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Archive for Sunday, July 5, 2009

Garden Calendar: Pet project

Lawrence resident Pam Heikes and her dog Sage are pictured in the garden of their home. Heikes has found that designating an area for a little bit of digging by pets can help to save the rest of the garden.

Lawrence resident Pam Heikes and her dog Sage are pictured in the garden of their home. Heikes has found that designating an area for a little bit of digging by pets can help to save the rest of the garden.

July 5, 2009

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Rows of chocolate mint stretch to the front of the garden.

Rows of chocolate mint stretch to the front of the garden.

Purple coneflowers and coreopsis add color to Heikes’ garden.

Purple coneflowers and coreopsis add color to Heikes’ garden.

In Pam Heikes’ East Lawrence yard, a 50-pound Samoyed husky named Sage spends her free time among a beautiful array of trees, shrubs and flowers. Careful plant selection, a little trial and error and giving Sage a hangout spot all of her own are the keys to helping this dog and landscape coexist.

Sage, like many dogs and cats, likes to dig a little. She has trampled a few plants and worn a few paths in the grass. But instead of excluding her from the yard or trying to force a change in behavior, Heikes gave Sage her own little area where she is allowed to follow her doggy instincts.

In this corner, a dog can dig in the dirt, scratch in the mulch and even lie on the plants if he or she chooses. The doggie hangout is surrounded by perennials, shaded by an old elm tree and evident only if you are looking for it.

Cats can be given their own section of the garden as well, and since they especially like loose soil, incorporating sand into a small chosen area might encourage pets’ use.

Chocolate mint is one of the most prolific and pet-proof plants in the Heikes’ garden. Buyers beware: Most mints are considered to be a little too hardy or prolific for the average garden. Chocolate mint has a good place in a garden shared with a dog, though.

“It’s a tough plant,” Heikes says. “The best part is that the dog smells good after she has lain in it.”

All of the plants in Heikes’ garden are tough enough to survive Sage the dog. Purple coneflower, coreopsis, Shasta daisies and veronica light up the front of the garden and provide color throughout the summer. Lavender is just starting to bloom, and the silvery foliage of lamb’s ears complements the deep purple flowers of the lavender and veronica. Heikes’ favorite plants are the maiden grass and other ornamental grasses that intermingle with perennials. The grasses provide a nice green backdrop now, lovely seed heads in fall and winter and the only maintenance required is cutting the dry stems almost to the ground each spring.

Daylilies, rose of Sharon, yarrow and other species of mint round out the garden full of hardy selections, and bugleweed and cranesbill peek from the shade of the large weeping willow that screens the front of the house from the street. The willow also soaks up excess water in the poorly drained yard.

Although the plants were irrigated with drip hoses in the first few seasons after planting, they all survive now without any supplemental watering — even in the hottest summer months.

Heikes’ struggles with having both a pet and a garden have led many of her garden choices, but she admits she has tried some plants that just did not work. Now, she simply plants more of what she knows does work or tries new things sparingly.

Heikes also avoids plants that are known to be toxic to dogs and cats and avoids using pesticides or fertilizers as a precaution.

— Jennifer Smith is the Douglas County extension agent-horticulture for K-State Research and Extension. Contact her or an Extension Master Gardener with your gardening questions at 843-7058 or dgemg@sunflower.com.

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