In the Garden
Get down and dirty in the garden

The Real Scoop on Vermicomposting

Vermicomposting is a composting process that uses earthworms, usually red wrigglers, and a mixture of decomposing food waste and paper bedding materials to produce vermicast—a fancy word for worm poop—and one of a plant’s favorite foods! It’s an amazing form of organic fertilizer that will produce wonderful results in your garden. 

Why Vermicomposting Is Right for Your Garden

Vermicompost is a water-soluble, nutrient-filled, bacteria-rich organic fertilizer and soil conditioner for your garden. I like to think of it as “black gold” because it’s extremely valuable in promoting healthy plant growth. The process is all-natural and works in tandem with Mother Nature, only in a controlled environment. Controlled, as in you control the critters. Earthworms run wild in nature and tend to come and go as they please. Wouldn’t it be great if you could maintain them as a captive audience, producing continuous and copious amounts of organic fertilizer free of charge? Sign me up!

rsz_mel_gorgeous_worms

Worm Bins Are a Super Way to Help the Environment

Think of this as the ultimate in recycling for those fruits and vegetables you’re growing and consuming but can’t quite finish. Flowers and leaves can be included in the mix, even newspaper and similar materials you might be using around your home. Most anything you throw into a compost pile you can instead, feed to your earthworms. They’ll gobble it up and poop up a storm, leaving you piles of luscious vermicast.

As nature intended, this poop will be returned to the earth, infusing your plants with amazing energy and superb nutrients. You can purchase a specially-made worm bin from a supplier or build your own by recycling a couple of old plastic storage tubs.

Now I’ll confess, I’ve had my issues with vermicomposting. While I’d love to be “up to my elbows” in fabulous vermicast, scooping piles of the black gold for my garden use, I ended up cleaning out my bin due to failure.

rsz_mel_homemade_worm_bin

Where did I go wrong? I mean, I purchased a specially-made worm bin from my local seed store. I read the directions, set up the bin, added shredded newspaper for the bedding material, a scoop of dirt, and leftover scraps from the kitchen. Finally, I plopped in a healthy heaping of red wrigglers. The concept was simple. Continually add scraps to the bin whereby the worms would migrate up leaving a trail of poop below them as they climbed in search of fresh food. My job was to harvest the poop by scooping it out, and into the garden.

As a dutiful caregiver, I fed my worms, watered their bedding, and generally fussed over the gorgeous creatures all the while knowing that if I treated them well, they'd treat me well and poop up a storm! 

Tips for Successful Vermicomposting

Problem number one. After a few weeks, I found my worms swimming in the bottom bin full of their own "you-know-what" rather than migrating upward as they were supposed to. And my bin was stinky. Definitely not “as advertised” when I bought it.

Reason? Too much moisture. As I was busily adding food scraps, I wasn’t keeping up a proper ratio with shredded paper. Not good. Translated: Worms are like Goldilocks. They need conditions that are not too wet and not too dry, but just right. Adequate ventilation and drainage are also key.

Problem number two. My bin lived in the garage and too often, I found my little wrigglers scattered across the garage floor to the point where my son shrieked in dismay. “Mom, the worms are escaping!” Staring at the mess of stick-dry carcasses strewn about, it seems they didn’t get far. And there was definitely no trail of poop to scoop. Not good.

Reason? The temperature where I live in Florida can grow very warm and earthworms don’t like it too hot or too cold. Remember Goldilocks? They like it “just right” which means a temperature range of 50-80 degrees F. Go figure.

rsz_mel_worms_in_their_new_bin

Problem number three. Flies were circling my bin depositing unspeakable things in my vermicompost. Scratching my head, I peered over the jumble of waste and thought, flies were not part of the bargain.

Reason? We were tossing in whole pieces of food scraps that were too large for the earthworms to consume, giving them time to rot and attract pesky flies. Gnats became a problem, too. Seems for a successful worm bin, you should cut your scraps into smaller pieces before adding them to the bin.

While I had my trials and tribulations during my vermicomposting adventure, I’d still recommend giving it a try. Earthworm castings are amazing for your garden soil and worth any obstacles you run into along the way. We plan to give it another go this fall. How about you? Up for some fun? 


