Family & Pet Friendly Gardens & Lawns

Summer in most areas of the country and particularly the humid south always brings the expected perennial challenges to the home gardener and pet owner. There are a number of toxins which may lurk in our dog’s environment of which we may not be aware. But with a little research and the incentive of health for ourselves and our dogs spurring us to ask a few questions, our gardens and Kerry Blues will thrive through the summer months.

There are a number of pesticides that are commonly used by yard/garden maintenance services, as well as fertilizers which may not be the best choice for homes with small children or pets. Before agreeing to any yard/garden maintenance contract, we should sit down with the representative and get a full schedule of the services and what chemicals they intend to use on our property. Questions about toxicity and length of potency should be asked and if there are safer substitutes for any of the chemicals they may use. It’s also very important to make it clear that they should report ANY changes in the chemicals they use and that these should be cleared first before applying to the lawn or garden.

Many enjoy doing their own yard/garden maintenance. The Internet is of course a treasure trove of information, some a bit too hysterical in warnings, others too blasé, but there are those sites which approach the subject in a sensible well-reasoned manner. Read them all, then decide a course of action. There are many times when one can avoid an “overkill” situation AND save a little cash.

Not only must we concern ourselves with what we put on our yards or gardens, but we should be aware of what toxic plants may be growing. There are certain plants which can be anywhere from mildly toxic to lethal for man or beast and it’s a good idea to familiarize ourselves with those. Having said this, there are also “myths” about some plants which paint them as villains when in reality they are only mildly toxic or harmless, while other plants we think are innocent may be very toxic to our pets. Wild mushrooms or “toad stools” are to be considered toxic until a mycologist can identify them as otherwise. Even then a mushroom safe for human ingestion may not be safe for a dog. Make a habit of patrolling your property and pulling up and disposing of any mushrooms or identifiable toxic plants.

Also be aware of landscaping material you use in your dog’s environment. There is a type of mulch called “100% natural Cocoa mulch” which might seem a great choice for the gardener who wishes to be environmentally friendly. Yet this mulch when ingested has resulted in serious illness and even death in dogs. Again, we should make a habit of doing a little research before making the trip to the garden center.

The following website link covers a wide range of pesticides, plants and other toxins to which our pets might be exposed: The Pet Center

The question could be, “So what do I use on my yard to control pests or fertilize?” Again, there are chemical and organic fertilizers which are safe to use around small children and animals. Everything can be broken down into some organic or chemical formula which if read on an ingredient label might be unrecognizable as an ordinary component in many things we use everyday. Although we needn’t pursue a degree in organic chemistry, a little research will reveal much of what we need to know on that pesticide bottle.

But more and more the home gardener is turning to a new but really very ancient arsenal of treatments for pests of all kinds. Rather than soaking a flea infested yard with a possibly dangerous chemical we can now choose to use beneficial nematodes to eradicate the pests. It is important to choose the right nematode for the job and there are several excellent sites which have information along with product to treat flea problems as well as other insect pests. Below is a favorite of mine, an online store site of the Nitron Company.
Garden IQ

Not only does this site (and others like it) offer pest control, but they offer “friendly” fertilizers and other items a home gardener will find useful for a beautiful yard while maintaining a healthy environment besides.

Summer is a wonderful time of the year to enjoy with family and pets. Rolling around on a lush green lawn or working in our gardens with our dogs and children rank among the great joys of life. With a little preplanning and attention to labels and plant descriptions, we can insure our beautiful lawns and gardens are family and dog friendly.

Susan Dunivant www.ringworthy.com

Last Updated: 05/08/2006, 7:22 pm