Fertilizer blues and the dog
Ah, fall in Phoenix. Can you smell the Pumpkin Spice Latte? Actually, in our neighborhood (and possibly yours) the smell of fall comes more from the fertilizer on people’s new winter lawns and less from brewing coffee. And that winter grass means all kinds of problems for my dog when we go on our daily walks.
In our neighborhood, many people over-seed their Bermuda grass with perennial ryegrass which grows lush and deep during the winter. Yes, those lawns do take a lot of water to maintain but geez, they look so nice!
But for my dog (and possibly yours), over-seeding time seems like an early Halloween, especially if your dog likes to eat poop. (No judgment here: dogs eat poop because well, they just do.) Think about it: Like Halloween, over-seeding time comes in the fall; one of the best parts is going house to house for “treats’’ and there can be a stomachache at the end. Sounds like over-seeding in my hood!
Protecting your dog from poop and pigeons
So this time of year, my neighbors mow their grass really low and clear out dead and unhealthy Bermuda grass with de-thatchers. The optimum time to over-seed in Arizona is right now, the first two weeks of October, or when the evening temperatures consistently stay below 65.
After the scalping, my hard-working neighbors throw grass seed over their now-naked yards.
Then problems begin. Pigeons flock into the yards to eat the grass seed; some OD on the stuff, and become sluggish and easier for dogs to bring down. (The previous beagle could bring down a pigeon and basically eat it in one gulp; the Current Beagle is a little more finicky.) But still the dog is now fixated on those plump, slow-moving pigeons. She tries to chase down every single one of them.
Compounding the problem is that after the pigeon-stuffing grass seed goes down, fertilizer is piled up high on the lawns. Most gardeners use a starter fertilizer that is a 6-20-20 (6-percent nitrogen, 20-percent phosphorus, 20-percent potassium) or 15-15-15 (15 percent each of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) mix.
Whatever the chemical composition is, it spells deliciousness for the Beagle, who is always willing to sample some new delicacy that could involve poop of any kind, regardless of which animal it came from. So, invariably, we bound into the neighbor’s newly fertilized yard. The string-and-tinfoil concoctions that neighbors put up to scare away pigeons are no match my determined beagle. Poop, pigeons, here we come!
Fertilizer: gross but is it dangerous?
Turns out the Beagle isn’t alone. Dogs eating fertilizer is pretty common, reports the Animal Poison Control Center run by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. In fact, calls about pets eating lawn and garden products were among its top 10 toxin calls in 2007.
Some dogs will tear open fertilizer bags to eat every last morsel. Most fertilizer ingestions cause mild GI upset and are not a huge concern, according to ASPCA. But the dogs who chow down on the whole bag can get bloated or experience some muscle stiffness or soreness after ingestion.
So, bottom line: the fertilizer may be dangerous and it is definitely kinda gross.
Happy Fall everyone; watch out for the poop and pigeons!