At the moment my love for my dogs and my love for my garden are in serious conflict. A conflict that my poor beloved garden seems to be losing.
Dog Number 1 was bad enough, but we adapted. I gave up certain areas, like along the fence where she ran up and down with the neighbours dog. This left a tunnel through the wilderness that the kids love crawling through dressed in camouflage.
The garden next to the chook pen had to be fenced. In an effort to get into the chook pen this poor garden full of new gingers and delicate tropicals got smashed to smithereens. A year later I am still trying to coax a recovery. Probably my fault though, I left the fence down one time and now we are back to square one. That’ll learn me!
Apart from that Dog No 1 and I have an understanding of sorts about the garden. I don’t let her have bread and she won’t dig my plants up to bury it. And I won’t grow sweet potato of any variety as it is too yummy for her to resist digging it up and eating all the tubers.
Then along came Dog no 2.
My garden, if it can still be called that, is in shock. Most days I am too scared to go out there and look and I am in danger of becoming a depressed, indoor person who once was a gardener.
These two darling and affectionate dogs have romped, dug, smashed and pooped to new heights and reduced my garden to new lows.
Of course it doesn’t help that the scrub turkey nesting next door has taken to walking up and down the fence line deliberately teasing the dogs. There goes that garden bed. Then it stands on the roof of the chook pen taunting them. There goes everything planted in that vicinity!
The possums love to sit in the tree just out of their reach and as the dogs jump around trying to get them, they have smashed all the terracotta pots of succulents in my son’s cubby. We are now repotting into tins and metal containers that don’t break. And ever so grateful we are to succulents for turning broken leaves into new plants!
In reality if I can’t adapt my garden to cope with the dogs, we will never co-exist happily.
I am going to have to accept my losses graciously and evolve as a gardener.
I don’t really like plants with nasty thorns, I mean, I didn’t. I am now snapping up all I can get my hands on. Perhaps a few nasty jabs to the nose will deter them from adventuring too far into the garden. Oh no, just found my spikiest agave flat from a dog sitting on it, I guess adapting to liking spiky plants is not necessary after all.
Instead of crying about what I have lost when I find a new hole in the garden (some with half buried teddy bears in them!) I put something new and larger in that hole. Sometimes I even find the dug up plant in time to rescue it and find a safer home for it. Small plants now need to be carefully placed if they are to have any chance of survival.
Not even bromeliads are safe. They have eaten the really nasty ones that scratch through gloves, sleeves and cast iron. The dogs love the slight stink of the water in them and love to chew them to bits. I do not understand how their mouths are still intact!
We are getting good at making those smashed pot succulent gardens you see these days, now that we have so many smashed pots.
I am learning to dog proof my garden, just like we child proof our homes when young children visit. Large rocks around the edge of the garden make it much harder for the dogs to tumble from the lawn and squash the garden, so I’m adding more of those. Old gates painted dark green are being hidden in the gardens to redirect dogs away from the more delicate plants. Pots are being moved – up out of reach, away from beside access ways, and if possible, turned into hanging pots.
Lights are being left on in the evening to stop possums coming too close before the girls go to bed (inside!). I am learning to hold the hose so the dog doesn’t need to jump on the plants to drink out of it when I am watering (the irrigation doesn’t work since they have bitten all the nozzles off).
But most of all I am trying to be flexible and opportunistic. The weather can change suddenly and be harsh, so having a tough garden is not a bad thing. Finding ways to keep my garden tough and pretty is not so easy but I am getting there and learning a lot in the process which can only make me a better gardener.
More I am appreciating hardy plants such as seaside daisy, which can take a bit of wear and tear.
I am working with the tracks in the garden – if I respect that they are dog pathways, hopefully the dogs will stick to them and that helps define where I can plant safely.
The garden is meant to be a place the family interacts with and enjoys. My dogs are family and they really enjoy my garden! Happily they keep the turkeys out – they make a worse mess, and they are not part of the family.
I remind myself this is just a phase – the dogs will grow out of the puppy stage eventually, and we will find a new equilibrium in the garden which works for all of us. For all the damage they do, I will still have a garden to restore. Gardens are wonderfully adaptable things and to win this one I need to be adaptable as a gardener.
A client has not been so lucky since her attempt at keeping a tea cup pig. The pig was very much part of the family, but when it reached 100kg and refused to wipe it’s feet before going inside, it was time to find a new home for the pig. A year later and nothing has regrown in the empty patch that was a garden pre-pig. Not even nutgrass……