Living Columns & Blogs

Ask a Gardener: Does Fido enjoy your garden, too? Might want to watch what you plant

Caladium is just one of many plants that can be mildly or extremely toxic to dogs. Pet owners should be careful what they plant, especially if their dogs are prone to chewing plants. The ASPCA has a list of such plants on its website.
Caladium is just one of many plants that can be mildly or extremely toxic to dogs. Pet owners should be careful what they plant, especially if their dogs are prone to chewing plants. The ASPCA has a list of such plants on its website. Tribune News Services

In 2016 scientists found 1,730 new plant species worldwide.

One plant, Mucuna Chiapaneca, a climbing vine found in Mexico, contains a dopamine precursor, L-DOPA, which may help in treatment of Parkinson’s disease. In Malaysia, locals use the leaves of Begonia Acidulenta to polish silver. Preserving our rain forests was never so critical.

Question: I have three dogs and heard that some plants are toxic to canines. It worries me, as my dogs like to ramble among all my garden beds. Can you please give me information that could ease my mind?

Answer: Yes, indeed, there are plants toxic to both humans and dogs. Some of these plants are crocus, oleander, daffodils, lilies, and azalea.

Your question is timely, as recently I found my new puppy scrambling under a huge rhubarb plant to take a snooze. Gardening nearby, I quickly removed her from under the plant, as she tends to chew almost anything, and I know that rhubarb is toxic to humans. For all I knew, it also might be toxic to dogs.

Good thing I found her, as research showed that eaten in sufficient amounts, rhubarb can be toxic to dogs, as well.

It pays to go through your garden and make sure it’s dog-proofed and that possible toxic plants are removed. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has a list of plants that are toxic to dogs. Those vet bills are near to equal to human doctor charges.

Q: I never quite know how much to water my lawn. Do you know of any strategy to help?

A: A simple low-tech approach will do the trick. Most lawns need about an inch of water a week. To determine if you’re giving that, place an empty small can in the middle of your sprinkler’s pattern. See how long it takes to collect an inch of water in the can. That will tell you how long you need to run the sprinkler. Over watering is as bad as under watering, so this is information you need to maintain the best watering practice.

Another thing to be aware of is on hot days lawns get little benefit from watering. Too much evaporates quickly. The best times to water are early in the morning before it heats up and in the evening after the sun is well into its setting.

Q: When is the best time to plant some veggies that will be ready through the fall?

A: You’re spot on the money for this question. Early July is the time to get some plants or seeds into the ground to carry you through the fall. Some of those include lettuce, carrots, chard, radishes and spinach.

If you’ll be planting into beds previously planted, be sure to add additional compost and/or fertilizer, as your new plants will need it and the previous occupants may have exhausted the nutrients in the soil.

Q: I am convinced that my compost is the reason I have such happy plants. I just can’t seem to make enough, as it takes a long time to finish its process. Any ideas on how to hurry it up?

A: To achieve the fastest (read hottest) compost, think size. Small, that is. Whatever you put into the compost should be in small pieces, as they will break down more quickly than large pieces.

There are a couple of relatively easy ways to shred all the green clippings, straw, hay and leaves. One uses a lawnmower. Spread out a large tarp, put your pile of material on it and repeatedly run the lawnmower over it.

The second way to render your compostables smaller is by using a Weed Wacker. Fill a large barrel with the materials, then insert the Weed Wacker into the barrel and let it do the work.

Once you have the smaller pieces to compost and want to get them heating quickly, be sure to water your compost pile. Don’t over water. Add just enough water so the compost feels like a wrung-out sponge.

You’ll soon have created the most beneficial soil improver, and your plants will be happy!

Kathleen Bander of Bellingham is a life-long gardener and Master Gardener. Her column will appear in The Bellingham Herald weekly through the summer growing season. If you have a gardening question you'd like answered in the column, please email it to newsroom@bellinghamherald.com. For more gardening information online, go to whatcom.wsu.edu/ch/mg.html.

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