Feeling green-fingered? Why not give growing your own horse treats a go? Rachel Fraser talks through some easy-to-grow plants that will go down a treat with your horse
You may well already have cleavers growing in your garden or field hedgerows. Also known as ‘sticky weed’, cleavers grow well in hedgerows, overgrown or wild flower areas and around trees.
Believed to be a natural tonic, cleavers are a popular choice for owners growing their own horse treats — some even pick enough to fill a haynet, while others let their horses forage for themselves when cleavers are planted in a field.
To grow them at home, sow seeds directly into the soil in shaded areas of the garden for best results.
No surprises here — shop-bought mints have long been a staple horse treat. Hailed for helping fussy-eaters enjoy bucket feeds, mint is readily sold in its dried form as a supplement. Why not have a go at growing mint and swap shop-bought for fresh?
Mint plants can be purchased from most supermarkets. Simply plant up into a large pot of compost for easy harvesting. Pick mint leaves frequently to encourage new shoots to grow and you should have a plentiful supply from spring to late autumn.
Cow parsley has delicate white flowers and often grows on roadsides and verges — your horse may well have grabbed a sneaky bite of it to eat while out on a hack!
According to the Wildflowers UK website, seeds should be sown either outside where they are intended to flower or into seed trays in the autumn.
They flower from April to June and prefer semi-shade, so areas near to hedges are ideal. A word of caution though — cow parsley tends to seed itself well, so you may end up growing more of it than you originally planned!
Nettles might not seem like an obvious choice but once cut and allowed to wilt, they lose their sting and become a delicious treat.
You might have some growing in your fields already, in which case simply cut, harvest and feed once the sting has gone.
If you’re starting off a new crop, plant seeds into pots of compost and cover with a few centimetres of soil. Keep the pots well-watered until the seed has germinated, usually within about two weeks.
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Hawthorn makes a tasty treat for horses. Where it is growing in paddocks, horses will often self-select the plant to supplement their grazing. Hawthorn berries are sometimes sold as a supplement, believed to support circulation and help benefit conditions like navicular and laminitis.
Hawthorn grows into trees eventually but can be purchased as a young plant. These are much smaller and may be more manageable for those looking to grow them in large pots or in the garden at home.
Gardening website lovethegarden.com suggests that hawthorns aren’t too fussy about their position, so you can grow them in most areas — sunshine or shade. The website advises that bare-root trees are best planted between November and March, but container-grown Hawthorns can be planted any time of year.
Growing your own horse treats is a great way to make use of hedgerows and add variety to your garden or yard — so why not get green-fingered and give it a go?
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