Award-winning author and blogger D.S. Venetta lives in Central Florida with her husband and two children. It was volunteering in her children’s Montessori school garden that gave rise to her new series Wild Tales & Garden Thrills, stories bursting with the real-life experiences of young gardeners. Children see the world from a totally different perspective than adults and Venetta knows their adventures will surely inspire a new generation to get outside and get digging.

8 Eco-Friendly DIY Pesticides

Gardening is a great way to raise your own produce, increasing your overall health and saving money at the same time. Unfortunately, many gardeners find themselves having to resort to chemical pesticides to eliminate harmful, destructive pests from their garden plants.

There are alternatives to these cancer-causing chemicals–organic pesticides that you can make right at home. These easy to make pesticides allow you to save money and improve your health while simultaneously protecting the planet.

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1. Salt Spray

Many pests are deterred by salt, including slugs and spider mites. Mix salt (Himalayan pink crystal salt is suggested) with a gallon of warm water and spray onto the garden’s affected areas. Try not to spray directly on the plant when possible, as this can produce a drying effect, but instead on the soil around the garden’s entrance.

2. Orange Citrus Oil

While citrus oil smells appealing to us, it is a deterrent to many common pests, including slugs, cockroaches, and ants. Mix an ounce of orange oil with a gallon of water and a splash of castile soap. It can be sprayed directly on the pests or dabbed on a surface to provide long-lasting benefits.

3. Diatomaceous Earth

This compound works well at repelling all kinds of insects, both inside the house as well as in the garden. This product causes insects to dry out and die but is not poisonous to humans or animals. It works well on its own, as well as when combined with chili pepper or powder. A cup of diatomaceous earth, such as egg shells, mixed with half a gallon of water is all you need. Let it sit overnight once you mix it, then shake well before applying it to the garden.

4. Chrysanthemum Flowers

These flowers can help repel insects on their own, but work especially well when its flowers are dried, ground, and then boiled into a potent brew. These flowers contain pyrethrum, which kills insects by infecting their nervous system and completely immobilizing them. To make a chrysanthemum spray, simply boil the dried leaves in a liter of water for about twenty minutes. Once it has cooled and been sprayed on the garden, it can produce insect-repelling effects for up to two months.

5. Neem Oil

Neem is one of the most famous DIY pesticides, boasting a long history of traditional use. Ancient cultures used neem as an all-natural pest repellent,  its juice is regarded as one of the most potent pesticides. The neem leaf itself is bitter but entirely eco-friendly. To make an easy pesticide, combine half an ounce or organic Neem oil with a half teaspoon of liquid soap and two quarts of warm water. It can be used immediately and will be effective for weeks.

6. Eucalyptus Oil

Many people already have eucalyptus oil kicking around the house, as it is a revered essential oil that provides a wide array of health and wellness benefits. This oil helps to repel flies, as well as stinging insects like wasps. All you need to do is sprinkle a few drops of oil near the areas where the insects tend to frequent. It requires frequent reapplications but can be incredibly effective, especially when used in areas near your house.

7. Garlic Spray

Garlic has an unpleasant aroma to pests and can be mixed with water to create a powerful insecticide. This biodegradable option is effective against whiteflies, aphids, and spider mites, and doesn’t produce the same pungent odor after the spray has dried.

8. Hot Pepper Wax

This natural pesticide keeps away dozens of garden pests, including aphids and whiteflies, as it produces a spicy taste and aroma that repel many species of insects. It also helps protect plants against inclement weather. This pesticide is made from blended cayenne or habanero peppers mixed with two cups of water. It should steep for 24 hours before use, and can also deter mammal pests like squirrels and rabbits.

When considering all-natural, eco-friendly pesticides for your garden, be sure to consider all options before use. Some pesticides may be damaging to certain plants, or impart a distinct flavor upon finished crops. These options do not damage plants or beneficial wildlife and pollinators, making them safe to use in any environment.

