Follow these ten simple steps to grow a nutritious vegetable garden for you and your dog!
We can all claim victory when we grow our own food. Whether you grow herbs in a flower box, plant an apple tree or some raspberry canes, or design and build an entire raised vegetable garden complex, you can help feed your family, human and canine, save money, and reduce your carbon footprint.
Create a raised vegetable garden
1. Dream, visualize and draw the shape of your raised bed.
Think of your new raised garden as a really special “gift box”. What do you picture? Put it on paper.
2. Measure the space you have to work with.
It may be in your backyard, or on a patio or balcony. Start small. You can always go bigger later. Remember your drawing? Well, now’s the time to add your measurements to it. This will help you figure out how much material you will need to make your bed, including wood and soil.
3. Decide what to use to make your raised bed.
Lumber is easiest, but make sure you don’t choose “treated” lumber. Old wooden railway ties are popular and look fabulous, but they are soaked in creosote that will leach into your soil and plants. The bottom line is you can choose anything that will hold dirt, but think of health and safety too.
4. It’s time to go shopping!
Let’s say you choose wood to build your raised garden. You can have pieces cut to size for you, or you can buy them and do it yourself. Keep in mind that raised beds need to be about 24” high so you have lots of space for the soil.
5. Put it all together
Once you have all your supplies, it’s time to start building by connecting all your pieces. 4X4s are perfect to use as posts and corners. Connect your pieces with long sturdy nails or preferably screws.
6. Add some accessories
Your garden bed frame is now built and looks good and strong. Now consider gardening plastic, a weed mat or even pond liner to line the frame. Make sure you get a great fit.
7. Pick the right location for your garden frame and lay it down.
Be careful about placement before moving to the next step. Ideally, the garden should be in a sheltered spot where it will reap the benefits of six hours of sun each day.
8. Fill your garden frame with soil.
Consider 1/3 rich compost or manure (or a combination), and 2/3 potting soil. Or try sea soil – it’s amazing.
9. Add some organic fertilizer.
Be sure to check the packaging to ensure it doesn’t contain toxins that will harm your pet. Or better yet — make your own natural fertilizer!
10. Plant, water, observe!
Plant your garden, water it well, feed with organic fertilizer when needed – and watch it grow. Lettuce, tomatoes, potatoes, zucchini and other squash, green beans and carrots are good vegetables to start with. Also consider herbs such as parsley, rosemary, oregano and thyme. Keep in mind that many vegetables are subject to pests and disease, so you’ll need a good gardening book or website to help you with any problems.
The fun part is when you can harvest your vegetables and benefit from the taste and nutrition of fresh, organically grown produce!
Simple sauce with tomatoes
• 4 cups tomatoes
• 1 clove garlic, finely minced
• 1 tablespoon first pressed olive oil
• 1/2 cup fresh parsley
• 5 basil leaves, fresh, finely sliced, or 1 teaspoon dried basil
• 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely sliced and packed, or 2 teaspoons dry oregano
• 1 teaspoon sea salt
• Fresh ground pepper to taste (optional)
• 2 tablespoons sugar (leave out if preparing for dogs)
1. Heat the olive oil in a medium sized pot over medium high heat.
2. Add garlic and sauté gently until golden brown in color, then add the remainder of the ingredients, mixing well.
3. As soon as bubbles appear on the surface, turn the heat down to a low simmer, and let the wonderful aroma waft through the house for about one hour.
4. This sauce can be served as a meal topper for your dog’s regular food, or try spooning it over some ground meat.
• 1 large zucchini, finely grated
• 3 whole eggs
• 3 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
• 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
• 2 tablespoons first pressed olive oil
• 1/4 cup tomato sauce
1. Preheat oven broiler. In a medium sized bowl, combine grated zucchini, eggs, parsley and sea salt. In a large pan, heat the olive oil on medium high heat.
2. Add the zucchini mixture, and make sure it reaches the outer edges of the pan.
3. Reduce the heat to low. Gently cook the cake. You can lift the pan off the stove from time to time, to ensure all the liquid is evenly heated. The cake should be a bit “wet” in the middle, but the edges should have a golden tinge.
4. Transfer the cake to a cookie sheet, place under the broiler and cook until firm. This will only take a couple of minutes.
5. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool. Cut, top with tomato sauce and serve. For an extra treat, add some grated Parmesan cheese. apple betty This is a traditional apple Betty recipe that passes the test for people and dogs. Please ensure you read the instructions thoroughly before preparing – changes are noted when preparing for either people or dogs.
• 8 cups red apples with peel, cored and thinly sliced (peaches can also be used)
• 3/4 cup sugar (omit when preparing for dogs, and use 1/2 cup local honey instead)
• 1 tablespoon whole grain flour of your choice
• 1 teaspoon cinnamon, or more to taste
• 1 cup unsweetened, unsulphured dried cranberries
• 1 cup rolled oats
• 1/2 cup brown sugar (omit when preparing for dogs)
• 1/2 cup whole grain flour of your choice
• 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 1/4 cup melted butter (vegetable oil can be used in place of butter)
1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 9”x12” baking dish.
2. Core and slice the apples.
3. Blend sugar and cinnamon with flour, and combine with apples in baking dish. (If preparing for dogs, drizzle honey over apples in baking dish, then sprinkle flour and cinnamon on top.)
4. Add cranberries. Combine topping ingredients so crumbs are formed, and sprinkle on top of the apple mixture.
5. Bake for 45 minutes.
6. Allow to cool completely before serving to your dog. Try adding a dollop of goat yogurt for an extra special treat. For the human members of your family, try a scoop of vanilla ice cream.
Suzi Beber has been successfully creating special needs diets for companion animals for two decades. She founded the University of Guelph’s Smiling Blue Skies® Cancer Fund and Smiling Blue Skies® Fund for Innovative Research. She is the proud recipient of a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and was honored with the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa, for her work in cancer, from the University of Guelph/Ontario Veterinary College. The Smiling Blue Skies Cancer Fund is also the recipient of the “Pets + Us” Community Outreach Champion Award.