Archive for Pet Friendly Landscaping

10 Tips for Sharing your yard

Dogs are fun and fantastic companions.  They also need a bit of space to stretch their legs.  This is where your yard often A kid and his dogcomes into play.  If your dog is anything like mine, he or she is probably a little temperamental about what they love in your yard, and what they won’t go near.  Sometimes what they love is the exact item you don’t want them to get into.  Here are some fun ideas for sharing your yard with a canine companion, and for keeping them out of the portions of your yard you want to keep for yourself:

1. Use raised beds or low fences to delineate areas where you’d like to keep your dog away.  Many dogs are decent jumpers, but if they are trained not to get into your beds or to jump a low fence, you can probably keep the veggie garden safe.

2. Install low-impact hardscape.  You’ve seen a dog slide on a wood or linoleum floor.  You don’t want your backyard to be a place where he or she slips and slides, but you also don’t want your yard to be uncomfortable on their paws.  Try getting smooth flagstones set in pebbles or grass.

3. Use fine mulch that won’t stick in the paws or dig into the skin of your pet.

4. Be sure to plant dog-friendly plants.  Plants like grapes, lilies, sago palm, azalea,  and daffodils are poisonous to dogs.  So, if you have a dog that likes to gnaw on your plants, don’t put these in your yard.  Also avoid planting anything that might have a burr-type seed like foxtails.  These can get into the fur, paws, nose, and ears of your pup and might create an infection.

Some friendly plants that can usually stand up to bigger dogs are: African boxwood, artemisia, canna, ginger, lilac, osmanthus, pines, and more.Shady dog house

5. Give your dog a shady place to rest.  Whether you will be outdoors with your dog, you have a doggy door, or your dog loves to hang out outside, it’s always smart to give them a nice, cool place to rest.  It’s also a good idea to keep a filled bowl of water there as well, so they don’t get overheated.

6. Make a path.  Most dogs love to run and explore.  A path gives them a natural place to jog, patrol your property, and generally feel like they are in charge of things.  Give them a nice pathway of dirt or low-impact hardscaping for them to jog along and be your home’s security system.

7. Build a fence or a wall.  Some dogs love to dig underneath your wall or your fence.  You might need to get a landscaper to install extra protection – underground.

8. Give your dog a way to get wet.  While it’s cooling down now, it’s usually HOT in Southern California – especially if you’re wearing a fur coat 24/7.  If you have a pond or are installing a water feature, see if you can make it a dog-friendly cool-down zone for your four legged friend.

9.  Install a walk up area.  If you have a hillside home or really any home with an incline or with elevated areas you don’t mind your pet wandering into, give your dog some steps or an easy incline to walk up.  Remember, even if your dog is just a pup, keeping them from jumping up and down can save their joints later on.

10. Try to use fewer chemically-based fertilizers, herbicides, or pesticides.  If you do need to spray your yard or lawn, make sure it had dried at least 24 hours before you let your pet loose out there.

Here’s to healthy, safe, and happy pets!

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Side Yard Ideas

Southern California cities like Thousand Oaks, Simi Valley, and La Canada have homes that are anything but cookie-cutter.  There are plenty of hillside homes, small homes on large lots, and lots featuring strange dimensions.

With homes like this, there is often a small stretch of yard which doesn’t seem to fit the rest of the space.  This could be a small side yard or an irregular spot behind the garage.  What can you do with such a space?  Here are some ideas:

Make it a play area.  Whether you have children or not, a space to stretch Children feet in green grassout and enjoy the outdoors is always welcome.

Your landscaper can design the space into a play area for children with swings or a sand box.   Another idea for kids is to install man-made grass so they can use the space for a slip-n-slide in the summer and a comfy play area the rest of the year.

Your side yard can be made into a play area for you by installing a small firepit, installing hardscaping so that the space can be used for a variety of games or installing man-made grass for games like bocci ball.

Make your own farmer’s market.  Utilize that extra space to grow your ownSmall Fruit Tree veggies in raised beds.  Or, plant a mini orchard with your favorite fruit trees.  You can also install a small vineyard for your own, homegrown California grapes.

Let it go to the dogs.  If you have dogs or other pets that require running room, set up your side yard as a dog run or a place for your pet to play.

Grow your own bouquet.  Plant your favorite flowers and create a living Meeting Placebouquet.  You can also find out the best flowers to attract your favorite insects or birds and grow those in your side yard garden patch.

