Thursday, April 22, 2010

'Baby' Proofing the Vegetable Garden

Ah, the joy of having dogs. They love unconditionally, they are quick to forgive. They stare at you with sad, limpid eyes when they sense that you're upset, and give enthusiastic, snuffling kisses. They cuddle, they play, they chew, they track mud all over the floor and then look up at you, trying to be convincing that they are innocent of any wrongdoing.

They also have no respect for garden boundaries, sometimes picking plants to 'do their business' over. Branches are perfectly acceptable chew toys in their opinion, whether the branches are smooth or have tiny thorns that can become embedded in their mouths. Plants and roots can become partners in a 'tug-o-war' contest.

At least, that's how it is with our dogs.

We have two - a 100 lb ivory, woolly-coated Hungarian Kuvasz, and a 14 lb sable and black-masked Tibetan Spaniel. The Kuvasz likes to use plants as a potty, and the Spaniel likes to chew and play tug-o-war.

Originally, we put up a white wire fence, thinking that it would be a deterrent. Icewind (the Kuvasz) greatly dislikes bumping into things like baby gates, etc...
We also enclosed our fruit bushes with a wooden support covered by a string mesh (although this was partially to keep the birds out, too.)

It took a couple of years, but eventually Ice learned that he could simply jump over the wire fence. And it only took him one season to barrel right through the mesh. Keani, not being able to clear the top of the wire, simply went through it, and lost no time in following his big brother through the gaping holes in the string net.

Well, this was a problem for many reasons. One, I didn't put all this work into growing my vegetables only to have them torn, trampled, or ripped. Two, we'd actually like our plants to be healthy, and not suffer burn from over-fertilization (which is what dog urine does), and three, our fruits include grapes, which can be poisonous to dogs, and raspberries, the canes of which are covered in the aforementioned tiny prickles.

Our solution? To build a second fence about five feet away from the main one, thereby enclosing the garden completely.

At first, my husband wanted to build a chain-linked one, but eventually we went with a simpler (and more 'natural' looking, I think) green wire that is tall enough to keep Icewind out. Using a sledgehammer, my husband drove nine spikes at intervals into the yard. The spikes were about a food and a half long, while the stuff underneath the grass is clay and rock, so you can imagine how much effort that took.

Afterward, he fitted rectangular posts into the holders at the tops of the spikes. The green wire came in a roll of 50'. This we stretched as taut as we could before using a staple gun to hold it in place on the posts. My husband also drove two metal pipes into the ground and hung a latch-gate between them.

Finally, a 'baby' proof garden!

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Keani, Tibetan Spaniel

Icewind and Keani - New Beginnings