Gardening with Pets
If you are like me, you might have a gaggle of animals running around already before you even start your homesteading journey. Unfortunately, at the moment, they are not little coworkers/helpers. My delightful little animals are the family pets, most acquired years ago before the dream even began. So what to do to keep your backyard edibles clear of pet influence?
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I have four pets: Itty (one eyed tabby male cat), Lila (jet black small female cat), Nina (my dog, been through everything with me, she is a 9 lbs chihuahua terrier) and Max (he is a pikapoo). All of them are under 15 lbs and rule the backyard.
They all get outside time for many hours, if possible. To let them roam, mark, smell…eliminate… The dogs are small and love to eat all of the things. The cats like the soft fresh soil and will ummmm… ya know… use my raised beds as litter boxes (yikes!).
I have been pregnant twice and try to avoid the cat poop problem like the plague and definitely do not want it mixed with my salad greens (yuck!). So what to do to keep the food you grow clean, fresh and safe for you and your family.
Five Tips for Gardening with Pets
I ended up using bird netting over a few of my raised beds. I have several plots in the ground which the cats did not use as a litter box (I assume its because the soil is less fluffy). However, I have four raised beds that have nice, loose soil. It is good to my plants and seedlings but I guess super great for kitties too! Once the plants are established, they left the area alone. This year I added protection, which is 1/2 in hardware cloth attached to bamboo poles, for my strawberry patch which should help keep nice ripe strawberries from squirrels and pets.
Taller raised beds
The dogs like to jump in and out of the in-ground and low-to-the-ground raised beds. The beds that do the best are over 12 inches high and covered in plants. Since my dogs are small, they can’t just put their face over the side and eat or jump in to dig. If you have big dogs, it is possible to have a taller raised bed, may even help with having to bend over a lot. Some gardeners have table type raised beds. Or hopefully your dogs just don’t care to dig or eat or whatever to your plants. If you have a digger, I’ve heard others have success with having a pile of dirt to the side just for digging.
Because the cats and the seedlings prefer good, loose soil, I start a few seeds that I can transplant. This way they are stronger and more established before I put them into the beds. That also means the cats are less likely to ruin them as they have leafed out and have good roots that can handle a little abuse (paws…).
My cats do not try to squish into the smallish size of containers. They prefer the large layout of a raised bed. This also means the dogs can’t get in a wreak havoc. When just starting out, containers, like these pots, are a good way to go because you can move the plants around depending on sunlight, wind, annoying pets…ya know
This includes all of the wonderful fruit trees. Whatever is best for your zone. Once at sapling size (1-3 feet tall) then you’re good to go. Dogs and cats should just ignore them (marking them will likely not hurt and might even help them as urine has nitrogen in it). And if you’ve aimed for permaculture techniques around your tree then the animals won’t use the area because it’s covered in plants.
I will say I’ve seen and tried orange peels, for keeping the cats away, in and around the area to no avail. Maybe because of my area, they dried up quickly and did not smell. It is possible I did not use enough. I also have not tried any commercial sprays/deterrants since I try to avoid chemicals. There are other options such as motion sensor lights and noises that irritate but don’t bother people too much. I have not tried these yet.
I love my fur-family but I also like good clean food that I can grow myself. Maybe we can all reach a happy medium. If you’re ambitious you can fence off an area (though it may not help with cats, depending on your cats and your fence).
But you can also attract them to another area. For example, plant catnip away from the area. Keep the compost secure so that the dogs don’t use it as another food source.
Leave me a comment about your pesky pets! As an urban homesteader I am always looking for ideas, especially since it isn’t always limited to just my animals (feral roaming cats anyone?).