Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Grow an organic vegetable garden for your dog!

Vegetables and fruits are a great addition to your dog's diet and can add a whole form of important vitamins, minerals and other nutrients that help keep them the healthiest they can be!

If you are interested in growing a few vegetables for you and your dog, read on to learn how you can easily grow your own organic vegetable garden.

Steps in preparing your organic vegetable (and fruit) garden

Choose your location wisely - Great soil, that's well draining and contains a good mix of light loam and organic matter and receives good sun are keys to a successful garden. A spot in your yard that receives at least six hours of direct sun each day and preferably near a water source, like your spigot or rain barrel help maintaining your garden easier.

Test the soil - If you initially want to check to see if your soil is a good mix, simply grab a handful of the soil and squeeze. if the clump falls apart quickly your soil is too sandy, if the clump stays together then your soil has too much clay. Loamy soil (which is what you want) holds together, but crumples when poked.

Good soil has a mix of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorous at a pH of about 6-7. To check the make up of your soil run a basic soil test to determine it's pH balance. To add nitrogen you can supplement your soil with organic manure, for phosphorus you can add organic bone meal, for potassium you can add organic potash or greensand (all available at your local organic garden center). Generally speaking you can add material from your compost pile, or a good organic compost to your soil for a good garden.

Prep the soil - Tilling the soil, mixing all added nutrients until your soil is loamy down about six inches or so, allows for easier planting, good root generation, and a well drained bed free of weeds for the best vegetable and fruit growing conditions.

Selecting your crops - Decide which organic vegetables and fruits you want to plant for your dog garden. You can choose from these few examples that are healthy and recommended by many sources for your dog. Remember: vegetables and fruits are always best given to your dog in moderation, introducing them gradually and always under 20% or so of their total diet.
  • Carrots
  • Broccoli
  • Cantaloupe (no seeds)
  • Watermelon (no seeds)
  • Celery
  • Green Beans
  • Spinach and other leafy greens (minimally)
  • Pumpkin (no seeds)
  • Sweet Potato
  • Squash
  • Zucchini
Once you've decided what plants you want to grow you need to check your planting zone to see when is the best time to plant that particular vegetable. You can determine your planting zone by inserting your zip code. Once you've determined your planting zone you can then click these various links to determine the best time to plant your vegetables:
Why organic? - With all the dangers we've discussed about GMO fruits and vegetables and pesticides, insecticides and herbicides added to seeds and plants, it's important to start your organic garden with organic seeds and plantings. And then keep your garden organic for the health of your dog. You can find organic seeds and plantings at your local organic garden center, where they will also have organic material to keep the soil organic as well. If you don't have a local organic garden center, you can find organic seeds online.

Planting - Once you've selected your crops, purchased your organic seeds, you are ready to plant! Plant following all the directions included on your seed packet or planting tag.

Maintenance - Stake tall growing plants. During certain times of dry weather you may need to water your garden, otherwise don't water too often as you want to encourage deep and strong root growth. Weed often to allow the vegetables to receive all the wonderful water and nutrients of the soil. Control pests utilizing beneficial insects or by spaying with a mix of eco-friendly dish soap and water. Control slugs by placing a shallow pan of beer near your vegetables.

Feeding - All dogs don't like all vegetables and fruits. What I've found is that many vegetables are not only digested more easily and enjoyed more by my dogs if they are lightly steamed. And remember, as we explained above, everything in moderation!

Additional Resources:
Books:
Starter Vegetable Gardens: 24 No-Fail Plans for Small Organic Gardens
Organic Gardening Beginner's Manual: The ultimate "Take-You-By-The-Hand" beginner's gardening manual for creating and managing your own organic garden.

Websites:
Organic Gardening
Mother Earth News
The Daily Green

ASPCA list of dangerous plants to dogs:
Plants, whether in part or whole, that may pose a danger to your dog via the ASPCA.

Photo courtesy of OakleyOriginals.

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