Killer gardens (and not a triffid in sight)

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One of the things I love about gardening is that everyone shares tips. One of my lovely friends has just been bitten by the gardening bug, but almost had a disaster on her hands when her small and adorable puppy ate a single ivy leaf. Two days later and the poor thing was still being sick (and apparently, it could have been a lot worse). This led her to start investigating the whole pet/garden thing, and she discovered some terrifying facts that are worth bearing in mind if you have animals (and indeed, a lot of this will apply if you have small children too).

  1. Lots of compost is made with cocoa husks, and not labelled as such. Cocoa husks are even more poisonous to dogs than chocolate. As such, if you have pets and can’t guarantee the provenance of your compost, it’s far safer to make your own compost as you can control what goes into it and ensure that it stays pet-safe. If you don’t have enough space to make your own compost, get involved with International Compost Awareness Week from 1st-7th May* and you may well be able to find pet-safe compost for free through a compost-sharing scheme.
  2. There are hundreds of plants that can kill pets, even if the animal ingests a single leaf. And it’s not just flowers: avocado, broccoli and tomatoes can all provoke serious illness or even death if ingested by animals (apparently tea tree oil is really harmful to animals too, so if you’re into alternative therapies, keep the tea-tree oil to yourself.)
  3. At the moment, many garden centres don’t  label their plants as being toxic to animals (or humans). This is something that really needs to be changed so that new and naive gardeners don’t accidentally kill their pets.

The PDSA has a great leaflet on animal safe gardens which is a must-read if you have pets. It’s also well worth checking any plants you’re growing/plan on growing aren’t killers in disguise (is that tabloidy enough to encourage Daily Mail outrage?).  I’ll be posting more about this issue in the future. My lovely friend has compiled a list of over 500 plants that are dangerous to animals,which she’s going to let me use on the site – and expect some Facebook campaign action soon, to encourage garden centres to label plants as hazardous to animal, and vets to distribute leaflets about which plants to avoid if you have pets.

*Yes, OK, I admit this doesn’t sound like the most fascinating celebration ever but you’d be surprised at how addictive composting can be – my refuse went down from one or more bags per week to about one bag per month when I first started composting and recycling everything I could for the garden (yoghurt pots, tin cans, butter tubs, old tights and jam jars are just a few of the things that can have a second life in the garden.) And anything you can prevent going into landfill has got to be a good thing.

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