Once again time has flown by and I have to admit that Facebook here has acted as a place for up to date daily reports. None the less this blog remains as the place where I post up my detailed projects and lists of plants, flowers and anything that I think might be of interest to others who are creating or thinking about starting a garden for wildlife.
Following on the dog theme from the last post and having now had Willow for a few months it has become apparent that wildlife gardening with a young dog isn't as easy as it first sounds and throws up lots of complications, especially with an untrained dog as Willow was when we first got her.
Well you might think she looks cute and generally you would be right as she is the most loving and affectionate dog that you could meet, but....
The first time we opened the back door and introduced Willow to the garden all hell broke loose! Plants got trampled, raised beds got dug and to top it off having spent hours of hard work erecting the fence she found the tiniest of holes and went to say hello to the neighbours garden!!!
What on earth have we let ourselves in for I thought to myself and how on earth am I going to firstly keep her in the right garden and then prevent her from wrecking it!?! Then how am I going to continue attracting my beloved wildlife into the garden when she wants to chase it and I presume eat it given the chance!?!
Quite a dilemma and not one we had experienced with out two previous rescue dogs!
So following some trial and error, plenty of head scratching and of course bundles of patience I have come up with a few tips that show that you still can garden for wildlife even with a mad dog. I hope that these will be of interest to some of you.
This is a really interesting subject as we need to keep the dog in but at the same time welcome wildlife in....
So we can now keep Willow in the garden and by putting up this extra 'layer' of fencing we have actually created a perfect wildlife corridor. The hedge is effectively sandwiched between this new fence and the old 'Deer Net' fence that willow could get through. This has created and area of solid hedging about 3-4feet wide and runs the entire length of the garden. I am now allowing a few stinging nettles to establish in here where they are out of the way. I am also now starting to create a few wood piles in here. This makes for a 'safe' area away from predators for lots of wildlife such as hedgehogs. The chicken-wire mesh is also big enough for medium and small birds to dive through when danger presents and allows access to most small mammals.
All in all adding another layer of fencing has actually created a superior wildlife habitat around the perimeter of the whole garden. The only downside is that we now have denied access to larger mammals such as foxes and badgers. To be honest this isn't always a bad thing as they can often be quite destructive in the garden anyway. My only real concern is that I have denied access to Hedgehogs who have done very well in the garden over the last couple of years so I needed to come up with solutions to rectify this.
After some consideration I have come up with following ideas for giving access back to my hedgehog friends....
An even easier option than the two methods above is simply to dig a dip under the fence big enough for a hedgehog to get under and then create a tunnel with breeze-blocks or heavy rocks that a dog can't move. If necessary this can be buried under soil with just a shallow dip showing under the rocks.
So now that we have kept the dog in and given access to the wildlife that we want in the garden I set about trying to figure out how to keep her off of my flower borders and most importantly the wild flower area that she simply seen as an extension of the lawn!!...
One of the biggest problems with an untrained dog is that there are no boundaries! So to aid her training and to keep certain areas dog free without a huge fence you need to set up clear and simple demarcation that your dog can be educated to adhere to.
Willow was simply seeing the longer grass in the wild flower area as another lawn so when she was shouted at to 'get off' it meant nothing to her. A simple solution to this is to give a visible barrier that clearly says that it's a different area. If it is clear and obvious and you remain consistent in your commands it's amazing how fast a dog will pick it up and stay off of the area (most of the time!)
Although I have found simple demarcation very effective sometimes you have to opt for more substantial physical barriers and on my raised beds I have found this necessary.
The use of a more substantial approach is however not due to the bad behaviour of the dog as such but due to the neighbour's cat who see's the raised vegetable beds as her own private toilet!!! It's does stand to reason that when a dog gets the scent of a cat in the garden they will want to explore and unfortunately cat poo seems to be a delicacy to the canine taste buds!! (Yukk!!)
So there are a few of my ideas and projects that I have put into practice recently to great effect. There is no substitute for a well trained dog and I have certainly found that being consistent and setting clear boundaries is helping with Willow's general behaviour and training. This is a great thing for her or any other dog as she doesn't need to stress about it as I make the decisions and put the rules in place for her, which is what most dogs generally want (strong leadership).
Interestingly since we have had a young dog who could potentially catch a cat and certainly makes that known to the local cat population, we have had very few cats in the garden. This means less cat mess and less birds being caught off the feeders so all in all gardening with dogs is beneficial in so many ways as well as being great fun! ;-)
So before I go here's a quick round up of what's going on in the garden at the moment and to prove that it hasn't been wrecked by our four-legged friend...
So that's about it for tonight, I hope that this post has been of interest and that you fellow dog owners will view gardening with a dog in a different light now? It's like all things you adapt, make changes but work it out in the end.
I continue to promote wildlife gardening as something for the whole family to enjoy, even our four-legged friends!!...
Next time I will get back to some more summer planting for pollinators and let you know what else I have been up to between now and then!
As always thanks for your continued support, I hope that you continue to enjoy my mad ramblings and please do send me your comments and ideas as I'm always keen to hear them!