Pet Safe Garden


Animal health begins in the soil, healthy soil provides nutrients to grow healthy plants, and healthy plants are then consumed by animals. Your garden is the center of nourishment for your entire family, including your pets. When growing your fruits and vegetables keep in mind that much of the harvest should be designated for your pets. You should grow enough produce to feed both your family and your pets.

Many gardeners design a garden with pet safety in mind. Your garden can have many purposes, to provide you with nutrients, and a natural environment to enjoy for both you and your pets. If your intention is to grow healthy fruits and vegetables for your family, you might as well grow enough to feed your pets as well. We all love and trust our own food; I know your our pets will benefit equally. Not all vegetables and fruits would be considered healthy for your pets, as a general rule of thumb, it is best to learn what plants may be toxic for dogs and cats, I really trust a good quality independent garden nursery for a detailed list of those plants that can be grown in your region. Many pets are rushed to the veterinarian every year due to an accidental consumption of harmful plants. However, this is a rare occurrence, as most of the time when pets are rushed to the emergency room from something related to the garden, it’s typically caused by the consumption of a chemical fertilizer, pesticide or herbicide.

Most fruit and vegetable plants do not pose any toxicity problems with the exception of a few, I will list a few common varieties throughout this article that may be found at your local nursery, conversely, many are very healthy and great for human consumption, but may pose some health risks for your pets. 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 potato skins contain compounds that are toxic if eaten in sufficient quantities. Fruits also contain toxic chemicals in their seeds or pits. Apple, plum, cherry, apricot and peach seeds & pits contain cyanide, which can cause fatal seizures.

Why An Organic Garden Is Safer Even For Pets
As a general rule, organic gardening techniques pose minimal health risks for your pets. Since the use of organic fertilizers and composts and even insecticides are usually plant or animal-based, thus, minimal health risks posed. Many of us want to garden and harvest the maximum amount of produce possible, temptation; to completely control all insects becomes great when we see any devastation to our crops by any kind of pests. This is the time, to really stop and think about your actions. Is it worth harvesting 100% of your crop, while simultaneously, running the risk of potentially poisoning your pets? I think not, I would much rather allow mother nature to take a certain percentage of my harvest to ensure the safety of my pets, besides that, simply the peace of mind in knowing that everything I apply to my garden will not harm my pets or my family in any way. I remember what Gary Poznick, a biologist friend of mine told me over 27 years ago, “grow more than you plan on harvesting if you want to do it naturally, remember that all living things need to eat too…if you want 100% of your harvest, then grow 120%”. I never forgot that lesson as a young gardener; this goes back to the fundamental foundation of organic gardening, bio-diversity and getting the balance right.

When you have to apply an insect control and many of us eventually will, choose the least toxic and environmentally friendly option. We make a complete line of safe killer sprays called Dr. Earth® Final Stop®. Most independently owned nurseries with high ethical standards will provide you with several good options. I have been witnessing a national trend in the last several years, many nurseries and pet stores offer very effective alternatives to controlling nasty insects and pests in your garden that are completely people and pet safe. This gives me great joy, as I know there is a mass movement of consumers who are demanding higher standards from manufactures to provide effective, yet safe, long-lasting treatments to support the growth of organic crops with pet health in mind.

For example, diatomaceous earth or botanical sprays are excellent for controlling fleas and tick’s in the garden and are very effective with minimal side effects, I would consider these the least toxic. Botanical sprays are incredibly effective as well as biological controls. Diatomaceous earth is highly effective for those infested areas around the garden, usually dog runs, or the perimeter of the garden were cats and dogs love to play, do not confuse the diatomaceous earth that is used in swimming pools, which is completely different from the diatomaceous earth you will need to control insects in your garden. Also remember, never over apply, even safe alternatives are broad-spectrum killers, and will kill beneficial insects as well, remember, biodiversity is the most important factor in growing a healthy garden.

Make Sure Your Plants Are Pet Safe
As I mentioned above, some plants might be toxic to your pets, for example baby’s breath which is common in many flower arrangements can be quite toxic. I really like the ASPCA and the hard work they do, they provide a complete list of plants available for all animal lovers, both the plants that are considered toxic, and those that are considered completely safe. I highly urge you to visit ASPCA website to learn more about the specific varieties of plants that you could grow in your garden. There are numerous facts and myths surrounding which plants can actually be harmful to small animals. Just remember this when dealing with toxic plants; many plants can be problematic if the animal ingests an inappropriate or large amount. Besides visiting ASPCA, your local independently owned plant nursery will know which plants could pose a threat.

