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Make garden safe for Fido and friends

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- My dogs are as much a part of the landscape as the shrubs and trees. I was planning to fence off a bed last week after they created a path right through the middle of it. Then I looked out the window and saw my sweet Lucy sound asleep under a shady weigela bush, right in the middle of that bed. No fences for now - she looked so comfortable.I think the answer to their path is to go with it - that's what I've noticed many public gardens do. When they see that walkers are creating a shortcut, they will make it into a sidewalk. Pavers through my garden bed just might be the answer.Writing last week about foxgloves made me remember to check my recent garden additions to see if there's anything toxic to my girls.There are many plants and other garden substances that may be poisonous to pets. According to DIY Network, some plants can even cause heart failure if ingested by pets. Oleander is one common ornamental that contains cardiotoxins. A single mouthful of its leaves could kill an average-size dog. Other common garden varieties that contain cardiotoxins include foxglove, lily of the valley, yew and kalanchoe.I just read that rhubarb leaves and shamrock can cause kidney failure, and I've got both of those. My shamrock's a houseplant and the dogs don't bother it, but I just bought a rhubarb plant. It will be planted in a garden where the dogs don't roam.Certain species of lilies, including Easter lilies and daylilies, are dangerous to cats - though not particularly harmful to dogs. Autumn crocus may cause hemorrhagic gastroenteritis, renal and liver damage and bone marrow suppression. Rhododendron, azalea and rosebay contain toxins and can cause serious gastrointestinal upset.Some mushroom species can cause liver failure. Heavy rains can lead to increased mushroom growth and have been linked to increases in reported poisonings in dogs. Get them out of your yard when you see them.Pesticides and your petOne of the most-dangerous types of pesticides is old-fashioned snail and slug bait containing Metaldehyde. Often appealing to dogs, Metaldehyde ingestion can cause increased heart rate, breathing complications and seizures, leading to liver complications and death. Newer slug products, such as Sluggo and Escar-Go, found at local garden centers, are less toxic.
A safe alternative for getting rid of slugs is to use diatomaceous earth. This natural substance consists of fossilized skeletons of marine and freshwater organisms crushed into a powder of tiny glasslike pieces. When slugs get it on their bodies, they lose water rapidly, dry up and die. It also repels them because they try to avoid contact. This must be reapplied after every rainfall. Also, try to avoid watering at night, as this encourages the slug population.If you want to make your own natural bug spray for general use in your garden, here's a recipe I've tried. It was fairly effective, but had to be reapplied frequently. The pepper's the deterrent; the soap makes it stick to the plants.All-Purpose Bug Spray 2 tablespoons of liquid hot pepper Few drops of liquid soap Water
 1 spray bottleADD pepper and soap to water bottle. Fill with water. Let stand 24 hours. Shake and spray.Other bug sprays use canola oil or mineral oil. Instead of hot pepper, you can try chopped garlic. When adding chopped garlic, the spray will need to be strained before use to remove the garlic. A baking soda and water formula can be sprayed on plants with fungal disease and a diluted milk solution helps with powdery mildew.
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