<span>April 2016</span>

  • Dog-Friendly Landscaping in Sarasota

    We love our furry, four-legged, family members and do everything to ensure they are well taken care of, complete with a good diet, exercise, play toys; and, of course, plenty of room to romp outside. For most families, a two income household is a reality and that presents somewhat of a challenge for Fido and friends.

    You want them to be able to heed nature’s call when it’s necessary and don’t want them suffering from heat exhaustion. Here in Sarasota, summers are quite warm and that means keeping pets inside when it’s possible. However, as you and your spouse are working during the day, you probably don’t have time to go home and let the dog(s) out.

    That’s okay, because you can make your backyard into a dog-friendly landscape that has all the comforts of home, along with some fun features. This will allow you to leave Spot roam during the day and provide them with a whole host of amenities that will be just right for resting, chowing down, and frolicking about freely.

    Adding Features without Decreasing Aesthetics and Function

    The first thing that many homeowners think about having a dog, a vegetable or flower garden, and a landscape that accommodates all, is just not possible. Their curious and sometimes mischievous quadruped will wreak havoc on the garden and probably do a number (we’re talking 1 or 2) on their hardscape. Such thinking is a valid concern, but with the right planning, you and your fur-people will be able to have your cakes and eat them too.

    A dog or dogs happily romping in the backyard is a classic dog-owner dream. Achieving this, though, takes more thought than just sending your dog out in the yard and hoping for the best. Take the time to make sure your yard provides your dog with the amenities he or she needs and loves. Fortunately, pet-friendly yard amenities are also great for people as well. —

    You probably know your dog’s disposition and proclivities, so, try to be creative with a workable solution. You’ll need to provide the basics and can also put in a few things that will provide necessary shelter, comfort, and nutrition. With the right plan, you can also declare certain areas off limits, while making other areas easily accessible. In addition, you should be aware of certain dangers posed by great landscaping features, such as Cocoa mulch, which is toxic to dogs in large doses. So, if your dog likes to masticate on mulch or does so when bored, avoid putting in mulch. That also goes for plants and those on the list are many. You can find a complete list of toxic plants on the ASPCA’s website.

    Fences can be great for containment but can also be an obstacle to overcome, or rather, dig under to pull off an escape. If your pet is susceptible to the siren call of a strong scent, that’s certain something to take into consideration so you don’t come home to find your dog has taken flight.

    Creating a Dog-Friendly Landscaping Design

    To make a dog friendly landscape, you should consider some of the following options to provide a safe, yet fun, environment for your pet to enjoy:

    • An automatic water dispenser. A self filling water bowl is just the solution for needed hydration during the day. Fill it once in the morning before you leave for work and that will take care of the day.
    • Plenty of food, but not too much. Along with an automatic water dispenser, a food dispenser is also necessary. However, if you have the type of pet who likes to consume every last speck of food in their dish, be sure to moderate the amount to avoid trips to the veterinarian.
    • A nice place to nap. You probably have a covered porch leading out to the pool and/or back yard, so make good use of it. A nice comfortable bed under cover out of the sun will be a great place to nap during the day.
    • Toys and other play items. Depending on your dog’s chewing and playing habits, pick toys which are appropriate. In addition, you can put out a little swimming pool to frolic in the water when the mood strikes.

    Here’s another idea: strolling paths. Some dogs really enjoy patrolling the yard and sniffing along the way. If your’s appreciates this, then put in a stone pathway. This is not only a great exploration feature, it’s also perfect for family and friends to enjoy. To keep their “toilet space” to a minimum, do a little old fashion training, teaching where it is and where it isn’t acceptable to do their business.

    The good news is, none of these steps are difficult to take and in just a matter of a weekend, you can create and peaceful oasis of rest and play for your furry friend.

  • How to Attract Butterflies to Your Landscape

    Everyone loves the site of colorful butterflies in their garden. These delicate and diverse creatures are marvels to the eye and provide a sense of nature that can’t be duplicated. The truth is, you don’t really need a “butterfly garden” to attract these beautiful creatures. In fact, if you study the species a bit, you’ll learn that some of the most attractive things to butterflies are weeds–the last thing that we would purposely add to our landscapes.

