Friday, March 21, 2014

Springtime cleanup: A vital part of a dog-friendly garden

The sun has come back to Oregon, and Liam and Sinead are spending a lot of time in front of sunny windows, just lapping up the sunshine. Soon, however, they'll want to head outside and spend a little time romping around in the yard. That means I'll need to do a little work in order to keep them safe.

My backyard might seem safe, on the surface, as I don't use harsh chemicals or lawn fertilizers. However, I do like to provide my ornamental shrubs with a little snack before the spring blooming season, and that means that some plants in the yard have a small dusting of fertilizer beneath them. To keep the dogs as safe as possible, I used that product during a rainstorm, and I worked in the material with a small lawn rake. Mixing in the chemicals with the dirt reduces the smell, and the rain provided enough runoff that there are few particles left on the top of the ground. Just to be cautious, however, I've added a layer of mulch over the roots of these plants, so the fertilizer is buried.

Slugs and snails are a problem in my yard, but I'm walking out in the morning hours with a bucket and picking them off, rather than using a form of chemical control. I have a product that is (supposedly) safe for dogs, but I've seen rumors that suggest that this product contains ingredients that are toxic. To be on the safe side, I'm keeping this product out of my yard.

The final springtime danger for my two is a little more subtle, and it involves pruning. As bug-eyed dogs, these guys are at risk of pretty severe eye ulcers, and they can happen amazingly quickly in the spring, when the air is warm and the plants are covered in spines and sticks without leaves. A quick run through low-growing plants could shred these tiny, vulnerable eyes. Some plants, including my outdoor fuchsia, can be encased in a little wire, so there isn't a bundle of sticks to run by, but other plants needed some whacking. Removing new shoots close to the ground can keep small eyes safe.

I'm hoping to have a wonderful summer full of blooming plants and happy dogs, but I'll admit that it takes a lot of work in order to get the whole thing off the ground!

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