By Rhonda Baillargeon, LVT

May is here, and that means it is time to start planning the garden. Have you ever thought about the effects of certain plants and products on your pets?
Many plants can be toxic to our pets if they eat them. In addition, some fertilizers, weed killers and pesticides can be harmful.

We are also exposed to other pests while gardening such as fleas, ticks, mosquitoes and worms.
Research the plants you intend to add to your garden. Unfortunately, greenhouses and seed catalogues do not include information about toxicity for pets in the descriptions of the plants and seeds they offer for sale. Be an informed pet parent and bookmark The Cornell University Toxic Plant Index. This site offers toxicity information and displays pictures of the plants to be sure you have the correct one. How about adding plants that are safe for your pets? Of course, the obvious choice is catnip, but be careful with it in the garden because most cats love it and will roll around in it, potentially harming nearby plants in the process. Both dogs and cats like to eat grass but do your homework to be sure the type you are interested in is safe.
As the season progresses, fertilizers and weed killers may be needed to keep that garden looking good and growing well. Chemical fertilizers can be harmful if ingested by your pet. Dehydrated manure is a good choice, but be sure to mix it in well to prevent the dog from running off with a choice piece for consumption. Also, compost piles pose their own dangers for our dogs. There are many reports of the danger of cancer after long-term use of weed killers. If it is dangerous for us to use, it stands to reason it is dangerous for our pets as well. Research non-toxic weed killer recipes using vinegar, epsom salt and dish soap. Some of these preparations work quite well without the dangers. There are strategies for planting that can help to prevent pests from eating our precious plants. Planting these varieties near the vegetables can help to prevent pests from eating the produce.
Swatting at mosquitoes and removing ticks after gardening can be frustrating so try plants that repel these pests. Geraniums, marigolds, citronella grass and many different herbs can work together to repel insects. These plants are also very colorful and pleasing to look at in the garden.
When gardening, be safe and wear gloves to protect yourself from parasites living in the dirt. These include roundworms, hookworms, and whipworms which are carried in our pets and wild animals and can be deposited in the garden when they defecate. These parasites can cause illness and sometimes blindness, particularly in children who are not always good about hand washing. Use heartworm preventives with your pets year-round to help control these parasites.