By Jane Milliman
If you’re to believe everything you read on the internet, your property is teeming with vicious, poisonous plants just waiting for hapless Fido to come by, take a few chomps and become violently ill. But in all my years as a gardener and a garden writer, I have never once heard firsthand of a household pet being poisoned by eating something in the garden. In reality, given the frequency with which they are trampled and urinated on, my garden plants have a lot more to fear from my dogs than the other way around.
That being said, there are some hazards best avoided when mixing pets and the garden.
Plants: What’s Toxic and What’s Safe?
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) offers a comprehensive lists of plants that are toxic and not toxic to dogs and cats.
The Facts on Mulch
Another supposed garden hazard is cocoa hull mulch, but the chemical in it that’s poisonous to dogs is now routinely removed from the product before it hits the market.
Fertilizer and Chemicals
Pets can easily get into things they shouldn’t, especially when left unattended. The chemicals we use to fertilize and control pests are a concern for pets. After applying, keep pets out of the yard for as long as possible, or better yet, use nontoxic, natural methods. Make sure that all fertilizers, pest control solutions and other harmful products are kept secure and out of their reach. At the start of the season, get organized with galvanized buckets or plastic containers where more dangerous items can be stored away from your cat or dog.
Keep Pets from Doing Damage
The truth is that your pet is far more likely to cause damage to your garden than the other way around. So how DO you keep pets from destroying the garden? For cats who would use your flowerbed as a litter box, there are plastic spikes you can try—they come in a mat form that you place on the ground (should work for dogs, too). Or try planting prickly things—roses, barberry, holly—as barriers. Also, try “scaredy cat plant,” Plectranthus caninus. I don’t have any proof of this myself, but supposedly it emits an aroma that both dogs and cats find repulsive, and grows easily from seed. It’s worth a shot!
With a little prep and caution, you can create an outdoor oasis that both you and your furry best friend can enjoy.
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