I commonly see and hear about dogs that get sick from the garden or garden products. I noticed this past weekend – tons of gardening going on. Mulching, planting, weeding. I went to Lowes and their garden center was BUSY!
Anyway, this is “flower” month and I want to make sure you know what you need to know about planting a pet safe garden. Maybe your dog or cat doesn’t go into the Flower garden – and if that is the case – good for you. But I know you also want to protect other animals from getting sick.
To help keep your garden pet safe.
The most commonly used lawn care products are of fertilizers, herbicides, insecticides and fungicides. When applied according to package instructions or by a qualified lawn care service most of these products are not harmful. Pets are primarily poisoned by contact with concentrated products. This may occur from inappropriate storage, failure to read package instructions, or by intentionally using more product than needed. Dogs are especially good at finding poorly stored containers, chewing them up and drinking the contents. Pet owners should be especially vigilant when using insecticides as these tend to have a higher degree of toxicity.
Dogs may be exposed by digging up treated earth, chewing on pellets, or rooting around ant mounds shortly after insecticides are applied.
Many pets chew on plants in the yard and garden. Fortunately for dogs, who for some unknown reason seem to enjoy eating grass and then vomiting, most grasses are non-toxic. Holiday ornamental plants such as poinsettias and Easter lily are often put outside for the summer. Ingestion of poinsettia stems and leaves may cause some mild gastrointestinal irritation and vomiting but is not deadly. Ingestion of all parts of the Easter lily causes depression, vomiting and diarrhea in cats. Left untreated most cats die of kidney failure. Tulips (bulbs), Lily of the valley and azaleas are all springtime plants that can be deadly to pets if ingested in large enough quantities. Dogs should be watched carefully when these plants are being cared for.
Most lawn seed and Mulch products are generally not associated with toxic problems in pets. Cacoa bean mulch is perhaps the only product known to cause poisoning in dogs. This mulch is made from the hulls of cacoa beans and when fresh has a rich, chocolate aroma associated with it. Some larger breed dogs have actually eaten several pounds of the mulch, more than enough to develop poisoning associated with the chocolate remnants. These over eager dogs should be kept away from the mulch until the aroma has dissipated. Generally a heavy rainfall or thorough watering is all that is required.
As you work outside be sure to take an extra moment or two to protect your pets. Read all package instructions carefully before any applying products to your lawn or garden. Be sure not only that it is safe to use around your pets but that you are mixing or applying it correctly. Check with your local garden center about the safety of plants you are putting in your garden. Finally, be sure to close the top tightly on all containers and put them in an area where your pets do not have access to them.
With a little careful planning, you and your pet can enjoy a safe and relaxing garden environment. Whether you’re planning a large garden to feed the family or decorating a small space with hanging baskets and containers, here are a few factors to be considered.
Plants and flowers are nature’s attention getters. Their fragrance, appearance, and cool shade they create are natural attractants for you and your pet. Curiosity often leads pets to consume the flowers and foliage of ornamental plants, which can produce irritating and sometimes life threatening side effects.
Plants for a Sunny Location
If the location of your garden, gives you 4 or more hours of direct sunlight, a day, you have a long list, of annuals and perennials from which to choose. Annuals grow from seed and last one growing season. They are good choices for fast, instant color impact. Garden and discount centers will offer a wide variety of annual plants at economical prices. Perennials return year after year from growth at the roots, they are a little more expensive, but do not need to be planted every growing season. Most gardeners have their favourites and mix both types for the longest possible color show. Safe choices for sunny locations include:
• Zinnia (Zinnia sp.)
• Snapdragons (Antirrhinum sp.)
• Cosmos (Cosmos sp.)
• Calendula (Callendula sp.)
• Petunia (Petunia sp.)
• Bee Balm (Monarda sp.)
• Phlox (Phlox sp.)
• Roses (Rose sp.)
• Catmint/catnip (Nepeta sp.)
• Coneflowers (Echinacea purpura)
Plants for Partial Sun
If your garden receives less than 4 hours of direct sunlight a day, the following list of non-toxic annuals and perennials requires less sunlight.
• Primrose(Primula sp.)
• Butterfly flower(Schianthus sp.)
• Spider flower (Cleome sp.)
• Nasturtium (Tropaeolum sp.)
• Columbine(Aquilegia sp.)
