The pet-friendly garden

Ah, spring – time to let the dog or cat out into the garden and enjoy the fresh air.

But will Fido and Fluffy enjoy the garden? The answer of course is yes – but it can also be “too much.” Plants and pets don’t always do well in the same space – some pets will destroy plants, and some plants are toxic to pets. Not to mention the damage to lawn and yard from rambunctious pets! Here are some tips to help your flora and fauna live peacefully together.

Be careful of pesticides
If you use pesticides on your lawn or in the garden, take some precautions to protect your pet. Remove all food and water bowls (or anything your pet might drink out of) before you spray. You definitely should let your pets out only after sprays have dried – and it is probably even better to wait for the next day.  If you use dry granular pesticides wait until the dust has settled.

Instead of using a pesticide you can try other remedies – spray aphids off plants, or use soap – about a teaspoon to a gallon of water – and cover plants.  Environment Canada provides more information about non-pesticidal control of insects here:

Planning ahead
Some plants can be toxic to pets. While many pets aren’t likely to start chewing at your flower beds, some may, particularly young pets. Toxic plants include rubarb leaves, lily of the valley, azalea, and hydrangea.  A more detailed list of toxic plants as well as a list of non-toxic plants are available online at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals site:

Another way to help prevent your pet from chewing on plants – toxic or not – is to make sure there’s plenty of play time in the garden with toys and your attention.  In many cases pets act out in the garden out of boredom, so keeping them occupied will also keep your landscaping safe. And a good walk or run at the local park may help to keep larger breeds of dogs from creating a “jogging track” around your lawn.

Keeping pets and plants apart can be the best solution. Fence in your vegetable garden to prevent pets from soiling or digging up plants.  Coffee grounds in the earth may help keep cats away from your flower beds. If space permits you can plan an area just for your pet’s enjoyment – a dog run, or even a cat “aviary” to prevent cats from roaming too far. 

Just be sure that if you are going to confine your pet to a particular area of the yard that shade and water are available.

Simplest things
And sometimes it’s the simplest things that keep our pets healthy. Don’t let your pet out when you are mowing or using other large power tools. Don’t leave sharp tools where pets can step on them, and periodically check the yard for sharp or rusted objects.  Keep chemicals out of reach and in their original containers. And make sure standing water sources are regularly refreshed, or eliminated. (This also helps to prevent the spread of West Nile Virus through mosquito larvae!)

Then you’re all set for a lovely outdoor romp with your four-legged friend!