The crisp, cool air of fall is just a few weeks away. Our furry friends usually have an extra bounce in their step and are hoping to get out and play. Most of us try to catch up on gardening projects we put off because it was just too hot. Take your four-legged friend outside with you and put them to work. You can make a game out of picking up sticks and train them to go around and pick up sticks and put them in a pile.

My dog, Caylee, needs some more work with this task since she has it backwards. She drags out the sticks I’ve piled up to chew on them. Oh well, it gives me an opportunity to bond with her and stimulates her mind. You can also teach them to dig a hole where you need to plant a plant, or you can train them not to dig holes in the yard since you will be outside with them and catch them in the act.

Clover is good at digging holes, so I place a dog treat where I want her to dig. If only she could read, she would know that she needs to dig wide and shallow holes for planting plants.

You can also teach them which toxic plants to stay away from to prevent potential injury. Be especially wary of the orangish red seeds from sago and coontie plants, as they are extremely toxic. Only 50 percent of dogs, cats and horses that have ingested seeds survive. These seeds are also toxic to humans. Easter lilies and Poinsettia plants an be fatal to your pets so keep them out of reach during the holidays.

Fall is an excellent time of year to plant in North Florida. The ground stays warm which allows for good root development. The short days and cool air allow the plants to get established without a lot of stress. Our winter cold fronts usually are accompanied by rains. You can get help watering the plants from Mother Nature. By planting now, the plants will be ready to flush out in the spring to your yard and provide oxygen for us to breathe.

Nobles Nursery, Lowes, Walmart, Tractor Supply and other local nurseries all have a variety of plants available. In addition, the local chapter of the Florida Native Plant Society will be selling plants at the Live Oak Garden Club on Oct. 26.

The Suwannee County Master Gardener volunteers are providing the Suwannee Valley Humane Society volunteers with plants to sell at their Fall Harvest Festival on Oct. 19. A variety of plants will be available at reasonable prices. Who knows, you might even find a four-legged gardening companion to rescue while you are there. So, the next time you head out to the yard, take your dog with you to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine. Remember a tired dog is a good dog. For more information, contact us at 386-362-2771 or csaft318@ufl.edu.

Carolyn Saft is an Environmental Horticulture Agent at the UF/IFAS Suwannee County Extension office, an equal opportunity institution.

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