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March, 2008, Page 80
Photo by AZ Luxury Lawns and Greens
AZ Luxury Lawns and Greens
Imagine spending any portion of your day camped out in the backyard. What would you want and need to make the time pass, to make it a pleasurable experience – heck, to survive? Your most basic needs – water, shade, stimulus – are exactly what your pets require to live comfortably outdoors.
As springtime approaches and it’s time to tend to that unruly backyard anyway, why not take your four-legged friend into consideration? From poisonous plants to proper shading, there’s a lot to think about. Here’s a primer on pet-friendly backyards to get you started.
Your lush backyard may be the envy of every green thumb in the neighborhood, but is it safe for your furry little ones?
This is the first and most important element Kevin Mitchell considers when consulting pet owners on landscaping. As co-owner of Outdoor X-Scapes Landscaping and Design in Mesa, he says he gets a lot of requests for doggie-friendly yards, so considering which plants might be poisonous to your pooch is a must, especially with certain breeds.
“A Labrador is more of a chewer and digger than a smaller dog like a Chihuahua,” says Mitchell, who recommends edible plants and herbs such as hibiscus and rosemary as safe options (and natural treats). Other pet-safe plants include bamboo, cornflower, marigolds, blue-eyed daisies and spotted laurel.
According to the Nature Conservancy of Arizona, deadly plants native to our region include buffelgrass (and its relative, fountain grass), tamarisk, Sahara mustard and Malta star thistle – all very pretty, and all very poisonous. The National Animal Poison Control Center also lists the following plants that can cause any number of harmful reactions in animals, from indigestion and vomiting to seizures, kidney failure and death:
• Castor Bean
• Tulip/Narcissus bulbs
• Sago Palm
In addition, Mitchell urges pet owners to think about the type of ground cover they’re using – some, like the thick and hearty small-leaf Myoporum, can attract harmful critters like scorpions and spiders – as well as certain trees, like the Australian bottle tree, which drops pods onto the ground and can pose a choking hazard for curious chewers.
Finally, consider switching to organic pesticides and weed killers to be sure your pup isn’t lapping up harmful toxins from your grass. Or, to be extra certain, AZ Luxury Lawns and Greens can install one of six varieties of synthetic grass, eliminating the need for chemicals and pesticides in the first place. (This option will also get rid of allergens hosted by natural grass, although Mitchell says basic sod and rye grass seeds are naturally hypoallergenic.)
When in doubt, ask a local garden center or landscaper if your favorite plants are safe for your pup, or call the Arizona Poison and Drug Information Center (800-222-1222).
Made in the Shade
Now that your dogs (and your too-curious-to-contain cat) are safe from poisonous plants, it’s time to tackle the other essential for Arizona pets: shading.
Exposure to the sun and over-heating are two of the biggest threats to outdoor pets, says Kim Noetzel, spokeswoman for the Arizona Humane Society. “It’s a pretty significant problem simply because a lot of people assume their dog is just like a coyote,” Noetzel says. “They don’t stop and think that this a domestic animal that needs real care.”
“Not only is it the humane thing to do, but it’s the law,” she adds, noting that in addition to all-day shade, pets need access to fresh, cool, potable water in a spill-proof, non-metal bowl or container.
She would rather animals stay indoors at all times, especially during summer. But if that’s not feasible, there are several steps you can take to ensure your little ones are cool and comfortable.
The most natural form of shade comes with planting trees, says Mitchell, who recommends breeds like Arizona Ash and Chinese Elm, which provide nice canopies without dropping a lot of messy foliage onto your lawn.
“Desert trees and cacti, unfortunately, are not good to have,” he adds. “Dogs can rub up against them and cats can crawl into them and get stuck.”
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