These are just some ideas for your irregularly shaped lot.  Here’s to a yard that works perfectly for your needs – no matter the shape.


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Pet Friendly Landscaing – Little Changes that Make a Big Deal

It can be hard to keep the pet you want and have the perfect landscape.  CatsUnique Pet and dogs can ruin grass, flower and vegetable beds, and even trees.  Horses, goats, and chickens need their own specialized spaces which conform with city ordinances. Peacocks and other exotic pets have their own quirks and needs.

However, here are a few ideas which can help make the difference between fighting against your pet’s natural habits and having a peaceful outdoor space you both can enjoy.

Understand your pet’s needs. Different types of pets have different needs.  For example, a small mutt may just need a little running space and a patch on which to do his or her business.  However, a beagle or puggle needs lots of running space, and a puppy may need to chew on things – like your trees, and any dog may need a spot in which to dig or hide their favorite toys.

A cat usually needs plenty of roaming space and, if they are to be confined to the yard and house alone, very high fences.

Horses, goats, chickens, and other animals that may be considered farm animals have specific ordinances which cover their minimal needs.  The large animals like horses, goats, donkeys, etc also need a way to exit their pens and stalls to be walked or ridden on outside paths and roads.

The more you understand your pet’s needs, the more you can create a good place for them, while still keeping the yard space you want.

Set up fenced spaces as needed. Delineate where pens should be located, or if fences need to be put up to block your pet off from other parts of your yard.  Once you have that sorted out, work out if your need the fences high or deep (usually for cats and chickens, your fences need to be high, and for dogs you need your fences deep).

Try hardscaping some shared areas.  You can always hardscape areas that both you and your pet use.  This way they will have a tougher time damaging it, and you can still enjoy it.   If this means your landscaper will have to sacrifice your flowers or veggies, you can see if you can get a hanging garden installed.

Additionally, if you want to get really creative, you can incorporate your garden and a water feature.  I recently saw an amazing water feature which utilized a piano that had been deemed unusable.  The landscaper planted up the inside of the piano, while water came out of the area where the keys used to be.

The water will generally deter your pet from getting too curious.

Add levels to your yard. By installing raised beds, you can usually help deter your dog from getting into your garden and digging up your plants.   They can work like a fence for smaller dog, or just a less attractive and easy access area than the areas your dog normal frequents.

Install plants your pet doesn’t like. There are plants your pet won’t want to eat or don’t like to be around.  You can plant these around areas you don’t want them in.   For example, dogs often don’t like are: calendula and rue.  Both cats and dogs don’t like plectranthus caninus, or coleus canina.

These are just some ideas.  There are more ideas for pet friendly landscaping can be found here.  Do you have any strategies you use in your yard?

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Making a Statement with Your Lot

Southern California is filled with oddly sized lots.  You can find them out by Redondo Beach, in Agoura Hills, in Sunland, and all over LA.  The key to managing your odd lot is making a statement with it.  This goes for any kind of lot, any shape size or situation.

Here is what to consider when solving the landscaping for your different-sized lot:

– What is the total lot square footage (without your house)?  This is important to consider when you are considering any usable lot space.

– What portion of your lot is usable?  You should consider literally any portion of your lot which is not to steep to utilize in one way or another.

– What do you want to use the lot for? This will give you an understanding of how to best utilize that weird strip of grass on the side of your house.  It could be a vegetable garden, a dog run, a picnic area, a play spot for the kids, your native plant section, etc.

– How much energy do you want to spend on your yard?  This includes both time and money.  If you want to spend very little energy, your best idea is to either go native, or get a hardscape placed in there.  If you like gardening or want to employ a gardener to help keep your yard a paradise of flowers, trees, etc – you will clearly want a more complicated set up.

– Consult with a landscaper on the best way to utilize the entire space.  It’s unacceptable in my mind to let any part of a lot go to seed, or become a dumping ground for unused items.  Every part of your lot should have a purpose.

Here’s to those glorious lots of SoCal – no matter the size!

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Pet Friendly Landscape

Your home and yard are likely not exactly places you want your pet digging in, dragging dirt around, and generally making a mess in.  If you are really fastidious, you can forbid your pet from going to the bathroom or digging in your yard.  But, this is often extremely hard.

Additionally, your issue may depend on the kind of pet you have.  Here are some ideas – depending on the pet:


Dogs are some of the harder animals to prevent from harming your yard.  You can assign a certain portion of your yard for your dog and exclude them to that area using a fence or other means.  Additionally, you can install hardscaping.  This obviously won’t prevent them from pooping or peeing, but it’s easier to clean up.  Dog runs can also be installed, which can double as pathways through your home.  Finally, if your dog pees on parts of the lawn, try to spray it with water right away to diffuse the nitrogen.

