Pets in the garden

Pets love playing in the garden

All too often pet owners will allow their property to fall into disarray because it just seems to be too much work to find ways to make the garden grow with the destructive habits of pet dogs or cats. In good weather both humans and pets appreciate being able to spend time enjoying life outdoors.  You can design your garden with room for pets and still have a lovely outdoor space perfect for you to enjoy. Yes, you do need to make a little extra effort to accommodate the needs of your animals when you design and construct your yard area. And you need to make provisions not only for the looks of your garden but for the safety of your pets. But with a little extra planning you actually can have a beautiful AND pet-friendly garden.

Keep in mind that dogs need to run. They need to get exercise. And they need to have space to play.  So design them pathways that move through heavily planted areas and carve a passage that will follow along fences where dogs are likely to want to run. Clearly, the larger and more numerous your pets are, the more space they will want to trample. If you have larger dogs and sufficient property, design your pathways to expand into open areas. These areas can be covered with gravel, lawn, paving stones or cement and can provide double-duty as a nook for informal seating, reading, play or meditation when the dogs are not romping through them. Although your dogs will occasionally trespass on your gardens, most of the foot traffic will stay to your paths and open areas. And if you fill the planted areas with dense, tough plant material the gardens should thrive and look great despite your dogs. Look for plants that grow with woody stems and opt for  varieties that grow strongest in your local microclimate.

Urine can be a problem in the pet garden. Female dogs can create brown spots in lawns whereas male dogs naturally like to urinate up against anything that rises vertically. So build in areas of gravel or decomposed granite that will not burn from urine. These areas are perfect for drainage and are easy to clean. You can also paint decorative posts and set them near places that need protection so your male dog uses them as pee posts rather than your favorite outdoor furniture or your delicate plants. Building provisions to protect parts of your garden will not only reduce maintenance, but will help avoid bad smells.

Cater to the needs of your feline friends in the garden by building areas that will be easy for cats to dig. Cats will use loose soil or sand as a cat box. By making a specific area alluring to your cats you will entice them away from areas of the garden where you don’t want them going. If you want to build a sand box for your children, either fence it off from your cat or use recycled shredded tires for fill instead of sand. Then you can build a sand box specifically for your cat’s use.  Flat areas where you don’t want your cat digging can be protected with a surface layer of hardware cloth or chicken wire. Wire protection will also help avoid the damage so often done by the digging of tree squirrels. Offer your cats large, artistically placed tree branches for sharpening claws and build high fences to encourage them to stay on your property. Plant them some catnip (Nepeta) to help them enjoy your garden space. Both catnip and catmint are loved by cats. These Nepeta plants grow exceptionally well in full sun and do not require a lot of water. They add a refreshing, minty scent to the garden and even bloom with decorative purple flower spikes.

Consider building a raised garden for delicate plants and vegetables. These planters can be designed to be very decorative. You can even have a fountain so long as you position it where it will not only create a handsome focal point, but will remain safe from your pets (especially if you choose to use non-potable additives to discourage breeding mosquitoes in the water). Provide outdoor pet beds in comfortable areas to dissuade your pets from using your favorite furniture. And do some research to avoid using poisonous plants or mulches like cocoa mulch that is toxic if eaten by dogs. Design your garden so it offers shade and water in the summer heat and cozy protection for cold or wet winter weather. Make sure you do NOT leave pet food outdoors where it will attract raccoons, vermin and other pests. And factor in all the attractive areas you want for yourself in your landscape. If necessary, fence off areas you want to keep free of pets.

Use these tips for garden design with room for pets. So long as you plan out your landscape carefully, you can make your pets happy and safe in your garden while creating a lovely space for you, your family and your friends to enjoy.