Pet-Proof Your Garden

Gutter cover
How can you create a garden that’s both pet-friendly and pet-proof? 

It’s time to teach your old garden some new tricks. Whether you’re getting your first puppy or you have an older dog or cat that likes to roam, you need to make sure that your yard is safe for your pets. Here’s how to pet-proof your garden so that it delights both you and your pets.

Secure Your Yard 

Your garden needs to be fundamentally safe for dogs and cats. What safety looks like really depends on where you live. If you live in an urban home next to a road, you’ll need to think about vehicle traffic. If you live in a rural area, wild animals may be more of a concern. How can you help keep your animals safe? 

  • Add fences to keep your animals in, so that they don’t get hurt by cars.
  • Add fences to keep other animals out. These could include very high fences or electric fences. However, you will need to teach your animals to avoid the electric fence.  
  • If you live in a very urban area where it’s unsafe for your cat to roam, create a cat-friendly area such as a deck or patio (catio) that’s enclosed so that your cat can get the feel of the garden without the danger. 
  • If your cat or dog sits or roams outside and pet-snatching is a concern, allow them to roam in an area that you can see easily from your window and an area that’s not as visible from main roads.

How Does Your Garden Grow? 

The way you construct your garden will help determine your dogs’ and cats’ behavior in the garden. How can you use landscape design to create a garden that works for your pets? 

  • Create gardens with defined borders and beds, or plant raised beds.
  • Train your dog not to cross garden borders. 
  • Plant densely and plant larger plants at first, so that your cats and dogs will not be able to enter the garden beds easily. 
  • Protect the garden beds that you use regularly. Put chicken wire over recently-planted beds to keep the cats out. Cats do not like to dig through the wire. 
  • Lure cats and dogs away from your garden beds by making other areas more attractive. For example, cats love an area planted with catmint and cat grass. Dogs like to roll on valerian roots. Train your pets to use specific areas and avoid others by making some areas of your garden attractive to them.

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Make sure that your garden plants are safe for cats and dogs.

Avoid Dangerous Plants 

Some plants that you grow regularly may actually be poisonous to your pets. If you want your pets to roam freely in your garden, consider avoiding these plants as they can cause everything from mouth irritation to death, depending on the plant. This is not an exhaustive list: with each new plant you plan to add, it’s important to take a look at its toxicity levels before you buy.  

Pet owners should avoid: 

  • Autumn crocus 
  • Azalea 
  • Baby’s breath
  • Begonia 
  • Castor bean 
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Cyclamen
  • Daffodil
  • Dahlia 
  • Daisy 
  • Delphinium
  • Gladiola 
  • Hosta 
  • Ivy 
  • Lilies 
  • Marigold
  • Milkweed 
  • Morning glory 
  • Oleander
  • Papaver Poppy  
  • Pothos 
  • Sago palm 
  • Tomato 
  • Tulip
  • Wisteria  
  • Yew

There are hundreds of plants that are at least moderately toxic to cats and dogs. Take a look at the ASPCA‘s website to find a more thorough list where you can check your latest potential purchase from the garden store. Pet owners should also avoid planting thorny and spiny plants that can hurt a pet’s skin, fur, and mouth. Watch your garden for wild mushrooms, since these vary from innocuous to severely poisonous. 

If you love to grow a wide variety of plants and some of them are poisonous to cats and dogs, you can also try the following techniques: 

  • Train dogs to avoid garden beds 
  • Add a motion-activated spray system to send cats and dogs away from certain garden beds
  • Plant Coleus canina, an annual that has a scent that scares away dogs and cats 

Mind Your Chemicals 

You want your plants to thrive, but what about your animals? Fertilizers such as manure, seaweed, and compost are safe for plants, although they can be a little smelly. However, other fertilizers such as cocoa, bone and blood meal, and fish meal can actually be dangerous to pets. 

If you’re using chemical fertilizers or pesticides, be wary of allowing your pets outdoors after you’ve applied these products. They could roll in them, lick them, or even eat chunks of fertilizer that did not get moved into the soil. Use natural, nontoxic alternatives such as: 

  • Use netting over vegetable crops to help you avoid pest infestations 
  • Removing slugs and snails from the garden by hand, and adding traps such as rotting wood or cans where you can easily collect slugs and snails
  • Use pesticides based on soap, oil, or essential oils. Ask to make sure that they are pet-friendly before you buy.
  • Encouraging healthy predator populations by providing bushes where birds can land and hide from cats
  • Adding compost and other natural fertilizers to help plants become more vigorous and resist pests 
  • Adding plants such as native plants that don’t require many fertilizers or pesticides, since they’re well-adapted to the local climate 

Manage Mud and Mess

Mud may not be extremely dangerous to your pets, but it can lead to a mess. If your pets spend a lot of time outdoors, it’s best to have ground or path covers that keep your pets’ paws and fur clean and dry. What can you do to manage the mess and mud in your garden? 

  • Use gutter covers to prevent gutters from clogging and running into your garden
  • Add French drains to your garden to encourage drainage 
  • Install a wetland garden to use muddy areas to your advantage 
  • Add smooth paving stones to provide an easy running track for dogs or walking area for people and cats 
  • Use gravel on pathways to dry off paws 
  • Add cedar chips to provide a pathway with bonus flea protection 

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Avoid the Sting

Wasp nests aren’t just annoying to people, they’re also hazardous to your pets. Keep wasps away this summer and fall by: 

  • Maintaining clean gutters by adding gutter covers, since wasps like to nest in clogged gutters 
  • Reduce wasp food sources. Keep your barbecue area clean.
  • Close your compost or add a layer of leaves on top of an open compost bin.
  • Clean up old, rotting fruit from fruit trees 
  • Watch sheltered spaces for signs of wasp activity and remove nests before they become large.

Add Pet Play and Protection 

Your garden is safe for cats and dogs. Now, make it a delight. How can you develop a garden that isn’t just safe but is an enjoyable space for cats and dogs to play? 

  • Add catmint to attract cats to certain places in the garden
  • Give dogs a digging area such as a sand pit with toys 
  • Provide resting and shelter areas, such as dog houses and cat beds and perches 
  • Create areas where cats and dogs can scratch and mark, such as wooden posts 
  • Design your garden with hiding places that are under cover from wind, rain, and heat. 
  • Add tough plants at the edges of garden beds so that your gardens can handle some dog roughhousing

At Harry Helmet, we’re dedicated to your home. Your home is not just made up of windows, roof, and siding, it includes the people and pets that you love. Keep your family home and garden safe and strong: install a gutter cover system like Gutter Helmet by Harry Helmet. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.

Written by Del Thebaud

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