THIS ARTICLE FIRST APPEARED ON KRISTEN LEVINE.

Spring is finally here! With the long cold winter behind us, many of us are itching to welcome the warmer weather by getting out and doing some gardening. However, the last thing that we want to do is to create a yard that is impractical, or even unsafe, for our pets. Here are some pet-friendly gardening tips that can help to ensure that our gardens are safe and enjoyable for the whole family.

Safety Concerns

Tragically, all too many pets become sick or even die as the result of ingesting common household substances that are toxic to them, and many of these potentially deadly poisons can be found in the garden.

  • Poisonous Plants. While we may love to take the time to stop and smell the roses, many of our dogs and cats do not stop at sniffing. If we make the mistake of assuming that our pets somehow know which plants they shouldn’t eat, it could lead to disastrous consequences. It’s important to know what we’re putting in our garden and stick to plants that are not toxic to animals.
  • Cocoa Mulch. The color and aroma of this mulch make it very appealing to many gardeners. However, it is also irresistible to many dogs. Cocoa mulch is made from cocoa shells and is toxic to dogs. Ingested in large quantities it can be fatal. Other types of mulch may also contain chemicals that are harmful, so it’s important to check labels. Pet-friendly mulches include shredded pine, cedar, or hemlock bark. You may also want to consider using stone or gravel – as long as your pets don’t think those are tasty, as well!
  • Pesticides and Insecticides. Many of these products are just as poisonous to our pets as they are to the pests that they are designed to eliminate. Safety-conscious pet parents will want to avoid using any toxic chemicals in areas that are accessible to pets. Thankfully, though, this doesn’t mean that we need to surrender our gardens to the bugs. Depending on your specific type of pest, there are many natural, non-toxic alternatives.
  • Fertilizers. Like pesticides and insecticides, many commercial fertilizers also contain chemicals that are dangerous for our pets. A safer option would be to use organic, pet-friendly fertilizers or compost. A word of caution though: many of these fertilizers may contain ingredients that, while not toxic, are still quite appetizing to dogs. It may still be necessary to keep pets away from freshly fertilized gardens until the product has dissolved.

Beyond Garden Safety

None of us want to experience the frustration of spending an entire weekend planting the perfect garden only to find that our curious canines or kitties have uprooted a good portion of our work a short time later. Let’s be honest – dogs will be dogs and cats will be cats (and isn’t that why we love them?) Pet-friendly gardening takes into consideration more than just our pets’ safety. We also want to create a space that allows them to behave naturally (without wreaking havoc on our landscaping efforts). Here are some things to consider:

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