I have been reading a lot lately about “pet-friendly” gardens, and I will admit that there are some obvious precautions and design criteria to take into account if your cat or dog (or whatever) is going to be enjoying the yard. Let’s get those out of the way before the sarcasm begins.
Here are the real no-brainers:
- don’t spray toxic chemicals where your pet will be roaming
- use inorganic mulches so your pet won’t be tempted to chew on bark, or, heaven forbid, cocoa bean hulls, which are toxic to dogs and cats
- design a garden that is less formal, so it won’t look horrible if someone decides to do some “recreational digging”
- make sure your pool or water feature is designed so that an animal that falls in has a way to climb out
Rather than obsess over massing plantings to discourage animals from entering the beds, and creating doggie and kitty pathways, special digging/playing areas and places for them to “do their business,” I think that creating harmonious relationships between pets and gardens depends on three basic things:
- In the case of dogs, the dog’s breed and behavioral traits. Digger? Chewer? High-energy player? Design accordingly.
- Is your dog relaxed and well-behaved, or out of control? You might need a fence or two.
- What kind of garden do you want? You might have to give up your dream of Versailles.
My dog is calm (lucky me!) and well-trained (I trained her) and when she goes out in the garden, she just sits or lies there, sniffing the air, eating the occasional blade of grass, and surveying her domain.
I realize that you might still want to learn more about pet-friendly gardening, and naturally, there is a book on that very subject. You can find it here.
Just remember, if you don’t want cats in your flower bed, don’t plant nepeta.