Green, Green, the Back Yard’s Green: Keeping the Yard Green & Safe For Pets & Kids

Jun 30, 2012 | 2012 Articles, Going Green, Pets, Sandra Murphy

by Sandra Murphy

Is it possible for kids, the dog, the cat, grass, flowers, the veggie patch and parents all to survive and thrive this summer? With a little planning, not only is it possible but it can be done green too.

First off, the grass

Kids and dogs will roll around and run barefooted so avoid pesticides and weed killers. Let the grass grow a half inch taller and it will grow a deeper root. This will anchor the blades and give the lawn a better chance against those running feet. It also allows the grass to reach deeper for moisture which means less watering overall. Water in the morning, as needed, when there’s no breeze to evaporate the water before it’s absorbed.

If the kids and dog have a plastic pool for splashing around, empty it and move it off the grass each day. The water is recycled to nourish the grass and flowers and the pool won’t kill the grass beneath it. Who needs an ugly yellow crop circle in the middle of the yard? Standing water attracts mosquitoes like Club Med attracts lounge lizards so dumping the pool prevents unsightly red bites on legs and arms as well.

A handy and inexpensive weed killer can be made by mixing a gallon of white vinegar, a cup of salt and a tablespoon of dish washing soap. The soap helps the vinegar and salt combine. This mix will kill vegetation for three to six months so be careful where it’s used.

Fleas and ticks are a problem for any outdoorsy type. Diatomaceous earth can eliminate them without harming plants, humans, or pets. It works on exoskeletons like fleas, silverfish, aphids, roaches and ants by scratching the hard surface of the bug so they dehydrate. Diatomaceous earth can be used indoors or out and even on the dog if he’s infested with fleas.

If the dog’s a digger, give him a space of his own. A sandbox with decking lumber extending the height of three sides, filled with sand and soil, with a few buried string toys or tennis ball treasures will keep him out of trouble.

Speaking of the dog put the designated potty area away from foot traffic, the flowers and veggies and anywhere food will be. Pick up after the dog daily. It’s a good chore for the kids but remind them, it’s not for composting.

Flowers and veggies

Check with the local garden center to find out which plants can help each other. Marigolds planted in the veggie garden can keep tomatoes safe from tomato hornworms. Be sure to get scented marigolds. Herbs work to repel bugs too—peppermint for ants, garlic for aphids and fleas, and basil to keep flies and mosquitoes away. Decorative pots of basil on the deck railing for daytime; citronella torches by night and the bugs will be in full retreat.


Cats like to go outdoors too—at least some do. To keep kitty safe from predators and birds or lizards safe from kitty, find a used wire dog crate and set it up in the yard. Kitty can feel the grass beneath her paws without the temptation to explore outside the yard.

The Parents

If outdoor dining is on the menu, set the grill on a solid and stable surface so speeding kids and chasing dogs don’t upend the hot dogs and hot coals. Have a lidded container for any bones from ribs, chicken or other meat off the grill. Bones can splinter as a dog chews them resulting in an expensive vet visit or worse. No cooked bones for dogs!

Disposable plates and cups made from recycled products not only save time during clean up but reduce water usage. There’s also less worry about a broken dish and a bleeding foot. Use green or leftover napkins from a trip to the drive through.

With a little thought and pre-planning, summer can be fun, be time together, and be green.

Sandra Murphy lives in the shadow of the arch, in the land of blues, booze and shoes—St Louis, Missouri. While writing magazine articles to support her mystery book habit, she secretly polishes two mystery books of her own, hoping, someday, they will see the light of Barnes and Noble. You can also find several of Sandra’s short stories on UnTreed Reads including her new one Bananas Foster.

1 Comment

  1. I love that recipe for a natural weed killer. I have a stone walk and the weeds are determined to grow through it. But I’m more determined they SHALL NOT and that natural vinegar weed killer, insures I’m the winner! Down with weeds!!


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