Gardening for Pets

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Your four-legged family members will thank you, and if you have kids, this is a great opportunity to deepen their connection with the garden.

Most days my dogs spend a fair amount of time in my urban vegetable garden barking at innocent neighbors or squirrels, chasing lizards, or digging up newly planted seedlings. They are truly not helpful and yet they have tricked me with their unconditional love and constant need for affection: I find myself gardening specifically for pets. Add a rabbit into the chaos and now half the garden is dedicated to our four-legged family members. 

Not only am I enriching their diets with garden-to-pet-bowl goodies, it has deepened my family’s connection with what we’re growing. The kids are excited to tend to and harvest food for Blossom the bunny, as we need to fill her bowl daily. And this connection helps strengthen their responsibility to our earth. They’ve become eager and willing participants in understanding soil health, growing food, bringing pollinators to the garden, as well as the importance of composting and recycling. Instilling in my children responsibility for our earth is the greatest gift our garden gives us and growing for our pets is a fun way to build this connection and responsibility. 

As you set out to add some pet-friendly areas in your garden, keep in mind that each pet and breed will have its own needs. This list just provides a place to get started with some easy-to-grow and safe options:

Rabbits

All the greens! They enjoy herbs like parsley, cilantro, dill, basil, and mint; leafy greens like red and green lettuce or romaine; and veggie tops from carrots, beets, and celery. Occasional carrots and celery along with fruits like blueberries, strawberries, raspberries, and watermelon can be given in moderation. And don’t forget about your weeds! They love dandelion greens and flowers.

Guinea Pigs

Just like rabbits, they love their leafy greens, such as red and green lettuce, romaine, cilantro, and parsley. Throw in some kale for extra nutrients. They need vitamin C every day, which can come from a slice of red pepper or a wedge of orange. They will also happily munch on a bit of green peppers, broccoli, carrots, zucchini, tomato, or sweet potato once or twice a week. 

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Turtles and Tortoises

Depending on the size and breed, turtles and tortoises can free range in your garden with proper shelter. Watch out because they are hungry! They will keep your grass mowed, while enjoying other garden treats like clover, dandelions, prickly pear cactus, hibiscus flowers, red/green lettuce, and occasional fruits like watermelon and strawberries.

Dogs and Cats

You can spoil your dogs and cats with garden additions to their food or with homemade treats. Green beans, blueberries, carrots, peas, and pumpkin are healthy and safe for our dogs to enjoy. Don’t forget to plant a cat-friendly herb garden with catnip, mint, and wheatgrass for a purring good time.

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Laura McLean
Laura McLean
Laura McLean is a native San Diegan who is the plant expert co-owner of Sweet Seedlings, and has spent over 20 years working for a nonprofit and as a marriage and family therapist. She has transformed her yard into an urban vegetable and pollinator garden, and strives to connect mental health, self-care, and a commitment to our earth with every seed she sows.
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