– Chickens:

Chickens are pretty tough to keep.  There are a lot of rules and regulations with regard what areas will allow you to keep chickens.  However, usually you can get a coop set up, then compost the straw and chicken waste for fertilizer.  Finally, if you let your chickens run while – try excluding them from any vegetables or flowers you have.  I had chickens once and they ate every vegetable sprout I had – and dug up my bulbs.

– Goats:

Goats need to be excluded from anything you don’t want eaten.  Goats eat EVERYTHING.  I recommend exclusion as your main course of action.


Horses can only be kept in certain areas of Los Angeles – like Shadow Hills.  You can often keep them in specific locations, but you can also create trails for them – which can be fun for you and the horse!

There are other interesting pets – like peacocks, sheep, rabbits, etc.  Peacocks are pretty much impossible to control, but most of these animals can be easily contained.  You just have to be willing to give up yard space for them.

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Planning your yard

Welcome to January, when the snow is thick and all we can do is stare at our yards and dream…. wait a minute.  This is Southern California!  Not only can you see your yard, you can plan out improvements and put those plans into action!

So, to get started, here are some good questions to ask yourself and your landscaper:

1. Are you looking to make a cosmetic change, or change the entire structure of your yard?  For example, do you want to plant some bulbs along your walkway, or do you want to install a new patio and solve your poor drainage?  It’s a good idea to have the type of job in mind before springing to action.

2. Do you have a need your yard isn’t currently fulfilling?  Do you and your significant other need a romantic getaway?  Do you need a playpen for pets?  Do you need a safe haven for kids?  Do you entertain and need a great place for lots of guests to enjoy? Work out how you can modify your space to suit your need.

3. Is there something you feel is essential to a yard which your yard is missing?  Whether it be a swimming pool or a place for native plants to take over, discuss your ideas with your landscaper.

4. Are your dreams feasible – or can they be made into reality with the space you have?  You may not be able to add a swimming pool, patio, 1 acre wooded area, and vegetable garden in your average-sized yard.  But, perhaps your landscaper can do something to make the space feel larger and more private, while still fulfilling the essentials that you need to fulfill.

5. What is your budget? Whether you a Scrooge McDuck, or Tiny Tim, you can do something with your yard.  It’s a good idea to find out how much your dreams will cost to put into reality, so you are able to plan accordingly.

Here’s to a New Year filled with fantastic days and perfect yards!

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Useful Pets

There are some pets which are extremely useful to your landscape (some of which you can only keep in specific sections of SoCal):

1. Goats: These are nature’s lawn-mower/fertilizer combo.  They make good pets, but they eat everything – as you have likely heard.  Also, if you do have a goat, make sure to let their manure compost properly.

2. Horses: Another fun lawn-mower/fertilizer combo, along with being lots of fun to ride and so on.  Again, you have to ensure their manure cures completely before using it as fertilizer.

3. Rabbits: These little rodents are another lawn-mower/fertilizer combo.  You have to ensure they have a place to stay out of the sun, and keep an eye out for hawks and other predators which might harm your pet.

4. Chickens: These birdies are great for fertilizing, but letting them run free without very high fences is not the best idea – as they can wander very far from home.  It’s a better idea to give them a bird run, and compost the hay or straw for fertilizer.  Also, I’ll tell you from personal experience – if you let chickens roam free, they will dig up any vegetables, fruits or bulbs you happen to be growing.  My garlic and onions were eaten by chickens before I had a chance to enjoy them myself, last year.

These are some unusual pets, and there are areas where you cannot have them.  But if you plan on keeping any of the above, make sure you consult with your local landscaper on the best place to keep them in your yard, as well as how best to shelter them, and what facilities you will need for them to be most comfortable.

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Helping the birds out

It’s the time of year when our little feathered friends need your help most.  It’s getting chillier and birdies are migrating straight toward us. Now that you’re probably considering trimming your trees and generally cleaning up your yard for winter, what can you do to help out feathered friends in the wintertime?

Here’s a few ideas:

– Put your lawn and plants to bed by mulching them.  This creates a nice little area for worms and helpful bugs to continue to live, and these bugs not only enhance your soil, but will help feed your little feathered friends.

