You have always wanted to have a garden but one member of your family has been a concern. No, it's not your 6-year-old. It's the other one -- the dog. And maybe even the cat.
Both of these four-legged little buddies like to dig and the last thing you want to do is dig and plant all weekend on your knees, then have it unearthed by the dynamic duo you live with.
But it can be done. Your animals can live in harmony with a peaceful garden actually built around them. The best way to accomplish this is to design your garden to meet your animals' needs.
If you were a dog, what would you want? As a cat, independence is crucial.
Dogs want to romp around so create a path of smooth flagstones set in pebbles that form a dry creek bed dogs can comfortably tread, sacrificing a few feet along the fence for a perimeter path. If your dogs have already created their own paths through the garden, don't try to redirect them. Instead, turn their well-worn routes into proper pathways.
Use mulch that isn't bulky or too hard. Small cedar chips are easy on paws yet large enough so they won't cling to silky coats. Use inorganic mulch such as potato stones or pea gravel where appropriate. If you're trying to get a new area of lawn to grow, sod is quicker to establish than seed, especially with pets using the yard.
Dogs and cats like to dig so perhaps create a space where digging is allowed and fence it off so the dog or cat can come in to play.
If you have a male dog you probably are already aware of their need to mark their territory everywhere. You can avoid spots on the lawn and burning of plants by training your dog to go potty in a particular part of the yard. Build a pee post. Just take a nice railroad tie and cut it down to size.
It isn't much harder to train a dog to go where you want him to outside than it is to house-train in the first place. Like all training, it requires time, patience and persistence early on. I know we are asking for a lot but in the long run it will be worth it.
Cats just need an outdoor litter box and outdoor scratching post.
Plant in raised beds or on mounds, and start with 1-gallon or larger plants. Put up temporary fencing around newly landscaped areas; when you remove it, add a rock border or low fencing as a reminder to stay out.
Plant romp-proof shrubs and perennials like ornamental grasses around the edge of the garden. Put brittle plants like salvias in the center, where they'll be protected.
Avoid thorny and spiny plants, which can cause serious eye injuries. Be very cautious about growing poisonous plants, like castor bean or hellebore, in readily accessible areas. Visit www.aspca.org/toxicplants for a complete list.
Cats love catnip (Nepeta catoria); they like rolling around on the plant and getting very playful. The plant's precise effect on cats remains a mystery, but there is no question that cats adore it, as well as catmint (Nepeta faassenii and related species). Fortunately, both are tough plants that seem able to withstand feline attention. To discourage neighborhood cats and your own, avoid growing these plants.
Face it -- there will be wrestling and rough housing; you don't want your dogs careening into your foxgloves because that will be the end of the foxgloves. Plant dense edging plants like boxwood or low, resilient creepers — like, say, thyme — as a buffer zone between the dogs' play area and fragile flowers.
Like humans, dogs enjoy basking in the sun. So by all means, give them a deck or a patch of lawn for sunbathing. But remember that dogs can overheat easily, so it's even more important to provide them with cooling retreats. They'll happily share arbors, pergolas, and other shade structures with their owners
If your pet has a friend next door no garden would be complete without a view of the neighbors so create a window or two at your dog's eye level where he can keep an eye on the dog next door.