How to keep pets safe in the garden – LA Daily News

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Like it or not, gardening involves a lot of killing things. Responsible gardeners want to accomplish this in the safest way possible by minimizing their pesticide and herbicide use and targeting it toward the specific problem. This is especially important when children and/or pets are present.
The internet is full of recipes for homemade weed control and pesticides, and some of them might work. Some, however, may be dangerous to children or pets. I will talk about pet safety this week, since I’ve had several readers ask about it.
Essential oils are frequently mentioned as effective pesticides. Although they do smell nice, they can be toxic to dogs and cats and should not be applied where your pets can come in contact with them. Other homemade pest repellents such as fabric softener sheets and moth balls are harmful to dogs and cats, and they should not be used in the garden.
Compost, although wonderful for your plants, should be kept away from dogs. Use a compost bin with a secure lid so those delicious (to your dog, at least) rotting food scraps have a chance to completely break down. Some species of mold and other spoilage organisms found in compost can be harmful to your dog. This will also keep raccoons, opossums, skunks and rats from getting into the compost bin. I cannot emphasize enough how important this is since I’ve had several surprise encounters when taking scraps out to the bin after dark.
Organic fertilizers such as bone meal, blood meal, fish emulsion and manure are irresistible to dogs. They can be harmful if eaten and unbelievably foul-smelling if rolled in. Apply the fertilizer, water thoroughly, and let dry before allowing Fido outside.
Liquid fertilizers and pesticides should be allowed to dry, and granules should be watered into the soil before allowing pets access. Some pesticides, such as granular ant bait, should be placed inside a bait station. Always follow label instructions.
When mixing fertilizer or pesticides from concentrate, try to prepare just enough for one or two applications at a time. Label all containers (you don’t want to mistake weed killer for fertilizer) and keep them out of reach. Use separate containers/sprayers for herbicides and pesticides. You don’t want to use a spray bottle for fertilizer that was previously used for herbicide, since traces of herbicide could damage your plants.
Some pesticides are less toxic than others. Insecticidal soaps, diatomaceous earth, and biological pesticides such as Bacillus thuringiensis are relatively harmless. Be aware that some botanical pesticides, although labelled “organic” can be quite dangerous. Never assume that something labeled “all natural” is completely safe.
Before resorting to chemical pesticides or herbicides, try to control the problem using mechanical and cultural methods listed on the University of California IPM website at ucanr.edu to identify and manage pests in homes, gardens, landscapes and lawns.
Have questions? Email gardening@scng.com.
Looking for more gardening tips? Here’s how to contact the Master Gardener program in your area.
Los Angeles County
mglosangeleshelpline@ucdavis.edu; 626-586-1988; http://celosangeles.ucanr.edu/UC_Master_Gardener_Program/
Orange County
ucceocmghotline@ucanr.edu; 949-809-9760; http://mgorange.ucanr.edu/
Riverside County
anrmgriverside@ucanr.edu; 951-683-6491 ext. 231; https://ucanr.edu/sites/RiversideMG/
San Bernardino County
mgsanbern@ucanr.edu; 909-387-2182; http://mgsb.ucanr.edu/
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