and your dog will be mourning the two weeks of playing in the muddy garden he will miss because he has a big stupid bandage on his foot that he has to keep clean and dry.
Be careful when choosing landscaping material. Some dogs will ingest rocks, wooden mulch or rubber mulch, any of which can become stuck in their digestive tract. Do not use cocoa mulch in the yard as it contains theobromine, the toxic element also present in chocolate.
Make sure rain barrels have tight-fitting lids, for the safety of pets who may explore them, and also to prevent the creation of a mosquito breeding ground. Mosquitoes will proliferate in any standing water, so also rid the garden of tires, still ponds—even half full watering cans. Every dog should be on a monthly heartworm preventative medicine, but if the yard is not mosquito-friendly, your pet (and you!) will be bitten much less often.
Keep the compost pile as inaccessible as possible, and try not to put anything in it that would tempt the dogs to eat from it, such as meat or eggs. Any plant-based or paper material can generally be composted. Do not add any dog waste to the compost pile. Since you get your pet routinely tested and prophylactically treated for intestinal parasites (right?), there is a minimal risk, but still a concern, as many parasites are transmissible to other pets and people. Keep it clean, people.
We have many of our plants in containers at least a foot off the ground. That seems to be high enough that the dogs understand not to run through them. Boxes can always be built higher if need be. Most of our garden design is based on the book Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.
Above all else but safety, make sure your garden is as fun for your dogs as it is for you! Our dogs have their own playhouse with a dirt floor which has seemed to keep them from digging in the actual garden. We are careful to keep Joy the Puppy’s “running track” as wide as she needs it to be to have fun. Noodle the Poodle is not so much a runner as a marker, and with ninety six square foot garden box corners to pee on throughout the yard, he is AS HAPPY with the garden as Joy is.