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Making the Garden Safe for Pets and Children

When designing a new landscape or reevaluating an older landscape, don't forget to work in spaces especially for children such as: a sandbox, jungle gym, and/or open grassy areas for football or net games like volleyball and badminton (not just for children). A sandbox or jungle gym can be tucked into a corner or other small area. For jungle gym or other physical activities a thick layer of shredded bark mulch on the ground will help to reduce the impact of falls.


Introduce children to gardening and yard maintenance early on so that as they develop, they gain an appreciation and respect for plants and the landscape. These learning sessions are the perfect opportunity for teaching them about plants and how they grow. This reduces the chances of children ingesting any poisonous parts of plants.


For those with pets, work into your garden or landscape an area for them to run and play. Gravel can be irritating to their paws and hot in summer, so use shredded bark mulch for this area which also works great for their potty areas as well. Place dog houses in protected areas such as nearer the house/garage or tucked into corners (great where there is a fence for additional protection). Sun and wind protection are other points to keep in mind.


Be flexible. Some dogs just like to dig and no matter what, you can't keep some plants. I've experienced this with my dogs. I replaced a couple of small trees damaged by a freeze a few years ago with dynamite crape myrtles. The next day, I came home to the plants dug up and dried out. I had to replace with 2 more new plants. The following day, I came home to them dug up and dried out, again. The dogs were scolded, of course, but we didn't want to waste, yet, 2 more plants. So, I planted the newest crape myrtles in large containers with a few annuals. It isn't what I really wanted for the landscape, but, this is a spot on the outside of my garden gate, so the container thing works fine. Planting in containers and raised beds can be a good solution for keeping plants off the ground so that they aren't dug up, time and time again.


Both young and small plants are at risk of having dogs urinate on them, which if allowed to continue, will eventually kill the plants. Sprinkle cayenne pepper over the area and around the base of the plants.


Neighborhood cats can be a big problem. Two successful ways of keeping them out of landscapes and gardens is to lay pine cones around the area or lay sections of chicken wire, secure to ground and cover ever so lightly with mulch. The pine cones, chicken wire or anything prickly will help to keep them at bay.


Here is a short listing of plants that are generally safe to use around pets and children:


  • Bamboo
  • Ornamental grasses
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Forsythia
  • Cat Mint
  • Chives
  • Lavender
  • Rosemary
  • Thyme
  • Heuchera
  • Sage
  • Herbs (many other varieties including annual varieties)
  • Sedum
  • Tulip poplar

This is just a short list of plants that can be planted safely in the garden. The ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) has a great site with information on a listing of the 17 top toxic plants to pets, great articles on pet care (dogs, cats and horses), and animal poison control hotlines.


Here is another web page that I found with an extremely detailed listing of plants toxic to dogs.


If you have a question about whether or not a specific plant is toxic or safe, always ask your pet's veterinarian.


The following link is to a short article on backyard safety for kids. It offers some good advice to keeping children safe and happy at play.



We hope you have enjoyed our article on Making the Garden Safe for Pets and Children. Check out this list of plants that are pet and children safe.