Growing Goodness for Pets

Growing Goodness for Pets

Today is my first day 'back in the office' (5 hours at the dining room table while kids are at school). We've just been down in Queenstown for 3 weeks, skiing with the kids. The blossom trees are just beginning to show in whites and pinks. I love leaving my garden for a few weeks because the first thing I want to do is see how much growth has happened. And in 3 weeks of Northland August, there's been a LOT of growing- mostly weeds, I must say.

This week's article is from Jules of Washbar, introducing some herbs that you can plant for your pets. Her enthusiasm for growing is contagious, as she brushes on culinary uses as well as seed saving.

In Check it Out, I invite you to the antidote of 'I shouldn't feel like this.', a world unique event of teaching and healing created just for you, and you and you.

This is National Bee Week, and in Check it Out Too, you get access to some great resources. It's very easy to make your property 'bee friendly.'

What a great week to get organized for spring. Coming back from holiday, and unprepared to be at work, I spent the first two hours of today sourcing seed trays and identifying a weed that seems to have tripled since I last saw it (wandering jew). Sort your seeds, order new things, clean up a planting bed, because September 1 & 2 are fantastic seed planting days just after the full moon where the moon is opposite Saturn.

The next post is our One year Anniversary, and I have some celebrations planned for you. I've got crazy ideas of seeds.

Happy, prolific, growing spring to you, Becky.

Growing Goodness for Pets

Jules Smith


We live on 40 acres of volcanic land next to the Wairua River in Northland‚ New Zealand. Honestly, it's paradise‚ we have an orchard filled with plums, peaches, apples, figs, quince, pears, crab-apples, and feijoas. Our veggie garden provides for most of the family meals. And because animals play such a big part in our lives it seemed fitting that we should have plants in our garden that benefit our pets.

Here are a few that can be found in our garden that are great for our indoor pets.


Catnip is a member of the mint family and comes in a variety of different hybrids. Some have purple flowers, some have white, and some grow larger than others. All the varieties are easy to grow and the only maintenance needed is an occasional trim. They produce a riot of flowers in summer. My cats roll in this herb, eat it, and generally enjoy having it around – they are amongst the 50% of the domestic feline population affected by this herb, getting a feel-good high from smelling it, which is enhanced when the leaves are bruised – hence rolling in it.

The plant can be dried and stuffed inside toys or made into a tea and sprayed on scratch poles. Catnip leaves contain the active ingredient Nepetalactone which makes it attractive to cats and may be useful as a flea and mosquito repellent. I have found that rubbing the leaves directly on my cats and giving them easy access to the plant does seem to help with flea control.

Catnip is a robust plant that copes with the rough treatment cats give it. It is a perennial (a plant that doesn't die off after one season) – you really only need one or two so I would suggest getting them as seedlings from your local nursery. Some of the varieties will grow roots from stems in contact with earth. These are easily cut off and transplanted to other parts of the garden.

I have two plants placed conveniently for our cats. One is near their cat flap– so they pass it each time they head in or out. The other one is next to one of their favourite sleeping spots.


Rosemary is one of my favourite plants; there are several Rosemary hedges in our garden which were originally planted to provide structure and shelter in the early stages when we developed the garden from a bare paddock. I'd recommend at least one rosemary hedge in any garden‚ they are fast-growing, provide endless culinary opportunities and I never tire of the smell as I brush against the plant or rub it in my hands.

There are dozens of different varieties available, including prostrate or groundcover which will drape over walls and rocks. I personally prefer the stronger more upright varieties (Rosmarinus officinalis) that grow to over a metre high and make such great structural hedges.

Rosemary leaves can be dried and powdered to use as a flea repellent on cats and dogs. If we are taking a walk in the garden I'll pick a branch and rub it on our dog‚ she doesn't seem to mind and she smells lovely afterward. It also makes an excellent natural flea rinse that can be used on dogs, sloshed into dog kennels, and any hard surfaces where the dog may have been laying.

How to make Rosemary Rinse Concentrate:
Put two cups of fresh Rosemary Leaf in a pot of boiling water (2 litres approx) and boil for about 30 minutes. Cool and strain the leaves off, then dilute the concentrate with around 8 litres of water. Pour the diluted solution over your dog after a wash or between washes. Just by making this rinse, you're guaranteed to have your home smelling lovely. The only downside is that other members of the household may think you are cooking up a storm, only to be disappointed at the murky slightly oily water in the pot.


Fennel is an annual (only lasts one season and has to be replanted) that is really easy to grow from seed. The juicy white bulbs have a delicate aniseed flavour making it delicious in just about any meal; my favourite is finely chopped into a salad. The fluffy leaves look great in the veggie patch they can be chewed raw to help with bad breath or used as a substitute for dill in cooking.

Plant the seeds into well-drained soil with plenty of compost mixed in. They are best planted at 15cm spacings in rows approximately 30cm apart. Remember to water, our fennel never formed bulbs properly when we neglected to water them during a particularly dry patch. To harvest, chop the bulbs off the plant leaving roots and some of the plant behind. These will regrow and eventually go to seed.

Collect enough seeds for next year's harvest and grind the rest into a powder. The powder can be made into a flea repellent for cats and dogs. Mix it 50/50 with Rosemary powder and sprinkle on your cat or dog.

You can probably guess that I love my garden– I never feel it's a chore, more like I'm connecting with something special. And the bonus is that my pets benefit from it as well.

Check it Out

National Bee Awareness Month

You guys know this, we need bees. The National Beekeepers Association has put together a fantastic page of information, ideas, and kid activities. Click here to learn more about bees on the Bee Awareness Month Facebook page.


People who keep stiff upper lips find that it's damn hard to smile. Judith Guest, Ordinary People

Have you started your garden yet?

Would love to hear what you're up to in your garden. What are your plans? Anything new? I love this time of year because it is ALL possible! Tap up a comment on Facebook.
About the author

Jules Smith

Founder & Director of Washbar

Jules Smith is a founder and director of WashBar‚ an emerging New Zealand company specialising in natural products for pets. Pets have always been a big part of Jules life her mother bred Labrador dogs and Siamese and Devon Rex cats. As a child, she had pet guinea pigs and even a pet rat. Later in life, she became concerned about the long term effects of chemical toxicity on pets. WashBar was born from that concern and a request from a friend to develop a natural skin treatment for her dog. Jules lives on a 40-acre lifestyle property with her husband Pete, 2 cats, twenty odd cattle and an expanding herd of goats. The property borders the Wairua River in Whangarei and with 1.5 kilometers of river frontage the couple have set about fencing livestock off the waterways and planting hundreds of trees every year. The property generates its own power, and no -we aren't hippies, quite the reverse. I couldn't live without the big screen TV, the dishwasher or my espresso machine. You can take the girl out of the city, but you can't take the city out of the girl.