Most of the garden variety plants will not pose any life threatening health threats to your pets, but it can’t hurt to do a little research just to be sure. Always remember this, any time an animal consumes anything that is not a part of its usual diet in high quantities, a mild to moderate GI imbalance may result. Most garden variety plants you grow and animals are attracted to such as squash, zucchini, cucumbers, melons are safe. The majority of herbs are safe and most fruits are as well. All outdoor pets have access to fallen fruits that have seeds such as apple and cherry seeds and are often thought to be poisonous. Although they do contain cyanide, the amount is minute. In addition, most pets do not chew the fruits thoroughly, which means that the seeds are not usually broken open when ingested. It is more likely that the seed will cause some kind of foreign object obstruction in its digestive system than it will cause a toxicosis from cyanide. Nobody loves growing tomatoes more than I do, I have grown thousands over the years and have never had my dog or cat ever consume any, but you should know that green tomatoes could cause a toxic reaction if consumed, rarely, but possible, also dogs are attracted to eating grapes which are not good for them, be careful if you grow avocados as some pets love them and have had toxic reactions, plants such as rhubarb, garlic and onions consumed in large quantities could cause an adverse reaction as well.

Your backyard is your pets kingdom, outside in the in the fresh air with warm spring and summer days were animals love to roll in the dirt, pardon me, “the soil”, safety must be taken into consideration, a little thoughtful planning can create the most productive and enjoyable environment, both for you and your pets. Many varieties of ornamental plants naturally attract your pets to want to consume them; their curiosity often leads them to consume flowers or the foliage of even ornamental plants, which can sometimes produce irritating and even life-threatening toxic effects that will require a visit to the veterinarian. When you finally make those decisions of the different plant varieties for your garden, both edible and ornamental, make sure to choose those that are non-toxic even to the touch, for some plants can be highly irritating even if your pets come into contact with them, again ASPCA will provide you with a list of those plants.

For a complete list of plants to avoid consult with your local independent garden nursery. The plants below are commonly found at most nurseries and should be taken into consideration, most of the time your pets will avoid these, but as added insurance simply avoid them if you have a curious pet, puppy or kitten and are not sure of their behavioral patterns. I would consider these plants to be toxic to your pets yet rarely are they ever consumed by them. ASPCA can provide you with a complete and comprehensive list. Plants like trumpet vine, Japanese Yew, Oleander, castor bean, Jerusalem cherry, lily of the valley, precatory beans, foxglove , azaleas, ferns, hydrangeas, lilies, oleander, rhubarb, sweet peas, green fruit particularly and nightshade (tomatoes, potatoes, sweet pepper and eggplant). My pets have never gone after any of these plants, but if you intend on growing them, you might want to do so in an inaccessible part of the garden, or simply install a fencing structure just to be safe.

Common Sense Pet Safety
We are all aware that using lawn and garden chemicals pose the biggest threat to your pets, so avoid them. Reach for a safe alternative such as our Dr. Earth® Final Stop® organic line of sprays to kill weeds, insects and fungus. Always store all chemicals out of reach of pets and kids, a locked up garage or storage shed is the best. If you must kill or control an insect, reach for safe controls. Try to wash the leaves and vegetables off with a strong blast of water first. If the problem persists, reach for organic methods.

A little, unobvious act like mowing the lawn can pose a threat, I have heard of pebbles or a stick flying in the air as the lawn is being mowed and directly hitting a pet’s eye, this seemingly harmless act could cost your pet great pain and discomfort not to mention an expensive visit to the veterinarian. Always read all product labels for anything you use, this goes way beyond pet safety and garden materials; you should adopt this philosophy with everything you buy. Keep your pets inside when applying any treatments, even organic, to the lawn or garden. Give your cats an outdoor litter box to avoid your garden or kids sand pit being used as one. With a little planning you and your pets can enjoy a safe and beautiful garden. Before you start the garden planning phase, take a trip down to your favorite independent garden nursery and visit the “hard goods” section for all treatments or any potential pet hazards, knowing what you might use and not need will likely save you and your pets much grief. For the most part, an organic garden that is well planned and maintained naturally will bring great nutrition and joy to those furry friends of yours.

Milo Shammas
Founder & Formulator

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