Thursday, March 3, 2016

Planning a springtime yard cleanup? Keep dog poisoning risks in mind

Liam the pug relaxing on his lawn
It's a whopping 63 degrees where I live, and that means Liam the pug and Sinead the Boston terrier just can't wait to get outside. And I'm prepared to join them. Spring, it seems, has arrived a little early in Oregon, and that means I need to get my yard whipped into shape. But I'll need to take some special precautions in order to ensure that the space I create is safe for my critters.

For starters, let's talk about lawn fertilizer. A traditional lawn just will not get going without a kick of some kind of chemical, and in most cases, those chemicals are applied in granular form. The lawn lover sprinkles that stuff on the ground, and it gets rained in over time. That way, the lawn stays fed all season long.

I never use the stuff.

This fall, hubby and I (okay, mostly him) tore out the lawn in the back and overseeded the dirt with a native grass. This form of grass has a long history of thriving in Oregon soil with Oregon temperatures, so it doesn't need chemical manipulation to thrive. We planted it, and now we can pretty much ignore it. That makes the lawn safe for the dogs to sleep in. And sleep in it, they do.

Sinead the Boston terrier sleeping in the grass

But there's more than just lawn to my yard. I also have bulbs and bushes and trees and flowers. And I have more than a few beds devoted to food crops, too. Preparing those spots for the summer can also be risky.

Fertilizers used in these spaces, even natural stuff like bonemeal, can be dangerous for dogs. And sadly, most dogs think these things are super tasty. They'll lick them off the ground, or they'll eat them right out of the bag. Both could pop a dog in the emergency room.

I plan to keep fertilizers out of my yard this spring. I may supplement some plants with coffee, but I'd like most of them to get along without chemicals. And if they fail, I'll apply fertilizer and then put a net over the spot. I already do that with my roses in front, and it seems to work wonderfully well. Making that switch in the back seems like a good idea.

Liam the pug in the grass

Finally, there are some bare spots in the yard that might benefit from a sprinkle of mulch. But I'll need to be choosy about what I throw down. Some mulches contain organic materials (think cow poop), and we all know how dogs love disgusting snacks like that. Other mulches contain bark and other inedible bits that could block a dog's digestive system, if said dog eats too much.

Typically, I use mushroom mulch. The dogs show little to no interest in the stuff, and it tends to break down easily without causing too much drama. But again, I might need to use gates or covers until the novelty of the mulch fades away.

These aren't overwhelmingly difficult steps, but they are important steps to complete. After all, a yard that looks pretty but harms my dogs is not enjoyable at all. And frankly, a yard with nothing in it isn't too enjoyable, either.

Any of you have secret gardening tips to share? I'd love to hear them! Hit me up in the comments!


  1. It is hard for me to even think about gardening when there is like 3 feet of snow out there. Not that I do it, we never put anything on the lawn, except vinegar for the dandelions. Still good to keep in mind when visiting others with the green thumb!

  2. What a great post. We don't use fertilizers because they pollute the waterways. I never thought about the risks to dogs and probably some others have not as well.