Shaun Moser, Conservation Garden Park
My dogs are part of my family. I personally can’t imagine living my life without dogs in it. But as much as I love them they have caused some problems in my landscape. Gardening and landscaping is another thing I can’t Imagine my life without, so I try my best to make dog and garden coexist. Here are some things I’ve learned over the years that help me have dogs and a beautiful landscape at the same time.
Know your Dog
My Basset Hound is an elephant in a China shop. He doesn’t really dig, but he could really damage a vegetable garden with his oversized paws and willingness to eat anything. For him, everything is on the menu (except raw onions). My Shih Tzu has a more refined palate and doesn’t do too much to the vegetable garden, but she does patrol the perimeter of the yard, compacting the soil. Whatever your dog likes to do (chew, eat, dig, or patrol) there are some ways to minimize the damage.
Lawn is one of the main plants that suffers from dog abuse. Digging, urinating, and repeatedly running the same trail can do some damage. We have tried many different types of lawn at the Conservation Garden and one that we like is called Dog Tuff™ Grass. This grass is a low-water, warm-season grass that grows aggressively. This aggressive growing habit helps it stand up to traffic and self-repair relatively quickly. It also doesn’t need much mowing as it tends to grow laterally rather than vertically. The one word of caution with this grass is to make sure it has some sort of edging installed around it because it does spread quickly underground with its roots.
Vegetable gardens and dogs usually don’t mix very well. Large dogs left alone in the yard can really cause destruction if they are interested. One of the best things to do is install raised planting beds with hardscape paths and a decorative fence around the perimeter. The fence will help to keep the dogs out and act as a trellis for you to grow more plants on.
In back yards, dogs love to use the same paths repeatedly and patrol the fence line. Instead of trying to make plants grow in these spots you can just give dogs the space they want. Instead of planting right up against the fence, leave a 2-foot gap that is mulched with bark. This gives them space to run the fence without damaging plants. Also, most side yards are just pass-through areas. Instead of lawn that doesn’t do well being walked on, try a hardscape path that your dog can use.
Plants that I have a found to be most dog proof are ornamental grasses, shrubs, and trees. I tend to keep most of the flowering perennials in the front yard where they can’t be trampled. The trick is to get the trees and shrubs big enough so your dog can’t do as much damage. The trees may also require a small cage around the trunks until they get big.