Thursday, April 19, 2012


As a pet owner myself, I know how frustrating it can be to have a dog “going” on the lawn, excavating, muddy paws and no place for them to really enjoy.

First things first, figure out what kind of dog you have. A herder, hunter, sporting, non sporting working or toy. Herding breeds, which includes the Australian Shepherd, Border Collie, Old English Sheepdog, Shetland Sheepdog and Welsh Corgis, consist of high energy dogs that were bred to round up farm animals. In the absence of farm life these dogs tend to herd their owners and small children. These breeds will typically make ruts in the yard and along fences where they can see people and animals. Also very easy to train and need plenty of room to run, play fetch, catch Frisbee and decoys. Accommodating these breeds with your back yard landscape can make a great place for you and your four legged friend.

The Hunters include the Foxhound, Basset Hound, Beagle-Blood hound and Greyhound. These breeds are usually sniffing out rabbits, moles, foxes and other small animals, leaving you with the excavator. As a household pet these breeds are usually chosen for their energy, stamina and friendliness. When creating a outdoor space for these dogs, consider adding things so they can use their natural ability to hunt. For the safety of your hunter, a fence is necessary to prevent wondering. When these breeds pick up a scent in the air or ground, their is no stopping them, keep in mind the hunter may dig under the fence to get a bird or squirrel. With some extra planning you can prevent your hunter from doing just that.

The Non-Sporting is wide variety of breeds, including Bulldog, Boston Terrier, Chow and Poodle to name a few. These breeds are usually considered for their gentle, loyal, loving, courageous nature, also very smart dogs and groom well. These breeds will rub ruts in the yard and may dig a bit. Fencing is great for these breeds, allowing them to see there surroundings in the neighborhood and will be the first to worn you strangers are approaching.

The Sporting dog was developed for hunting waterfowl and other birds. Sought out for their high energy and eagerness to please, these breeds include retriever, spaniel, pointers and will spring into action at a moments notice. Your yard is the sanctuary where these dogs will need to run, play and retrieve toys or decoys. Get ready for plenty of ruts in the yard when you have Sporting dogs. Adding turf or a high traffic plant in the areas where you see ruts is a must. Due to there need to release energy, they will quickly destroy grass shrubs and plants. Keeping these dogs high energy needs in mind when creating your landscape will save you time and money.

The Working dog including the Bullmastiff, Rottweiler, Boxer, Alaskan Malamute, Doberman Pincher, Newfoundland and St. Bernard was bread for pulling sleighs, rescuing stranded people and guarding expensive estates. Due to the power and weight of the working dog, a well built fence, turf or high traffic plants are a must. These dogs are known as the gentle giants, unless provoked. As a very powerful but genital, loyal and loving dog, they can make a mess of the yard with there large feces, that can become harmful if not picked up daily.

The Toy Breeds describe the smaller dogs from the most popular Chihuahua, Pug, Shih Tzu, Yorkshire Terrier and not far behind the Maltese, Pekingese, Pomeranian, and many others make up this breed. The smaller breeds are considered the lap dog their companionship and appearance win most owners over. Due to the small nature of these dogs, cleaning up is easy, however, make them more susceptible to toxic plants and pesticides. Organic gardening is more suitable for the toy breed. Their quick movements also lead to greater risk, they can snatch something so quickly, you wont even know they have it. Designing with these smaller breeds in mind can be difficult.

A Little Insight

The best way to fix the back yard landscape with your dog in mind is to observe him for days even weeks. Figure out where he eliminates, what paths he likes to take, where he patrols, where he likes to fetch, retrieve toys or decoys and how he uses your yard. Draw a picture of the existing things in your yard. When studding your dog you can add things that will make your yard safer and more pleasant everyone. Just like people, dogs have a daily routine they follow and don't like when it is interrupted. They will mark the same trees, sun in the same spots and patrol the same areas. Dogs like the outdoors for different reasons than people do, they do not understand the need for grass and beautiful flowers or shrubs. Keeping this and your dogs breed in mind when designing your landscape will save you time and money.