• Coral Bells (Heuchera sp.)
• Turf Lilly (Liriope sp.)
• Goat’s Beard (Aruncus dioicus)
A shade garden receives little to no direct sunlight, although the sun may filter through the trees for dappled light. Plant selection for these areas may include the following:
• Begonia (Begonia sp.)
• Impatiens (Impatiens sp.)
• New Guinea Impatiens
• Violet (Viola sp.)
• Coleus (Coleus sp.)
• Bugbane (Cimifuga racemosa)
• Yellow Corydalis (Corydalis lutea)
• Astilbe (Astilbe sp.)
• Queen of the Meadow (Filipendula ulmaria)
If you’re interest is vegetables, you’ll need 4 or more hours of full sun for most plants. Keeping your pet out of the vegetable garden may be your biggest task, especially when plants are young and fragile. Some clearly visible fencing may help. Avoid hardware cloth as pets can become entangled. Motion detector sprinkler systems can be useful in keeping pets and wildlife out of newly planted areas, and are not harmful. Most vegetable plants do not pose toxicity problems with a few exceptions. Onions, chives and garlic, which a lot of pets do like, contain compounds that, if ingested, can cause anemia. The leafy part of the potato plant, and the green part of the potato skin contain compounds that are toxic if eaten in sufficient quantities. Fruits also contain toxic chemicals in their seeds/pits. Apple, plum, cherry, apricot and peach seeds/pits contain cyanide, which can cause fatal seizures.
The 10 Least Wanted
The following is a list of plants that is best to avoid altogether due to their toxic nature. It is not a comprehensive list, if you are considering any plant of which you are unsure; consult your local plant nursery.
• Castor bean (Ricinus communis)
• Oleander (Nerium oleander)
• Morning Glory (Ipomea sp.)
• Japanese Yew (Taxus cuspidata)
• Jerusalem Cherry (Solanum pseudocapsicum)
• Foxglove (Digitalis purpurea)
• Nightshade (Atropa belladonna)
• Lily of the Valley (Convallaria majalis)
• Precatory Beans (Arbus precatorius)
• Trumpet vine (Campsis radicans)
Lawn and Garden Chemicals
It is very easy to reach for a chemical pesticide, fertilizer or fungicide when faced with a problem in the lawn or garden. Fortunately for the average home gardener, safer alternatives are available for most commonly encountered problems, reducing the risk of a toxic exposure for your pet. You would not think that your pet would have any reason to consume these products but sadly they do, either intentionally or inadvertently and these types of poisonings are all too common. Remember before applying any product to your lawn, vegetables, or ornamental plants to read the label and follow the manufacturer’s instructions. Many of these products are designed to persist in the environment days to weeks after application, so a pet can have an exposure days to weeks after initial application.
Alternatives to Chemical Pesticides
If you notice damaging insects on your plants such as aphids, spider mites or thrips, these insects can be eliminated or reduced by a simple spray of water. These soft-bodied insects are easily dislodged. Adjust the nozzle of your hose so a firm spray will not harm your plants and wash them away. If you have only a few plants, use a good stream of water from your watering can and a little hand washing. It may take a day or two but an infestation can be cleared by no more than a good shower!
Soap and Water
If your insect problem is more serious, add a teaspoon of dish soap to a gallon of water and use it in a garden sprayer. The soap is an irritant to a lot of insects and can help break down the protective barriers of their external skeleton. There are commercial insecticidal soaps available that are less toxic than most chemical alternatives.
The “black gold” of the garden, recycled kitchen and yard waste can be combined to produce the best garden fertilizer at no cost and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers. It can be applied to the lawn and garden twice a year and it will replace the essential nutrients that growing plants and grasses require.
And Don’t Forget
Sometimes we forget the simplest things! Put your pets inside when mowing the lawn. A lawn mower can make a projectile out of a stick or rock that can injure your pet. Paint your garden tools a bright color such as red or yellow so you can see them out in the yard. Many pets step or trip on sharp garden implements. Store your chemicals out of reach and in their original containers. Don’t assume your pet will not be interested in consuming these products. If there is a toxic exposure or consumption, call your veterinarian immediately with the information from the product label. Keep your pets inside when applying any chemicals to the lawn or garden. With a little planning you and your pet can enjoy a safe and beautiful garden.