The New Face of Natural Disaster in My Garden

Warning: this cute, innocent face belongs to a mastermind of evil!beagle mix

A few weeks ago, Riley (my beagle-German Shepard mix) masterminded the devastation of my budding little garden. This is a true story.

It all started when my seedlings weren’t getting enough sunlight. I sowed the seeds in peat pods and then set them near the kitchenette window. In my old house, this was sufficient sunlight to cause the little guys to flourish. In this house, it just wasn’t enough sunlight. Some seedlings failed to germinate altogether. Those that did were weak and scrawny. It wasn’t a matter of pinching them off. Some got tall and leggy before they ever sprouted the first true leaves.

why are seedlings skinny and weak

I decided the set them outside in diffused daylight (under solar sails) for a few hours each day. I figured more sunlight would help beef them up. Before the first outdoor session, I gave them super watered-down fish emulsion fertilizer. I added a more concentrated version of the mixture to the existing plants in the raised garden beds. Then I went inside and continued with my day.

My husband saw the havoc first. I was practicing yoga in the evening when I heard him calling, cautiously, from the yard.  This is what was left of my seedlings in the Bio Dome.

IMG_2690 IMG_2689

Riley caught the scent of the fish emulsion. She dug through the foam tray to find the putrid-smelling solution at the bottom. She also tore through a few of the raised garden beds. She trampled tomato and cucumber plants that were only a few weeks old. The horror was too much for photographs.

Don’t we feed her?!?! I took it personally that we feed this darn dog every day and she acts like she is freakin’ starving, in need of putrid fish fluid! Was she so hungry that she had to tear up my garden???

Alejandro started speaking to me in a low, smooth, calm voice. It was the voice that you use when you talk to unpredictable, dangerous people. I would’ve laughed if I wasn’t so livid. I understood that she was just being a dog. She smelled fish. She wanted to eat it. But I was very frustrated because it takes forever to start a garden from seed, yet it could all be ruined instantaneously.

Almost ruined.

After a million hugs and kisses from the hubs, I went to work salvaging what I could. I found the seedlings that seemed to have most of their roots intact. I immediately planted them into the raised beds. It was almost sunset and not too hot. That’s as good as it gets for planting emergencies…

Since everything got mixed up, I couldn’t tell my tomato varieties apart. I planted everything under the Florida Weave trellis since the indeterminate plants will definitely need support and the compact plants won’t mind the strings. There is no telling what pepper plants are where…

It has been several weeks now. Six plants loss their lives. The rest look like they might survive, though their growth was stunted for about two weeks. Most of the tomatoes have sprouted more leaves. The bell peppers are roughly the same size but they aren’t wilting or turning yellow, so there is hope!

weak tomato and cucumber progress

The cucumbers took it the worst. All of the leaves turned pale with a yellowish tint. New leaves refused to spout. They refused to get taller. But then, out of nowhere, little leaves and a bud appeared. Fingers crossed.

transplanting cucumbers

…but just in case, I started a second set of seeds in an emergency Jiffy peat pod set that I bought at Home Depot. I planted more of the same plants that got destroyed.

jiffy peat seed starter pots

I don’t foresee myself buying another starter set. Here is why:

gardening blog how to start seeds

If you want to avoid this minor catastrophe, skip the fish emulsion when your pets have access to your garden. Or at least watch them like a hawk when they’re outside. Secondly, never sow all of your seeds at once. You never know when you may need backup!

2 thoughts on “The New Face of Natural Disaster in My Garden

  1. Hello! I am new to your site and am enjoying your information. I too have had the same experience with my baby girl Boxer Bella. I even made a fence around the garden and she dug a hole right under it into my garden. She is 50 lbs 1 year old so this was a pretty big hole. She ruined my corn, squash and broccoli. For some reason she spared the tomatoes. and cucumbers. Each time I put potted plants up out of her reach(my lettuce and raddishes) she suprised me and pulls them down some how. She has a weird obsession with dirt. She thinks my crazy yelling and ranting at her is hillarious as she wiggles and shakes her tail happily like she just did the most amazing thing. Very frustrating! Thanks for sharing your story.

    1. Hi! As much as we love our pets, they can be pains in the butt. And it’s hard to know what disciplinary action to take after the fact, especially if they don’t know what they’ve done wrong. With a younger dog, it can be even more challenging.

      A few suggestions:
      1. Change fertilizers. My dog loved the liquid, fish-based fertilizer but when we changed to pellets of NPK, etc. she could care less about what was in the garden.
      2. Wear her out. Sometimes dogs dig when they have too much energy. Long walks capped off with fetch or tug-of-war miiiiiiiight help chill amped-up vibes.
      3. Try deterrent sprays. Home Depot carries several brands for deer, rabbits, etc. but I’ve even seen one for dogs. It’s supposed to be harmless but they don’t like the smell so they stay away.
      4. The most labor-intensive option is to create raised beds for next season. That’s what we have now. We installed chicken wire at the base and that has kept critters from burrowing under it. Many stores sell prefab raised beds but the chicken wire you may have to do on your own if the bottom is not enclosed.

      I hope one of these helps!

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