Thursday, February 10, 2011

Avoiding chemicals helps keep pets safe

To go along with today's post about Pets and Pesticides, here is some information about ways to control weeds in a landscape without resorting to chemicals. These suggestions are from the document Pesticides and Pets from  

Lawns, Landscapes and Gardens  

Prevention: Again, the most effective way to treat unwanted plants is to stop them from establishing themselves on your prop­erty at all.  

Do this by creating a thick, healthy turf:
  • Mow at 3-3.5 inches to shade out weed germination and foster deep roots.
  • Leave the grass clipping on the lawn after mowing. Grass clip­pings are a free natural fertilizer and will improve soil conditions!
  • Aerate your lawn in order to help air, water, and fertilizer to enter.
  • After aerating, fertilize lightly in the Fall with a natural, slow-release fertilizer. Re­quest organic fertilizers at your local nursery or order online.
  • Overseed with a grass spe­cies that is naturally resistant to fungal diseases and/or insects. Use native species.
  • Use corn gluten meal on weed prone areas in the ear­ly spring and early fall. Corn gluten keeps selected weed seeds from germinating, yet is high in nitrogen so it fertil­izes your lawn at the same time. Do not seed at the same time.
Control: In addition to prevention, there are easy and direct ways to control unwanted plants without the use of toxic herbicides.
  • Hand pull weeds from the roots.
  • Flame weeding machines use a targeted flame to kill weeds. This option is not advisable for drier climates.
  • High-pressure steam and boiling water can both be used to kill weeds.
  • Goats and geese can both be used to remove weeds.
  • Horticultural vinegar is a powerful acid that will non-selectively kill weeds. You can buy horticultural vinegar at a plant nursery or even make your own. Avoid contact with skin, as it is an acid.
  • Herbicidal soaps are refined soaps that dry out plants and kill them.
From Pesticides and Pets


  1. Betsy, I like your writing, and enjoy your blogs, BUT….. I think you skimmed right over the important part of this question. Cats are Killers. Why should anyone who calls themselves an animal lover, let their cats roam the neighborhood, killing songbirds, amphibians, and anything else they can catch by the hundreds? See the new report done by the University of Nebraska, Lincoln, at / feral cats

  2. Really good post- I have heard of pets dying after ingesting rodents that were poisoned (by the very same owners of the pets). My dog spends hours and hours on the grass (OK 'the mowable weed mixture) and I don't want his bed to be laced with pesticides.

  3. Fantastic post – roaming pets are annoying. However, the threat to our beloved companions is colossal in comparison.

  4. Thanks for posting a great article in a very positive light. We strongly encourage cat owners to keep them indoors. As a humane nuisance wildlife trapper, we get feral cat calls all the time and they are sick with diseases and parasites. They all go to the local animal shelter for testing and treatment and rarely do we find that they are adoptable. It is sad, but a problem that could be controlled if we educate pet owners. We live trap all animals except for rats, because of the fire hazards in the home as well as the toxic debris they leave behind in attics, but we specifically do NOT use poisons at all because of the risk of hurting innocent pets and children. We love your article and hope to help promote your views and contribute to your efforts!

  5. As a working dog owner, hands up cat lover and Ecologist/Zoologist i have to agree a little with Terry Lavy here, though if you read through carefully especially paragraph three. I believe Betsy makes your own point for you.

    While i love your blog and i appreciate you deliberately focusing on roaming pets (and we all love our pets!!) this issue does need addressing from the perspective of wild animals using a garden far more than the average pet. In the case of cats as highlighted this can be a problem in it's self.

    Perhaps another blog could be started to distinguish the two arguments.

    As for the original focus of the blog, I personally believe, and know, there are many, much greener ways of maintaning our green spaces and would encourage all to do so as best they can.
    Organic food produce is on your supermarket shelves which we'll happily purchase, so why use so many potentially harmful chemicals in our own back gardens?

    I sadly lost a working Springer-Spaniel recently due to the ingestion of an unknown toxin which resulted in internal bleeding. Most-likely from contact with blood-thinning rat poison which somehow found its way into his system. This obviously didn't come from our own garden, and the only other alternative would be the park. A quickly swallowed poisoned rat/squirell or the like would explain the sad loss.

    Here we have a double edged sword. While some pests especially rodents need to be controlled, a non "roaming" working dog was killed simply by doing what dogs do in a public wooded park.

    I can't stress how much i agree with Betsy here, green spaces are meant to be green. Is it really so hard to achieve that without funding a chemical-based industry?

    What do you think happens to most of these toxins? As an Aquatic Zoologist i can tell you, it does wash away, but non of us can be nieve enough to think it then dissapears down the magic plughole. It all accumulates as run-off into our streams and waterways.

    Just think, each person down your road spraying plants and lawns with a bottle of chemicals, then all the roads in your area and so on. Doesn't take a genius to work out the fish ain't to happy!

    We've survived for thousands of years in a very green fashion. Our ancestors made it, hence us all typing away today. Time to get back to our "roots" perhaps?…

    p.s. arguments for control of vermin are in my opinion highly valid. However they hang around human settlements for a reason, and it's not the crack the local pussycats are peddling… another blog perhaps on food waste?
    enclosed, it makes great natural fertiliser you know, i wonder what us gardeners could do with fertiliser?.. :)


  6. Roaming cats and dogs lead to feral cats and even hybrids like the Coydogs! Our pets have their place its called our homes and wildlife have the outdoors. More native wildlife is destroyed by irresponsible pet owners then any other species in the US. If you have a domestic pet please consider the wildlfie around you and keep your animals either tethered or behind fences they can not climb over or unde.

    I can take you to places where birds no longer sing, and squirrels no longer roam the trees.Where the endangered Florida scrub jay will probably perish because of irresponsible pet owners who have indiscriminately no longer needed their pets and dumped them off.

    If you really love wildlife why would you even think of wanting to let your pet cohabititate with wild creatures in the first place . Keep your pets inside or tethered out side.

    Got a doggy door! Let me share with you a story about a coyote that followed kitty back in in the middle of the night. I had a customer wake up to a ruckus in their kitchen . Fifi was followed in to the home and was devoured by being cornered in the kitchen and was reduced to a backbone and a pet collar

  7. If you let your pet roam they can be run over by a car, catch diseases and generally will not live as long. I think responsible pet ownership mean keeping them from harm. My cats have fun playing inside, they watch birds in the window and they get to take long cat naps in safety, and they are very friendly. It's like getting your pet spayed/neutered, they'll live long and there are way too many cats and dogs that in shelters so we really don't need our pets breeding.


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