This spring, why not add some pet-focused features to your garden?
Spring has sprung and eager gardeners up and down the country can’t wait to get their hands dirty with plenty of digging, planting, trimming and tidying jobs to do – not to mention planning all those spring and summer displays.
This year, why not add a pet focus to your garden theme? Along with a colourful array of pet-safe plants – such as lavender, honeysuckle, snapdragons, Michaelmas daisies, camellias, sunflowers, forget-me-nots, nasturtiums, cornflowers, hollyhocks, violets, pansies, petunias and impatiens – adding some thoughtful features for your pet will certainly be appreciated.
For example, for your dog you could include a shallow water feature for paddling, a bamboo forest to negotiate and a pit for digging (filled with children’s sand or bark chippings) – which should also help persuade your canine chum to stop digging holes in your lawn.
As many dogs like to dash through foliage, Gardeners’ World suggests planting large, established perennials, sturdy shrubs such as viburnum or shrub roses and robust plants such as nepeta and astilbe to minimise damage.
To encourage your dog to go around your borders instead of trampling through them, creating clearly defined paths with raised edges or box hedging can help. Gardeners’ World also recommends that plants such as salix (weeping willow) and ornamental grasses which dance and sway, can create an enriching, sensory environment for your canine companion to explore.
Features that offer different heights can give dogs a range of vantage points to enjoy. Railways sleepers, steps and small benches can all be used to create versatility.
To create a relaxing chill-out space, perhaps beneath a favourite tree, plant herbs such as catnip, hops, yarrow, St John’s wort and valerian, which are reported to have positive affects for dogs. Dogs-safe plants to add colour and scent to your garden include calendula, cornflower, sunflower and lavender, along with fragrant herbs including rosemary and sage.
!!!POISONOUS PLANTS WARNING!!!
- Many garden plants are potentially toxic to dogs and other pets. These include chrysanthemum, aconite, daffodil, daphne, delphinium, foxglove, hydrangea, wisteria and yew. If you notice any worrying symptoms and think your dog may have ingested part of a plant, take your pet to the vet. Watch Gardeners’ World video on plants that are toxic to dogs >>
- Be aware that there are many plants which are highly toxic to cats – most notably lilies, which are potentially fatal if ingested. Bulbs including alliums, amaryllis, crocuses, daffodils, hyacinths and tulips can be dangerous to cats, as can cyclamen, poinsettias and rhododendrons. Cats Protection has a useful guide to safe and toxic outdoor plants >>
- If you have small furries, dangerous plants to remove immediately from places they spend time in include buttercups, ragwort, giant hogweed, snowdrops and daffodils. In fact, most evergreens and plants that grow from bulbs are poisonous to rabbits. There are also lots of spring and summer-flowering plants that are poisonous to pets – from iris, tulip and hyacinth to hydrangea, lily of the valley and geranium. PDSA has a comprehensive list here >>
Garden ideas your cat will love
As cats like to be able to slink out of sight, providing a range of hiding places in your garden is essential. Tall ornamental grasses such as Maiden grass (Miscanthus) make a perfect stalking ground, along with dense shrubs (make sure there are cat-sized gaps in between), large plant pots and old wooden crates for your cat to peep out from.
Cats love to climb so if you’re lucky enough to have a tree with accessible branches in your garden, they’ll have a ready-made climbing frame. Alternatively, there are also various outdoor cat trees available. Felines also like to survey the world from a safe vantage point, so provide a high spot that’s easily accessible such as a garden table, ledges that are securely fitted to a wall, or even a tree-house platform.
Sun-loving felines may particularly enjoy taking an afternoon nap on a catnip or catmint (nepeta) plant. Other plants that cats will appreciate include honeysuckle, valerian, blue mist shrub, sunflowers and wonderfully wispy garden cosmos. Additional colourful cat-safe plants include buddleia, busy lizzies, camellia, marigold, fuchsia, gerbera, jasmine, pansy, phlox, violet and wallflowers.
Planting for small furries
If you have rabbits or guinea pigs who get the chance for a supervised roam around the garden, they’ll be safe with plants such as camomile, lavender, yarrow and sunflowers. In fact, any common garden ‘weeds’ are also great for buns and guinea pigs to munch on, including clover, brambles, nettles, dock, daisies and dandelions.
SPRING ESSENTIALS! Get your small animals back into the garden and enjoying the outdoors. Introduce them to new areas to explore, improve their existing runs and enrich their lives, while keeping them safe, with Runaround >>
if you have small pets, you could even grow some forage especially for them. There are all sorts of safe plants and herbs – such as fennel, parsley, coriander, rocket and mint – that you can grow in a garden, window box or even a plant pot.
To help you out, there’s even a fabulous book, Gardening for Rabbits, by horticulturist and rabbit owner Dr Twigs Way, that provides you with all the information you need to grow bunny-friendly plants including alfalfa, blackberry, borage, chicory, chickweed, comfrey, cranesbills, golden rod, and meadowsweet.
6 TOP TIPS FOR A PET-SAFE GARDEN
- Pets may still be tempted to drink from water features or ponds, so avoid the use of chemical additives to clear algae or blanket weed. A natural alternative is barley straw, available from garden centres. Ponds are great for attracting wildlife to your garden but to keep your pets safe, ensure they are covered by mesh or fence them off.
- Don’t attract ‘tasty’ slugs and snails by leaving pets’ bowls and toys outside. Molluscs often carry the larvae of lungworm, a potentially lethal parasite. Dogs can become infected if they eat slugs and snails deliberately, or by accident, for example when munching on grass, drinking from puddles or outdoor water bowls, or picking up toys left in the garden.
- Inquisitive pets will happily explore any exciting looking areas and a shed, potentially packed with sharp implements and harmful chemicals, is not a place you want your furry friends to be sniffing around. But, before you shut the door, always check your pet is not inside – the same goes for summerhouses and conservatories, which can become like ovens on a hot day.
- Ensure your compost heap is safely out-of-bounds from sneaky scavengers as it may contain foods – such as grapes, raisins, avocadoes and onions – that can be extremely harmful to animals.
- Cocoa shell mulch is popular in many gardens, but pet owners should steer clear. It’s a by-product of the chocolate industry and so is toxic to pets. Try bark chippings instead. Some environmentally-friendly fertilisers contain fish by-products, blood meal and even ground poultry feathers – ingredients that some dogs will find appealing but will do them no good at all if they eat it. Using a liquid fertiliser is a safer option – but keep pets away until any product you use has completely dissolved.
- Avoid chemicals including weed and bug killer, slug pellets and insect- repellent citronella candles as these are toxic to all wildlife. A more natural approach is companion planting, where common plant combinations protect each other to keep garden pests at bay – such as growing nasturtiums with beans, mint with carrots (the strong smell apparently confuses pests) and marigolds, which repel whitefly and attract beneficial insects including hoverflies, lacewings and ladybirds which will munch up pesky aphids. The Royal Horticultural Society has lots of tips on creating gardens to attract wildlife.
CARE MORE Find lots of useful advice on caring for all your pets from Burgess, the pet experts. Training, nutrition, grooming and general care. It’s all here >>
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