Homeowners want to create fun, attractive and functional outdoor spaces that accommodate all family members, whether the goal be to host guests, provide play area for kids or include our furry, four-legged friends in our landscapes. Providing a garden that is both hospitable to your pets and also beautiful and easy to maintain can be a challenge, requiring you to address issues such as digging and other destructive behaviors. Read on to see how to address some of these issues and create a space perfect for your pets and easy on the eyes.
1. Judicious use of hardscape. One of the main challenges faced by dog owners is the destructive habit of digging. While it’s possible to train dogs to reduce this behavior, it’s easier to deter it by landscaping with hardscape as much as possible. This can be attractive paver or cement paths and patios, river rock or pebble riverbeds and outdoor living areas. Remember to choose larger gravel whenever possible, as dogs will still sometimes dig or track small particles like decomposed granite around a landscape.
2. Limited turf. While using hardscape provides an attractive, low-maintenance landscape and deters digging, dogs still require a portion of lawn to do their business as well as play and relax. Choose a drought tolerant sod or even artificial turf, and designate a small area away from fences for the dogs to use.
3. Running water. By providing a circulating water feature, you offer your pet a place to drink and cool off, while you get to enjoy the aesthetic elements of a fountain, pond or stream – including the peaceful sound of running water. Keep in mind that standing water, like ponds without recirculating pumps, can grow bacteria, algae and harbor pests like mosquitoes, and might ultimately harm your beloved furry friend.
4. Use raised beds. Protect landscape beds by raising them above the main level of your garden. Use wood, cement, pavers or bricks to protect flower or vegetable beds from curious paws. The use of mulch can also help deter destructive digging.
5. Provide shade. Especially important here in Southern California, be sure to provide shaded areas for your pets to cool off. This can be accomplished by growing shade trees or consciously landscaping an area of the yard shaded by a fence or the home.
6. Use soft landscaping plants. Soft, herbacious perennials like sages and ornamental grasses avoid doing damage to your pets. That being said, keep in mind that many plants have blooms that can become stuck in a dog’s fur and tracked back into the home, including the seedheads of some ornamental grasses. Similarly, using large, shrubby plants like lion’s tail will prevent your dog from digging, walking or napping on top of your beautiful plant material.
7. Avoid harmful plants. By the same token, be careful not to plant anything that will be harmful when ingested. This includes plants in the nightshade family, many bulbs and lilies. Culprits to watch for in San Diego include brugmansia, oleander, schefflera, asparagus and euphorbia, which produce an irritating sap. Also be aware of plants with itchy or sharp leaves like yucca, agaves and echium.
We hope these tips will help you make your yard welcoming to all your family members and their friends! If you’re looking to have a pet-friendly garden designed and installed, check out our partners at Mooch Exterior Designs. Want to do it yourself? Stop by for tips from our friendly horticulturalists and pick of some pet-friendly plants on your way.