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In Good Thyme

"Mariana Graham is out of town this week. She is pleased to introduce guest columnist Sally Wolff. Sally is a veteran WSU Master Gardener and dog lover who, with Master Gardener Linda Sue Schoenharl, taught Dog-Gone Gardening at the Whidbey Gardening Workshop last spring.-------------------Some people love dogs and others love gardens. Then there are those who love both.Trying to maintain a beautiful garden with, or in some cases, in spite of Fido's help may be a challenge.A sense of humor is an asset for a dog-loving gardener. Learn to live with those dog design alterations. The petunias Fifi dug up were all wrong for that flowerbed anyway. But if humor fails after Tiger has just unearthed your three new rhododendrons, here are some things you can do to protect your garden.Fences make good neighbors. If neighborhood dogs wreak havoc in your garden, consider putting up a fence. Fences also work well within a garden to create protected rooms. They're invaluable for a vegetable garden, which is dog heaven. Soft, warm soil for digging and sunning, smelly amendments perfect for eating or rolling in, crunchy vegetables and sweet berries to nibble - what canine could resist?Depending upon the size of the dog and its stubbornness, a low picket fence may be all that's required to protect baby vegetables from galumping puppy feet or surprises when Frodo discovers a new bathroom spot. In my own garden, I've fenced off the perennial garden until my teenaged German Shepherd, Zach, learns to go around plants and not through them.There are times when only one plant, or a grouping of plants, needs protection for a short time. Sturdy sticks and chicken wire work wonders for sheltering new shrubs or perennials such as dahlias until they're large enough to fend for themselves. Big rocks will deter some dogs from lying on new plants. But beware, it doesn't work in every case. Zach just pushes the rocks out of the way.Gardening with a resident dog limits the pesticides you should use. Some studies have documented a link between 2,4-D, a common ingredient in many herbicides, and certain lymphomas in dogs. Many slug baits can kill a puppy or small dog if ingested. Fortunately, there are new slug baits such as Sluggo and Escar-go! that are effective and non-toxic to dogs. Heavy treatments of nitrogen to produce green lawns may burn Beauregard's feet. Consider natural lawn care as an alternative to weed-and-feeds, fertilizers and herbicides. You'll not only protect your dog, you'll protect the environment. WSU Island County Cooperative Extension Office has a handout called Six Steps to Natural Lawn Care that the staff will be happy to provide you.Gardening organically will lead to a battle with Asta's nose, however. Fish emulsion, bone and blood meals and manure compost are deliciously smelly to a dog. My female German Shepherd, Minna, isn't a digger by nature, but she once unearthed several gladiola bulbs trying to find the blood meal I'd added to the planting holes. I now plant glads without amendments.So what do you do if Lassie has worn a path along the fence, chewed half the bark off the hawthorn, or tried digging to China? Most bad habits in dogs are driven by boredom or stress. In the case of digging, certain breeds are genetically programmed to hunt ground-dwelling prey terriers (the name comes from Middle Latin terra, meaning earth) and dachshunds (dachs means badger in German) are examples of dogs who live to dig. In this case, give Lassie her own garden patch of soft dirt.You can block off a path that Rascal has created, but odds are she'll create a new one. One solution is to disguise the trench with plants. Another is to block Rascal's view, also with plants, if she's running up and down the fence line barking at everything that passes by.For chewing, provide your dog with lots of toys and chew things. Try a temporary chicken wire fence. If neither of these work, spray her favorite chew plant with a mixture of hot pepper sauce and water. But be careful. This spray in too strong a concentration or used on a hot day may damage the very plants you are trying to protect.I believe in teaching dogs good garden manners. Training may be as minimal as a firm no to teaching Rover to fetch a hand tool just out of your reach. Off, leave it, lie down and come here are all useful commands in the garden. And then reward Brutus for his good behavior by taking frequent breaks to scratch his ears. Dogs crave attention and affection. The more Brutus bonds with you, the better he will listen.----------------October gardening checklistProtect frost-tender bulbs, corms and tubers when they've finished blooming. Cut foliage, dig, dry and store in a cool, dry place.Flush drip irrigation systems with water to clear sediment, then drain the lines. Store aboveground systems in a dry place. Disconnect underground systems.Dig and divide overgrown perennials such as daylilies, iris and peonies.Bring in houseplants that have been summering in the garden. Gently spray with a hose to remove insects before returning them indoors.Fall is the time for the most important lawn feeding of the year. It promotes strong root growth to sustain grass through the winter and rejuvenate it in the spring. "

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