How to Grow a Pet-Friendly Garden
From what to plant to designing a safe and useful space, here’s how to have a successful, fun food garden everyone can enjoy.
What to Plant
When planning a pet-friendly garden, go organic. Your pets get the same benefits as you by eating organic, too. Castor & Pollux® America’s #1 organic pet food says, “Many pet parents are looking for reassurance that what they are feeding their pets is 100 percent safe and seek third-party certifications like the USDA Organic seal on their pet food. That’s what makes a healthy diet full of organic ingredients so desirable for dogs and cats -- there's no chemical pesticides or synthetic fertilizers, the ingredients are free of antibiotics and added growth hormones, and organic is always non-GMO.”
Here are some pet-friendly, organic foods you can grow in your garden.
Organic Green Peas. The fiber in peas is great for your pet’s digestion. Green peas are cold-hardy plants, and seeds can survive in the soil despite frost and below freezing temperatures. Three weeks after blossoming, peas are ready to harvest. Cut pods off the vine instead of pulling them, and harvest daily as you see pods are ready.
Organic Carrots. They’re a good source of beta-carotene and Vitamin A. Carrots are a favorite with home gardeners. They can be planted in winter, spring, and summer, and they’re ready to harvest in two months.
Organic Spinach. Give your pet vitamins, minerals, Omega-3s, antioxidants, and more. Like carrots, you can plant spinach for most of the year, but it grows best in cooler climates. Six to eight weeks after planting, you can start cutting the larger, outside leaves while the inner leaves continue to grow.
Organic Sweet Potatoes. Pets benefit from the fiber, protein, Vitamin C, iron, and more that sweet potatoes provide. They can grow in any soil, but they thrive in organic, nitrogen-rich, warm beds. Instead of seeds, plant the sprouts (called “slips”) that grow from existing sweet potatoes. In 3 to 5 months, you can gently dig them up.
Organic Blueberries. This superfood is packed with antioxidants. Blueberries will grow anywhere, just make sure you get the variety that grows best in your climate. It may take a year or two for your plant to get established, but the blueberries you’ll eventually harvest will be worth it.
Grow It Safe: Non-Toxic Weed and Pest Control
There is a lot you can do to control unwanted guests in your garden. Here are some ideas that are cheaper and safer than commercial pesticides.
Fight bugs with bugs. Get to know the good guys – insects that prey on the harmful ones – and how to attract them to your garden. For example, plant daisies to attract ladybugs, which eat aphids and mites.
Prevent pests by uprooting infected plants, removing weeds, starting with healthy soil, keeping leaves dry, using a seaweed mulch or spray, rotating crops every year, and cleaning your garden tools regularly.
Try a homemade, non-toxic solution. For aphids and mites, mix 1 Tb canola oil, 2-3 drops of liquid Ivory soap, and a quart of water in a spray bottle. Shake well and spray your plants. The oil suffocates the bugs. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is a natural solution for slugs, snails, or any insect with an exoskeleton. Its microscopic shards puncture the bug’s body and kills it in a physical, not chemical, way. Rodents and rabbits hate peppermint oil, so just soak a piece of cloth in the oil and put it in the corners of your garden.
Designing a Garden That Works for You and Your Pet
There’s room for everyone out in the yard. Here are a few design tips to make it easy.
Consider Raised or Elevated Garden Beds. Not only will you have more control over soil quality, you’ll also be able to grow your garden away from the part of your yard your pet has claimed as its own. The two biggest benefits of raised beds, though, are better weed and pest control. Raised beds start out free of weeds and their seeds, and loose soil makes it easier to pull up any weeds that make their way in. You can protect your soil from pests by using a food-safe liner for your garden beds. Fewer weeds and pests means less need for using weed and pest killers.
Protect the Paws. Creating a path around your garden solves two issues: it keeps paws a bit cleaner, and eventually your pet will learn to walk on the path instead of on your soil. Mulch works well for garden paths, but make sure it doesn’t contain cocoa bean hulls which can make your dog sick if they eat it. Try cedar chips instead; they also repel fleas!
Create borders to protect your plants. A low fence, even a few feet high, can be just the visual your pet needs to understand that the food garden is off limits. Another tried and true barrier: anything thorny. Find some spiky twigs or pruned rose bush branches and surround your garden beds. Dogs and cats will quickly lose interest in that part of your yard.
Make Garden Time Play Time. Your pet is probably very excited to see you out in the yard! Keep them occupied with a special stash of toys that they only get to play with while you’re gardening. Toss tennis balls or other fun toys your dog can chew. Cats love treat-filled balls or catnip toys. And if they love to dig, build them a quick sandbox away from your garden – just dig a shallow hole and fill with sand.