Steve McDonald - "The Back Yarder": Looking for the latest on what we're up to here at RVG? Looking for some basic and practical gardening and landscape tips? Check out Steve's blog to stay up to date on all things RVG.
The bone lover strikes!
I love my old dog, but golly, he can make things complicated. Let me say first that as doggies go, and especially for a 90-pound mutt, he's a relatively low-impact pet when it comes to our back yard landscaping. In fact, when I look at what some dogs have done to their yards, I have to sing his praises. Once you've seen a previously landscaped back yard turned into a scene best described as "craters of the moon," "graveyard of the trees" or "Mississippi mudhole" by a big dog or two romping around, you really appreciate a dog with a peaceful manner.
Nevertheless, Rudi has his irritating habits. This year his antics have mostly been a result of the endless wet weather. He doesn't like getting himself wet and mucky when he does his business any more than you or I do. So...trips outside unsupervised have resulted in piles on the patio. Dead and brown lower branches on the newly planted arbor vitae bordering the fence also gave evidence of his strategies for completing his business while standing on concrete instead of cold, soaked grass or yucky mud. (At least, I suppose, he's not tracking mud back in the house.)
First, a Story...
As I reveal my canine friend's personal backyard secrets, an event from last year comes to mind. It's one of those "funny now, but wasn't funny then" stories.
My dear wife is a dahlia lover and creates joyous and breathtaking displays our backyard. Last year, instead of planting the dahlias directly in the ground, she decided to start them in pots (all 70 of her various tubers). Hours of planting and labeling, a true labor of love, were destroyed in one afternoon by our always-hungry dog.
Inspired by the bone meal mixed into the soil, Rudi went on a bone hunt, dumping over every pot on his quest for a treat. When we first saw the damage, we went into shock, with no idea what had gotten into our normally (relatively) well-behaved dog. He'd been known to steal the odd loaf of bread left unattended on the kitchen counter, but hadn't made a habit of overturning pots of dirt. The old boy's sniffer had him convinced that there was a gold mine to be found in those pots! Imagine his frustration as pot after pot turned up nothing but strange potato-like blobs and not one bone for the crunching.
Then, a Few Tips
We learned our lesson on that one. Attention to what the dog might do to new plants or arrangements has to be given every landscaping decision. Here are a few ways to keep dogs safe in the yard:
1. Pay attention to the planting materials you use. Bone meal is a relatively harmless thing for the dog to come in contact with, but there's plenty that isn't. Even organic stuff like neem oil can be toxic to animals.
2. Don't buy poisonous plants. If your pet chews on plants or trees in the yard, ask at the nursery before you add something new to your landscape. If you do plant something poisonous, plant it somewhere that your pet won't be or can't access.
3. Remember the canine sense of smell. Bone meal might not be the best fertilizer to use when you're planting in the dog's back yard. Blood meal might not be the best choice to repel garden pests. Think "doggie" when you're gardening!
Do you have any anecdotes about pets and plant? Any tips for pet owners trying to keep an attractive yard where the pet also lives? Any questions about pets and plants? Let us know on the forums, and maybe you'd like to share a picture of your animal friend as well.