Pets can enrich our lives, and so can using a polytunnel to grow at least some of our own food. But what most pet owners and gardeners fail to consider is that the two things can go hand in hand. Certain pets can actually help us in our polytunnel gardens.
Animals That Can Help in the Garden
Thinking about how they can do so can be helpful when considering the maintenance and upkeep of your organic garden.
Dogs & Cats
Most dogs and cats are kept well clear of growing areas because, if left unchecked, they can easily do a lot of damage to your polytunnel and plants. That said, some cats and dogs can be of use in and around a polytunnel garden. One common pest for home growers is rodents. Rodents such as mice or even rats can do a lot of damage if they discover polytunnel crops. Some cats and dogs are mice-catchers or rat-catchers can help to curb a problem with rodents. Even if your cat or dog does not show any aptitude in that regard, having them around can still help you as a gardener, since being close to such mammals has been shown, like gardening, to reduce stress and have a beneficial impact on your mental health.
Rabbits, Guinea Pigs, Hamsters, Gerbils Etc..
Smaller pets that are common in the UK can also help in a polytunnel garden. Their waste can be used to fertilise your growing areas and can be a valuable source of nutrients for your growing plants. Usually, pet waste will be added to a compost heap or other composting system, though rabbit and guinea pig feces can be added to your garden without being composted if you wish. Pet bedding can also be used to create compost to use in your polytunnel garden.
It may sound a little odd, but even pet fish can be helpful to a polytunnel gardener. Fish water is full of beneficial nutrients from the fish and can help plants to grow and thrive. Aquarium water can be used as a liquid feed but you could also consider keeping fish such as koi as part of an aquaponics system in your polytunnel, and growing food in water rather than in soil.
One final pet which can be extremely beneficial to gardeners is the chicken. While you may think of chicken as more of a farmyard creature rather than a pet, more and more people are choosing to keep a few chickens as pets. Not only will a few chickens provide you with eggs, they can also contribute their waste to your compost heap. What is more, chickens will scratch over and aerate the soil of growing areas, and help to eat slugs, snails, caterpillars and other pests to help keep their numbers down.
Do you have pets which help you in your gardening efforts? Let us know in the comments below.
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.