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Spring Is In The Air! Here Are 7 Tips For Dog-Friendly Planting

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As the weather warms up, we all start thinking about spring planting. It’s one of the best things about the changes in season: new flowers, fresh grass and the promise of unexpected delights springing forth from the ground.

But if you have a dog, spring can be frustrating and even heart-breaking as your dog tears up your new garden and makes a muddy mess of your yard.

Kris Kiser, President & CEO of the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute is the owner of a rescue dog named Lucky. Lucky the “TurfMutt” and Kiser are on a mission to educate dog owners on ways to create environmentally–responsible living landscapes that families and pets can enjoy.

In fact, families with children can visit Lucky’s website and join him and his friends, the Outdoor Powers, in saving the planet one yard at a time. Kids can play fun games, read digital storybooks, and do activities that teach them the value of caring for our green spaces today.

We asked Kiser a few questions about how you can make sure your spring planting is dog-friendly; you are going to be SHOCKED about what he says regarding artificial turf!

Lucky the "Turf Mutt"
Lucky the “Turf Mutt” Image source: Kris Kiser

1. What is the best way to start thinking about spring planting if you have dogs?

Kiser: We know that dogs love living landscapes and love being in your yard. Think about your dog’s needs. What does your dog need the most in a yard? A place to romp and exercise? A place to relax in the shade for an afternoon’s nap?

2. What are some of the best “dog-proof” ground coverings?

Kiser: Grass is one of the best ground coverings around because it can handle the wear and tear that comes with pets and children. Bermuda and buffalo grass are especially hardy, and they are drought-resistant, too. Grass also delivers great health benefits for you and your family. Grass produces oxygen, sequesters carbon, captures water runoff, and cleans and filters rain water.

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3. Do you have some favorite “dog friendly” plants that are easy to grow?

Kiser: Plants near garden paths [that] your dog will use should have soft foliage but be sturdy enough to stand a little canine rough-housing. We recommend any dog owner with a garden check the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic garden plants for advice.

4. What are some of the worst things you can plant in a dog area in terms of durability (able to withstand dogs running, or peeing on them, etc)?

Kiser: Any plants that are fragile and near a pathway may be trampled by a playful and fun-loving dog. Also, plastic grass, also known as artificial turf, gets too hot for humans and pets to withstand, especially in summer months. 

A 2002 Brigham Young University study revealed that synthetic-turf surface temperatures were 37 degrees higher than asphalt and 86 degrees hotter than natural turf. (www.westcoastturf.com) A 2012 Penn State study found it not uncommon for temperatures to surpass 150 degrees and can reach up to 200 degrees. (plantscience.psu.edu)

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5. If someone wants to plant a vegetable or flower garden, what are some tips on keeping the dog out?

Kiser:  A fence can help keep a dog out, but sometimes it’s not practical to install one. You can place thorny or prickly branches pruned from rose bushes or other plants around your garden, but then they become a barrier to humans as well. Some dog owners sprinkle mustard or red pepper flakes around their plants to encourage dogs to steer clear. Giving your dog a path of his or her own through the garden may keep him or her out of the garden beds.

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6. Do you have some favorite resources when it comes to finding out if a plant is toxic to dogs or not?

Kiser: We recommend any dog owner with a garden check the ASPCA’s list of toxic and non-toxic garden plants for advice. This website lists plants that are toxic and non-toxic to dogs and other pets.

7. What about fertilizers, weed killers, etc.? Are there any that are safe to use in a dog area?

Kiser: Lawns sequester the largest amount of carbon when they recycle the nitrogen contained in grass clippings. So, take off your lawn mower’s mulching bag and leave your grass clippings on the ground while mowing. The clippings will break down and feed your grass naturally.  You can also apply some compost to your lawn in the spring with your seed spreader.

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