If you have a dog that likes to dig everything up and “goes” all over your shrubs, but your a plant lover. Adding some shepherds hooks for hanging baskets or window boxes for flowers can help. Also, having the right kind of plants in your yard could solve the “going” problem. Contrary to belief, dogs urine and feces does not damage by the pH or acidity, it harms plants and grass by over fertilizing them with Nitrogen (see article Why do I Fertilize on our blog for more information). When nitrogen levels are to high, you will see dry, brittle yellow to brown foliage on one side or both sides, this also turns the grass yellow. Annuals and non woody plants are usually most effected by frequent urination. There are some very popular plants for your garden that not only tolerate high nitrogen, they thrive in it. In fact, most woody flowering shrubs need high nitrogen levels and will be better for frequent urination and feces. You may consider planting these where your dog does his “business”. Some suggested popular plants include Rose of Sharron, Weigela, Viburnum, Spirea and Shrub rose (rugosa) Although there are many more plants to choose from, this should get you started.
Common Name Light Zone Bloom Time
Rose of Sharron Sun to shade 4-9 August
Weigela Full sun to part shade 4-9 June
Viburnum Sun to shade 3-9 May
Spirea Sun to shade 3-8 April
Shrub Rose (rugosa) Sun to shade 2-7 June

Mulch and Pest

Beware of two different types of mulch that can be harmful to your pet. Cocoa Mulch has become very popular for its sweet smell, texture and lasting color. However, it consist the same toxic compounds found in processed chocolate, which can be deadly if consumed. Coconut Husk Mulch, is very popular also, this mulch is known to soak up and retain water, in return, is used for thirsty plants. If eaten this mulch will quickly swell in the digestive track of any dog and potentially cause a blockage.

With the outdoors comes insects, that can be an annoyance or harmful to plants and animals. Plants do exist to repel the most common bugs and should be used instead of insecticides when around animals.

Common Pest Plants to Repel them
Ants Mints ( apple mint, catmint, peppermint, spearmint)
Aphids Catnip,chive, cilantro, fennel, garlic, peppermint, rosemary, sage, spearmint and thyme
Corn Earthworms Cosmos, geranium, marigold and thyme
Cutworms Amaranth
Flies, Mosquito's Basil
Japanese Beetles Chive, garlic, geranium and nasturtium
Grass Hopper Geranium and petunia
Rabbit Garlic, marigold and onion
Slugs and snails Fennel, garlic and rosemary
White flies Basil, nasturtium, peppermint and thyme

Crape Myrtles

Crape Myrtle
Crape Myrtles are often mistaken as being dead in the spring and are one of the last trees to produce their foliage, usually in late April or early March. Because Crape Myrtles bloom on there “new growth” and produce their foliage so late in the season, trimming in late winter or early spring is best. However,, some light trimming after blooming may be required.  Crape Myrtles tend to grow on several stems, making them a unique semi dwarf tree or shrub, which has a variety of colors and long lasting blooms. It is up to you as the plants owner to prune it how you want it. Trimming all of the lower branches and  “suckers”, located at the base of the tree near the soil off close to the trunk and shaping the top yearly will allow the Crape Myrtle to grow as an upright tree.
Trimming the weak or brittle inside branches will provide a neater look and more blooms. Leaving all of the lower branches except “suckers” and  only pruning lightly throughout the season will allow the Crape Myrtle to grow more dense and shrub like. Trimming the entire tree down 12in to18in from the ground each year works too, the plant will flush itself with all new growth and more blooms. When planting in a row, you are wanting the trees to maintain the same overall height, take a pair of hedge trimmers or a chain saw and cut the tree down to the height you are wanting them to be. There are a few things to remember when purchasing Crape Myrtles, determine where to plant, what color, if you need a tree, at maturity growing 10ft to20ft tall or a dwarf, growing 3ft to 6ft and how many stems you are wanting at maturity. Crape Myrtles are very hardy, like moist soil, medium to high light,  lots of fertilizer to promote more blooms, and will adapt to most areas. Remember, for any plant. dig the hole about twice the size of the container, add a soil conditioner, fertilizer, mulch and keep watered.