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How to Have a Great Garden and Happy Pets?
I love working in my garden when my cat Fluff sits and watches me. I’m sure she likes the fact that I do all the work and she does none. She is my supervisor, she makes sure I do my job well. I’m lucky, she didn’t do much damage. I can’t think of anything she really preciously destroyed. But this is not always the case, as some of the gardens I have worked in have been constantly destroyed by the owners’ pets. This can be very frustrating and also very expensive as the plants are constantly changing. In large gardens the destruction can be hidden, but in small gardens you have nowhere to hide the damage. Choosing the right pet is also important because working dogs get bored easily and can become very destructive. Pets, especially dogs, need somewhere to dig, roll and bury bones. Cats also need a place where they can go to the toilet, sleep under plants and lie in the sun if they feel like it.
If you are trying to design a good garden, you need to think about the type and size of the pet you have and their needs. It is very unfair to have a dog in a small yard, which is completely paved and where there is no place for it to lie down or dig. You need to designate an area that is a “pet area” and if you have special beds, you may want to consider fencing off those beds. It doesn’t have to look awful, in fact, if you choose wisely, you might not even notice the fence. I tended a garden where two beautiful golden retrievers lived and I used green chicken wire to keep them out of the flower beds. After a while I didn’t even notice it because the plants grew through it and it blended in.
It is a good idea to draw a plan, even a rough one (not to scale), on which you will work out the different rooms in your garden. There can be an entertainment area, a lawn, a garden and a place for pets. This is the time to decide whether you will have a separate area for pets or share the entire garden with your furry friend. The best time to design a pet area is at the beginning, when you are designing the entire garden. But even inside a landscaped garden, you can install a path for pets. If you decide to run, it’s important to observe where the north/south/east/west is and work out the warm sunny places and the cold windy places. You must provide them with a comfortable space with protection from extreme weather conditions. There must be some kind of shelter like a house with an opening facing away from the prevailing wind, so that they can escape from the cold and rain. You also need to think about sun and shade, especially in the summer and have somewhere cool to go to escape the hot summer sun. There should also be an area within the home where dogs can be dogs without getting into trouble for damaging your plants. Wherever you place your pet’s enclosure, be careful not to accidentally make it the focal point of the garden.
The position of the housing is the most important aspect. If it faces north or northwest, make sure there is some sort of shade such as a mature tree or shade so your pet can escape the hot summer sun. Dogs especially like to dig holes in the ground to escape the heat, so don’t pave the entire area. Planting a lawn is also a good idea as dogs like to roll around and this will also help keep them and their space cooler. Initially, you may need to wire an area of lawn to establish it. Grasses such as buffalo, kikuyu and buffalo are very tough and can take much more punishment than finer grasses such as fescue or rye.
To build a fenced area, you can use materials such as a fence made of tea trees or bushes or a high-quality lattice. You must make sure that the fence is securely attached to the ground, as in wild weather it can fly off or fall and your pet/s can escape. If you decide to fence garden beds, there are several wire products available. Green coated chicken wire works perfectly. Another more aesthetically pleasing option that is more suitable for smaller animals such as rabbits is wire fencing. It is an interconnected system with a series of heights, the highest of which is ½ meter.
Once you’ve set up your pet’s play area, the next step is to consider plants. Many common garden plants are poisonous to animals and the internet is a good place to look for information. For example, one very common species is oleander (Nerium oleander). Every part of this plant is poisonous, from leaves, flowers to branches. The rest are azaleas (Rhododendron spp.), ivy (Hedera spp.), the indoor plant peace lily (Spathiphyllum walliasi) and bulbs such as hyacinths (Hyacinthus spp.) and daffodils (Naicissus spp.). Remember, many animals like to chew on sticks, so don’t put poisonous plants in their enclosure.
If you decide not to build a house and want to share the entire garden with your pet, but still want a nice garden, here are some tips:
- Do not plant sensitive annuals
- Don’t plant small 3 inch tubes, buy at least 6 inch pots, preferably 8 inches.
- The plants will be bigger and will survive better if they are rejected
- If your dog/cat keeps destroying one area, gracefully give in and let them have that space
- Place annuals and bulbs in containers
- Teach your friend to stay away from the bed and go to the bathroom in one area
- Training your dog is the best way to control damage in your garden
- Plant prickly or prickly plants – one experience with thorns will teach them to stay away
- Tame boredom – animals, especially dogs, are intelligent and need to be kept busy
- Responsible ownership includes providing your pet with mental stimulation
- Splashing water on your dog or cat is a gentle way to teach them, NOT THERE
In my experience cats don’t seem to do that much damage in the garden, although there is always an exception to the rule. The only damage my cat Fluff has done is chewing on some of my ornamental grasses. So, I gave her her own pot of kangaroo grass (Themeda australis) to chew on. She likes to climb up, sit down (now you can see the indentation where her bottom used to be) and eat grass.
Lawns take a big hit (mainly from dogs) from digging to brown spots, which can look very unsightly. Digging is a natural instinct, but it can often be an indicator of boredom, so you need to organize activities that entertain Rover, such as more frequent walks or rubber toys filled with food. Trying to throw food out will keep Rover entertained for hours. Brown spots on the lawn are an indication that the urine is too acidic (usually in female dogs). There are several things you can do. One is to change your dog’s food and buy a less acidic product or buy Dog Rocks® and put them in a bowl of water that neutralizes the pH of dog urine.
You can live in harmony with your pets and share your garden with them. With careful planning, you can design a pet-friendly and damage-resistant garden. It is important to place your ‘pet room’ in the best possible position and choose plants that are safe. As a professional gardener, I think there is nothing better than sharing your garden with your cat Fluff and having a fantastic looking garden.
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