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Gardening is a favorite pastime among many Americans. Freshly grown fruits, vegetables, and herbs not only taste great, but can also save you money. Plus, there’s nothing quite like eating something you cultivated yourself. It’s even better when you get to share those hard-earned spoils with your four-legged best friend. Here are some tips for planting a dog-friendly garden.

Choose What Dog-Friendly Plants to Grow

Dr. Carol Osborne, integrative veterinarian at Chagrin Falls Pet Clinic in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, suggests the following edible plants to put in your garden — all of which are high in antioxidants and safe for dogs to consume:

  • Green beans (chopped, steamed, or raw, all types are okay for dogs to eat, as long as they’re not prepared with other ingredients, i.e. salt)
  • Berries: cranberries, blueberries, raspberries, strawberries (all safe in small quantities)
  • Barley grasses (should only be eaten in small amounts)

If you want to grow something that is not on this list, be sure to confirm the plant is non-toxic to dogs. Onions and the leaves of tomato plants, for example, are toxic to dogs and should not be grown in your backyard if you can’t be sure your dog won’t get access to them and eat them.

When it comes to herbs, Osborne says the ones listed below can be grown in your garden and added to your dog’s meals, or mixed into treats in small quantities:

  • Dandelion greens — the stem and leaf parts of the plant — are a natural source of vitamins A, C, K, D, and B. Not everyone appreciates dandelions, so only offer ones from your own yard so you know they haven’t had pesticides or herbicides applied to them. Dandelion greens are also often available for sale at farmers’ markets and natural food stores.
  • Rosemary acts as an iron-rich antioxidant
  • Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) is often used as a breath freshener in dog dental treats. But, be warned. While curly-leafed parsley is OK, spring parsley can be toxic. Because parsley is a diuretic, you’ll want to give it to your dog only sparingly.
  • Basil (Ocimum basilicum) has antioxidant, antiviral, and antimicrobial properties.
  • Thyme’s active ingredient is thymol, which is said to be antifungal and antibacterial. Thyme also contains flavonoids, which act as antioxidants.

Create a Dog-Safe (and Dog-Proof!) Garden Space

Even though you are planting edibles that are safe for your pup, the most important step is to put a fence around your garden that will keep your dog out. You don’t want him thinking it’s a self-service salad bar. Not only would you run the risk of your dog overeating, but there are some parts of plants that should never be eaten.

If you don’t have space to put a garden in the ground with a fence around it, consider hanging pots or containers placed where your dog can’t reach them.

You also need to think about the type of fertilizer you’re using. Whether you are applying a spray-on or pelleted product, check that the active ingredients are non-toxic and follow the instructions on the label carefully. The same thing goes for mulch. Even if your dog does not have unsupervised access to your garden, you don’t want him accidentally ingesting harmful substances if he does sneak past your fence. If you have questions about a specific fertilizer or mulch, talk to your veterinarian before using it.

Plant, Grow, Enjoy!

Now you are ready to start planting. But before you begin adding any of these edibles to your dog’s diet, have a conversation with your veterinarian, as nutritional needs differ from pet to pet.

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