August 17, 2019 by Toemar
With critters ranging from racoons and skunks to rabbit, deer, fox and coyote, there’s more wildlife than ever to contend with in your backyard.
Remember when the biggest menace going was squirrels digging up spring bulbs? Now there are all manner of wild animals roaming the area and that can spell trouble for you and for your yard
Don’t Encourage Them
The first and best thing you can do is make sure that your home and yard aren’t interesting to animals, as a source of food. In the City of Mississauga, it’s illegal to intentionally feed wildlife but you could be inviting them to your yard and not even realize it.
Whether directly, by leaving garbage in unsecured containers, or indirectly by not limiting access to plants that interest them, once they’ve arrived, they’re hard to get rid of. If your garden is a ready source of food for wild animals, they’ll get into the habit of visiting and lose some of their natural ability to forage.
Eliminating odours that attract them is a good start. Spray wash your garbage cans and recycling bins every once in a while, to get rid of too many lingering odours. Make sure your compost container is well secured as well, with a solid lid, as the odours from these may attract some animals like raccoon.
A few other tips?
· Clean BBQ grills after use.
· Keep wood piles away from your house, as they are perfect homes for small rodents.
· Don’t use bird feeders that spill.
· Don’t feed your dogs or cats outside: their food will attract other animals too.
If you’ve got a grub problem in your garden, deal with it using a non-toxic, environmentally friendly pesticide as well as regular mulching of your garden—grubs tend to prefer compact earth, so aerating properly will also help reduce the grub population. Racoons and skunks LOVE grubs and will dig up half your garden to get to them!
Make Sure Your Structures Don’t Create Homes For Them
A deck with open gaps make excellent hiding spots for animals like rabbits and skunks to take up residence and procreate. Not only will you have wildlife living in your yard, but their numbers will grow! Same goes with front porches or outbuildings like sheds, that aren’t in good repair. If there is a way for an animal to find a way in to crawl spaces under your deck, they can build themselves a tidy little nest, safe from other predators.
TIP: Make sure there aren’t already animals inside before you block off all exits. You don’t want to block them IN.
Fence Off Food Sources
If you’ve got a veggie patch in your garden, make sure you fence it off. If deer aren’t common where you are, a few feet of fencing will keep out most bunnies and groundhogs, though some may burrow UNDER the fence, so make sure it goes down half a foot too. They can get through chicken wire fencing, so use something more sturdy. You can, however, cover young plants with chicken wire to keep them safe. For fruit bearing bushes, netting can work to keep the birds off before you get a chance to harvest.
Container gardening is one way to help keep nibblers away. You might still need some other form of protection for your plants—like chicken wire—particularly when they are young and at their most nutritious for animals to feast on.
If you want to keep deer out of your garden and you don’t have a fence, thorny bushes and a well placed wind chime can help, as they don’t care for those and are skittish.
No fence will stop raccoons, unfortunately, so before you go to a lot of effort building one, make sure you have tracked down what animals are infiltrating your garden. The one thing that does repel raccoons is ammonia. If you soak rags in ammonia, put them in containers with holes in the top) and leave these where the raccoons are hanging out, they’ll go find a better smelling area to play in!
Mulch Between Plants
Adding a good amount of mulch around your plants is good for moisture retention and temperature regulation but it also helps to discourage digging, particularly by cats or rodents of all types. River rocks and other stones can also help in this regard.
Pick Plants That Aren’t Tasty
You can minimize your garden being used as an open air grocery if you choose at least some plants that animals are less interested in. Like what?
· Ornamental grasses
· Holly bushes
· Lily of the valley
· Bee balm
· Daffodils — if squirrels like your tulip bulbs, try daffodils. Squirrels avoid them so you can protect an area of plants by surrounding these with a row of daffodils.
· Rabbits and deer don’t care for strong smelling herbs like rosemary and sage, so planting those with your other flowers and vegetables can help repel the notorious nibblers.
· Rabbits and chipmunks also don’t like the strong smell of onion or garlic, so planting some of these will also help.
· Smaller rodents avoid things like lavender and mint, as well as marigold flowers.
