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A Pet-Proof Garden Takes a Little Planning

Certain plants and chemicals can pose a threat to pets. The Humane Society offers tips for a pet-friendly yard.

One summer when I was in college I tried my hand at gardening. I have to admit that I don’t exactly have a green thumb, but I worked hard to nurture my little garden and watched in excitement as my flowers blossomed.

My dog at the time, Bella, must have been watching in excitement, too. In her eyes, she finally had the perfect spot to bury her bone.

I can look back on that scenario now and laugh, but at the time it was a little frustrating to see all of my hard work dug up by the paws of my dog. Now that summer is upon us again and seasonal gardens are sprouting up, I thought I would offer some tips on protecting your plants and your pets.

Do your research: Before you even consider planting a garden, it’s important to keep in mind that many plants and pesticides are dangerous and even deadly to our pets. Toxic plants include daffodils, lilies (especially for cats), yews, laurels, laburnum, azaleas, foxglove, philodendrons and rhubarb, garlic, onions, chives, grapes and tomato plant leaves. I recommend checking the ASPCA website before getting started on your garden. The website offers an in-depth list of toxic and non-toxic plants and include photos to make identification easier.

Certain landscapes also pose dangers to our pets. Avoid cocoa mulch, which contains the toxic element also present in chocolate, and be careful with rocks and mulch, which can become stuck in your dog’s digestive tract if ingested and can be hard on your pup’s paws.

Pesticide-free zone: Use fertilizers and pesticides as sparingly as possible and consider using natural ways to fight pests and weeds. If you do use chemicals, keep your pets away from the area altogether.

Sturdy plants: I learned the hard way that dogs are good at tearing up new plants. Larger plants are sturdier and less likely to be disturbed. Some attractive, sturdy plants include peony, creeping phlox, verbena, coneflower, black-eyed Susans, Shasta daisy, Liriope, Russian sage, Mexican primrose, serviceberry, ninebark, mock orange, dogwood, lilac, pine, butterfly bush and quince.

Thorned bushes will discourage some dogs, but be careful not to plant varieties with long, sharp points.

If you prefer smaller plants, try using a tomato cage or something similar to protect them. Pieces of driftwood are a great natural option for keeping your dog away from planted areas.

Give your pets a space of their own: Create a path in your garden so your dog doesn’t have to run through your sensitive plant beds. Use soil rather than mulch or gravel, since dogs see loose materials as the perfect place for digging.

With some research and planning, you can have a safe, beautiful garden that you and your pets can enjoy. Happy gardening!

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