Ready to add some spring colors to your stable? While no one wants to add work to a busy barn day, there’s no doubt that a few flowers can add to the appeal of your farm. Let’s look at a few easy ways to landscape around the barn, using horse-friendly and low-labor plants.
Hardy plants: Let’s face it, most of us will plant flowers with very good intentions and eventually forget to water them. Horse-people are busy people; sometimes anything without four legs falls through the cracks. Look for flowers to plant around your barn entrance that won’t die if you forget about them, but are safe to grow around nosy horses, dogs, and children.
For sunny areas, try a big bright daisy-style flower, like black-eyed susans. If you’re a fan of horse racing, you know that the winner of the Preakness Stakes is bedecked with a horseshoe of black-eyed susans. These big yellow flowers love the sun and bloom all summer long. They also attract bees and butterflies, so plant them a little way away from your barn to enjoy the color and butterflies, without tempting the bees to visit you inside.
For shady areas, try impatiens. Hardy impatiens will grow almost anywhere (I’ve stumbled plots of them deep in the woods) and they grow into big luxurious mounds when planted in the shade. In the sun, impatiens get a big straggly. They’re ideal for underneath the overhang of a barn roof. You’ll often see impatiens in hanging baskets at show barns… just ask yourself if you’ll remember to water the baskets before you take that route!
Use mulch: If you plant flowers along your barn’s perimeter, be sure to mulch the area to prevent water from eroding your new garden. Mulch will help absorb water slowly, preventing ponding and mini-landslides that uproot your flowers and displace your soil. Be careful of the wood your mulch is made from; avoid black walnut or cocoa hull. For added fire safety, you can mulch around your flowers, then use gravel between the mulched areas and the barn, reducing the flammable fuel around your barn.
Avoid poisonous plants: This sounds obvious, but many ornamental plants we come into contact with daily are hazardous to horses (to say nothing of ourselves). One such plant is oleander, a southern flowering shrub which is dangerously toxic, yet used regularly in commercial and home landscaping. Many lilies and milkweeds are also unsafe for horses: flowers such as delphiniums, hyacinths, daffodils, or butterfly weed. You can find an incredibly long list of plants toxic to horses at http://www.aspca.org/pet-care/animal-poison-control/horse-plant-list.
Keep plants a safe distance from horses: With so many ornamental plants creating a potential health hazard for horses, it’s best to just keep flowers at a safe distance. Add a little buffer zone between your walkway or barn entrance, and the beginning of your flower bed. Keep flowers planted along your barn perimeter trimmed below the reach of inquisitive noses peeking out of stall windows. A bored horse is a horse who might eat just about anything, even if it’s toxic.
Adding a little color to your barn this spring can be simple with a few careful steps to insure health and safety for everyone — both your horses and your plant