Gardening is a favorite pastime among many Americans. Freshly grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs not only taste great, but can also save you money. And there’s nothing quite like eating something you cultivated yourself. It’s even better when you get to share those hard-earned spoils with your four-legged best friend. Here are some tips for planting a dog-friendly garden.
Step 1: Choose What to Grow
Try some of the following edible plants to put in your garden — all of which are high in antioxidants and safe for dogs to consume:
- Green beans (chopped, steamed, or raw, all types are okay for dogs to eat, as long as they’re not prepared with other ingredients, i.e. salt).
- Berries: cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries (all safe in small quantities).
- Barley grasses (should only be eaten in small amounts).
If you want to grow something that is not on this list, do your research first. Onions and the leaves of tomato plants, for example, are toxic to dogs and should not be grown in your backyard.
When it comes to herbs, Osborne says the ones listed below can be added to your dog’s meals or mixed into treats in small quantities:
- Dandelion greens — the stem and leaf parts of the plant — are a natural source of vitamins A, C, K, D, and B.
- Rosemary acts as an iron-rich antioxidant.
- Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is often used as a breath freshener in canine dental treats. But, be warned. While curly-leafed parsley is OK, spring parsley can be toxic. Because parsley is a diuretic, you’ll want to give it to your dog very sparingly.
- Basil (Ocimum basilicum) has antioxidant, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties.
- Thyme’s active ingredient is thymol, which wards off fungi and bacteria. Thyme also contains flavonoids, which act as antioxidants.
Step 2: Create Your Space
Even though you are planting edibles that are safe for your pup, the most important step is to put a fence around your garden that will keep your dog out. You don’t want him thinking it’s a self-service salad bar. Not only would you run the risk of your dog overeating, but there are some parts of plants that should not be consumed under any circumstances.
If you don’t have space to put a garden in the ground with a fence around it, consider hanging pots or containers placed in a stand where your dog can’t reach them.
You also need to think about the type of fertilizer you’re using. Whether you are applying a spray-on or pelleted product, check that the active ingredients are non-toxic and follow the instructions on the label carefully. The same thing goes for mulch. Even if your dog does not have unsupervised access to your garden, you don’t want him accidentally ingesting harmful chemicals if he does sneak past your fence. If you have questions about a specific fertilizer or mulch, talk to your veterinarian before using it.
Step 3: Plant, Grow, Enjoy!
Now you are ready to start planting. But before you begin adding any of these edibles to your dog’s diet, have a conversation with your veterinarian, as nutritional needs differ from pet to pet.