No creature likes to be doused with water while feeding, so a motion activated sprinkler system might be just the ticket to make your garden unpalatable. If they get sprayed a couple of times, they might find your neighbour’s dry yard far more interesting.
However you protect your garden from the wee beasts out there, just remember to be humane in your choices and, if all else fails, get some help from animal / pest control professionals.
June 8, 2019 by Toemar
For those of us who love our four-legged friends, it can be hard to reconcile their rambunctious, digging ways with maintaining a beautifully landscaped garden. But it’s not impossible! At the same time, it’s very important to avoid plants and flowers that can be dangerous, even deadly, to our fur friends.
The key to growing a dog friendly garden is to train your dog and do a little homework. Since we can’t help you with the first part of that statement, we’ll give you what you need for the second part!
Potty Train With Purpose
If you’re lucky enough to be starting with a puppy or younger dog, you can leverage a true fact about dogs: they don’t like to mess where they live. That’s the foundation behind crate training, and it can be extended to the garden too. Designate a certain patch of grass as the ‘potty zone’. As you are training your dog, always, always, always take them to that spot. Consistency with training is everything and there are a couple of advantages to taking the time to get this done right:
1. You will avoid yellow spots of dead grass due to dog urine ALL over your lawn.
2. You will know exactly where to go to pick up to pick up the little bombs that doggo has left behind, before the yard can be enjoyed by everyone.
3. Your dog will learn quickly, if you are consistent, that this is the place to go.
If you’ve already got burnt grass from pet urine damage, check out this earlier post on how to manage the damage!
Supervise All Yard Play
Particularly while your dog is still learning where they can play, and where they can’t, make sure they aren’t left alone in the yard. You can’t train them to not dig holes in the middle of your recently sodded green space or in the raised garden beds if you aren’t there to see them attempt it! Like sneaky toddlers, they’ll test the limits of what they can and can’t do, so consistency is important here too.
Part of a dog’s natural personality is to get into trouble when they’re bored, so ensuring that they get plenty of exercise through walks and play makes it less likely that they’ll try and burn off extra energy by digging holes!
Protect The Parts You Particularly Care For
If there are parts of your garden that you really want to keep safe from digging paws, consider putting up a decorative fence, at least for the early days, while your dog is learning. It doesn’t have to be taller than them: even a low fence will stop most dogs and it makes a visual reminder as you train the dog, that they can’t pass that fence!
You can also use plants on your garden borders that are fairly sturdy and give the appearance, at least from doggo’s point of view, of being a fence. Other options? Consider larger rocks or pieces of elegant driftwood to block the way. Container gardens are also a good way to keep your favourite blooms safe from digging paws.
Beyond protecting some features, it’s also important for your dog to be safe. Water features could be problematic with a small puppy, if they were to fall in. Consider all the elements of your garden from their height and age.
Have Some Toys Ready
Just like kids have indoor and outdoor toys, it’s a good idea to have a few outdoor ones handy for the furkids. They might get bored watching you pull weeds, so some toys or a ball you can throw between pulling clumps is a good idea!
Garden Elements To Avoid
If you’re using mulch, avoid any brand based from cocoa bean hulls. These contain the same chemical as chocolate—theobromine—which is deadly if your dog eats it. As to plants and shrubs, here’s a list of some of the more common ones that are found in local Mississauga gardens but which are toxic to dogs, if ingested.
Common yet dangerous plants for dogs:
If you love these, consider planting them at the front of your house, where your dog doesn’t necessarily roam free.
3. Autumn Crocus
11. Lily of the Valley
This list isn’t exhaustive but covers some of the more common plants you might be considering for your garden. If you want to see a full list, the ASPCA maintains one here, including the common and scientific names. As you’re making your list for your spring planting, if you’ve got a dog, cross reference it to make sure you’re keeping your fur friend safe!
The garden should be an oasis for the whole family, so don’t forget to provide your dog with fresh, clean water when they’re outside for a while—garden hose water can contain several toxins that aren’t good for humans or dogs—and make sure there’s a shady spot, so they can get out from under the sun. Most of all, enjoy your garden this season, with your WHOLE family.