Look carefully at the picture. If you are quite young and you have very good eyesight you will see a tiny patch of green in the upper portion of the garden bed, a little toward the right hand side. That tiny patch of green is lettuce. Why did I plant my lettuce seeds in one tiny bunch in one tiny section of a large raised bed, you may ask? I did not plant my lettuce in one tiny bunch in one tiny section of the large raised bed.
I had a helper, or rather an unhelper. My elderly German Shepherd decided to take a leisurely stroll through the lettuce bed after I had planted it. So here's your garden tip for the day. Don't hire elderly German Shepherds to help you in the garden, even though they will offer to work for dog food.
Actually dogs can help with the garden by chasing rabbits and other pests away. My old German shepherd also helps protect my chickens when they are free ranging (no, really it's true....although I wouldn't trust the younger one with them for one second). But they are no help at all when they are allowed anywhere near the garden beds because they don't quite get that some beds are beds for vegetables and not for dogs. Who wouldn't want a nice bed made entirely of dirt? Imagine the possibilities right after a bath!
Dogs can equally be helpers or unhelpers in the garden but you have to give them specific jobs and keep them exactly where you want them. Some gardeners put a little bit of electric wire around their garden beds or find some other way to separate the dogs from the garden beds. Small fences or edging will deter some dogs, but most dogs will be deterred by 3 or 4 foot chicken wire or livestock wire. (If you can't teach your dog not to jump over a 4 foot fence then perhaps you have dog training issues and not garden issues.) Dogs should remain fairly close to the garden without being able to go Godzilla on it, so they can still manage to take care of a lot of the garden pests that eat your vegetables, either by eating them or simply scaring them.
Cats can also fall into either category. I had a terrible problem with voles when I did not have an outside cat. I went out to the garden one morning to admire my David Austin rose, The Prince, a lovely full, dark red rose; it looked stunning with two full roses and one dark blood red bud, a prince indeed. It set my heart aflutter, but when I touched it, it toppled to the ground, rootless. That dear friends is work of the devil's little helpers, the voles. It's a dreadful thing to discover that your seemingly healthy plant is a mere corpse. However, now that I have outside cats, voles find themselves to be the eatees not the eaters. (I occasionally find a the dead body of a vole in an inappropriate place, like under the buffet or stuffed in a box to rot...but I suppose that falls under a different category of unhelping.)
So cats too have their place in the garden. My biggest problem with cats is the fact that when they smell the composted manure, they think "litter box." I believe they really appreciate the fact that I go to so much work to provide them with enormous outdoor toilets. Right now, for reasons comprehensible only to the minds of cats, they only use two of my flower beds as litter boxes and they leave the vegetables unmolested. I don't understand, but I am grateful. I don't have any helpful hints on preventing cats from doing anything that cats want to do. If anyone has any tips for that...then perhaps you should be using your super powers to do something more important than keeping cats out of my garden.
We will cover the garden helpers/unhelpers known as chickens later as they rate their own page and finally discuss the biggest helpers/unhelpers of all family members.
Pictured below: the culprit. Do not let this dog near your lettuce bed! You can imagine what those feet would do to your poor little seeds.
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