    Butterflies are attracted to certain plants but don’t necessarily spend a lot of time in them. If you want to attract butterflies, you’ve got to think about not only adults, but also larva and caterpillars. In other words, you have to provide a complete environment to truly attract butterflies and this includes other elements than just plants.

    The good news is there are so many types of plants that attract these colorful creatures, that’s it’s somewhat difficult to select ones that won’t do the trick. This is a welcome fact, because the more butterflies you attract to your yard, the more they’ll help in pollination and that promotes more robust, health growth of your flowers. However, when to attract these brightly colored insects, you’ll also attract predators, like birds, spiders, reptiles, other insects, which include such unwelcome guests as wasps, flies, and mites, as well as small mammals.

    What to Know about Butterflies

    Butterflies are very fragile and nearly defenseless creatures. To ward off predators, caterpillars and butterflies have few defenses. Caterpillars can emit foul odors–at least foul to potential predators, or, are poisonous. Butterflies rely on camouflage, flight, poison, and mimicry for defense. Mimicry is the adaptation of certain patterns and colors to fool predators into believing a butterfly is a poisonous one.

    Brightly colored butterflies can be a welcome addition to your wildlife garden, not only because of their beauty, but also because of their usefulness in pollinating flowers. Attracting butterflies involves incorporating plants that serve the needs of all life stages of the butterfly. The insects need places to lay eggs, food plants for their larvae (caterpillars), places to form chrysalides and nectar sources for adults. —National Wildlife Federation

    Butterflies begin their lives as eggs attached to plants. When the eggs hatch, tiny larva emerge to grow into caterpillars. The caterpillars begin to eat immediately to grow, first their own shells, and second, their host plants. Eventually, a caterpillar will enter its pupa stage and form chrysalis. This is the beginning of what’s known as complete metamorphosis. When the transformation is done, a butterfly emerges and flies off to find host plants to feed and lay eggs. This is why your landscape must incorporate more than just attractive plants. You also need to provide them with shelter and plenty of places to fly about and explore.

    How to Attract Butterflies to Your Landscape

    To attract butterflies and do so consistently, you have to incorporate all the elements they need for their various life stages. While flowers and plants will certainly do a lot, you’ll need a few other things to make your yard a have for butterflies. Here are some helpful tips you can use in your landscape:

    • Plant native flowers. One thing that ought to be obvious is that butterflies prefer native plants. This, of course, is because these serve as their primary food source and because non-native plants can be very poor places for their eggs and larva. In fact, some non-native plants won’t provide caterpillars with the necessities most needed to survive.
    • Plant colorful flowers. Butterflies seem to prefer colorful flowers and “open.” Pink, purple, orange, red, and yellow will do the most to attract these pollinators. Butterflies are most attracted to clustered and flat-topped flowers, especially those with short flower tubes.
    • Provide places to rest. Flowers and plants alone won’t be enough to attract butterflies. Flat stones, fences, and other places are great places to rest and bask in the warmth of the sun.
    • Give them plenty of water. Feeders are another way to attract butterflies, but these colorful creatures also need water. When butterflies drink, they often do so in what’s known as “puddling.” This behavior is grouping together by extracting minerals from puddles. Fill a pan with course sand and work it into the soil to provide the right environment.

    Two more Tips for Attracting Butterflies to Your Landscape

    There are also a couple more ways to make your outdoor space attractive to butterflies:

    • Plant for continuous blooming. If you’re able to work it out, plant flowers to bloom in succession, one after another for continuous blooming. This will give butterflies ample reason to make your landscape their home.
    • Refrain from using insecticides. Because butterflies are so delicate, they are susceptible to even benign insecticides. Don’t use these, either organic or chemical, anywhere near where you’d like to attract butterflies.

    One more important tip is to provide flowers that thrive in the sun. This is because adult butterflies generally feed from the mid-morning to mid-afternoon and only visit plants that are in the sun.