– Set up a bird feeder.  This includes keeping up your hummingbird feeder.  Hummingbirds migrate instinctively and will return to the last place they fed.  Hopefully this place is your yard.   Additionally, keeping the rest of the migrating birds fed will help them in their journey and create a joyful and colorful yard.

– Install a pond, bird bath or waterfall with little pebbles an inch or less under the water-level for birds to perch on.  Birds love to bathe and drink cool, clean water.  Keeping your pond, bird bath or waterfall up will help your friends in their migration, as well, it will aid them as they wait for spring rains.  Obviously, if you live in an area where you expect freezing temperatures, consult with your landscaper about when and how to create a bird friendly bathing spot that won’t damage your pipes.

– Put up a bird house. If you don’t have cats, you can install a bird house close to the ground, in a bush, or another likely spot.  You can get some really neat and distinctive bird houses – bird houses made of gourds, with scraps of recycled materials, etc.

– Plant a tree or some bushes.  Right now is a great time to plant, as new plants will concentrate on establishing their root systems instead of on new blossoms and leaves.  Additionally, it’ll give your feathered friends new places to perch and rest up for continued migration, or just to batten down the hatches for wintertime.

Here’s hoping you have a busy, productive yard this winter!

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Unique Yards

I’ve touched on the topic of unique and creative landscaping before, but I’ve recently been inspired by some really beautiful outdoor living spaces.  So, here are some more neat ideas:

– Install waist-high planters.  This is especially useful if you have pets or children as you can install fun pathways and play areas between your prize roses without worry.

– Add a unique water feature. We’ve discussed bird baths, fountains, pools, waterfalls, streams, etc. You can also add a water feature specific to your home. If you like the ultra modern feel, you an install an art installation with water dripping down, or even steps of cascading water leading to a pool or pond. If you are into olde tyme features, you can install an Italian water fountain, complete with statue.

– Put up a gazebo.  There are many kinds of gazebos – some with trellises of hanging grapes, bougainvillea, morning glory, or other vine-plants.   There are others in the classic round style inside which you can put comfortable benches.

– Get a treehouse.  Yes, I said it.  You know you’ve always wanted one. 🙂  Seriously, though, you can actually get some pretty neat and safe tree houses installed.  Did you want an office or external studio set up?  Check out this option.

– Install unique walkways.  You can get raised wooden walkways, or inset brick or flagstone walkways.  If you have the space, add a little hideaway just off one of your walkways.  I have a friend who installed a little jacuzzi in a copse of trees just off his walkway for a hidden, romantic get away.

– Create hidden spaces by adding texture to your landscaping.  If you have raised planters, you can hide a bench behind one.  If you add large trees, you can string a hammock or install a treehouse.  If you are living on a hillside, you can add rope walkways, hidden decks or fire pits, etc.  There’s no end to ways you can create a hidden getaway to add to the pleasure and enjoyment of your backyard.

– Plant a garden close to the house and install a barbecue, patio or other gathering place a bit farther away, so you and your guests can enjoy your beautiful plants on the way to your soiree.

– String lights or install unique lights at strategic points in your yard.

Let me know if you have other ideas or case studies of unique landscaping!  I’d love to hear about them.

Here’s to an outdoor living space which is uniquely “you”!

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Keeping Horses – Neigh or Yay?

There are areas of Los Angeles County which allow horses, most significantly Shadow Hills and Topanga Canyon.  However, there are lots of rules and regulations when it comes to keeping horses.  Not only that, but horses, being big animals, require lots of space.  In fact, you could say they need their own home outside of your home.

So, do you want to make the investment to keep horses at home?  Or, will you go with a housing facility?

Here are some things to consider:

1. Horses require LOTS of space out of doors.  Unless your land is enormous, you won’t be able to have a huge lawn with a deck, or something like that.  Additionally, you may have some wasted space between where you house your horses and your neighbor’s house.  If you aren’t sure if you have the required space to house your horses at home, consult with a professional landscaper.

2. Keeping horses grant you the ability to create some amazing compost – using horse manure, grass clippings, etc.  So, if you have the space, your horses can help your garden bloom.

3. Housing horses at a separate facility is expensive.  It may be expensive to remodel your landscape, but if you are going to keep horses, it will likely save you money in the long run to keep your own horses.

4. Last but not least, having your horse at home is a pleasure.  You can easily access them, you can enjoy their company and you can ensure their care is exactly to your liking.

So, here’s to a home set up exactly how you want it, and an outdoor space set up perfectly for your best friends – your pets.

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