A DIY Vertical Garden Project

As cities became more crowded, most of us became "condemned" to live in an apartment which actually weakened our innate relationship with nature. That is why it was necessary to find a creative solution to create a garden space for the individuals having no access whatsoever to the actual garden of their own. It is no wonder why vertical gardens gained popularity in the last couple of years and it is safe to say that they are the hottest green-thumb trend nowadays—a perfect solution for reconnecting with nature. Creating one by yourself might be tricky so here's what you should pay attention to.

hanging potted pink flowers
Photo by Pixabay

Choose a Suitable Vertical Garden

The best part of the vertical garden is that there are many options and types you can choose from. You can opt for a container-style garden or pocket gardens, you can grow plants in a wooden wall planter made of wooden shipping pallets, pretty much whatever pops into your mind, or whatever recyclables you find in your garage.

The container-style vertical garden is a pretty easy option where you attach potted plants to the wall or make a unique combination of various plants displayed in a row or stacked. A pocket garden refers to tucking in plants into pockets made from canvas or felt and hanging them vertically on the wall, which makes it a pretty easy DIY, while a vertical wooden wall planter means getting your hands dirty and doing some harder work. For the vertical wooden planters made of recycled shipping pallets, you will need a wire mesh in order to prevent the soil from spilling or simply purchase a landscaping fabric and staple it to the bottom, sides, and the back of the pallet.

Find the Perfect Spot

A vertical garden can be placed just about anywhere, indoors and outdoors, no matter the size of your apartment. But you should keep in mind the position of the sun during the day and the amount of sun exposure the plants will need and get in certain spots around your home. Let the sunbeams guide you to the perfect placement for your garden. For example, if you are a cacti lover and want to have a vertical garden completely made of succulent plants you should opt for a half-exposed spot; avoid full shade or full sun. And keep in mind that you should plant your succulents in either modular containers or detachable vertical pockets so that you can bring them indoors for the winter.

Safety Comes First

It is advised that before taking on any DIY project to make sure you have the necessary tools as well as the equipment it is important to invest in quality equipment to protect yourself from the mishaps that can happen. You will need quality safety glasses, work gloves, and some good old Australian work boots to ensure that your toes are safe  before starting the project and working with various wood cutting machines for your project.

Time to Grab the Tools

There are a few easy steps you need to take to get to see your plants in the air.

First off carefully mark and cut the 1 x 6 piece of lumber into two 3-inch pieces using a circular saw. Next you need to measure and space out equally the holes for the pots. Use a hole saw drill bit that matches the size of your pots. Drilling small holes on the corners of the lumber piece through which you will insert a rope on each side. Run them down, under and up being careful to tie the knots on the 12-14 inch marks of the rope.

You can leave your hanging plant stand unpainted if you love the natural color of the wood, or paint it to match your interior.

Know Your Plants

Before you start planting your wonderful garden you should consider the types of plants you want in order to mix and match compatible plants. Most of the herbs and veggies can grow neatly next to each other but there are some plants that are not "flexible". It is better to opt for herbaceous plants like flowers and fern for your vertical garden than the woody ones because they are more adaptable and flexible for growing vertically. Herbaceous plants have soft green stems so they will adapt and grow vertically down the walls whereas planting woody varietals (shrubs or vines) is not a good idea for the vertical garden since they have rigid, woody stems and they will grow parallel to the ground.

Make the Right Mix

Mix plants to achieve a more artwork looking vertical garden but make sure to mix plants with same "habits". That means that you should plant either all-sun or all shade plants to avoid uneven growth. That way you will make sure that all the plants have the same rate of growth and that your vertical garden looks truly amazing.

Quality Potting Soil Is Essential

Another thing you should really pay attention to is the type of the soil. It is essential to use potting soil because vertical gardens dry out quickly and therefore need the soil that helps retain the water and holds in moisture. Not only the regular soil dries out quickly but also the gravity isn't helping – it pulls the water down. That is why it is recommended to use quality potting soil and to think about the position of the plants—the ones that don't need much water should be placed on top since that part dries the quickest, while the plants more suited for wetter conditions should be planted at the bottom of your vertical garden.

Rely on these rather simple tips in order to create the perfect vertical garden and find the right spot for it. Keep in mind to invest in quality equipment for your own safety before you start with your project (or any future DIY) and start making awesome garden (or gardens) for your home.

Controlling Pests in the Organic Garden

When growing plants using organic methods, the job of bug killing becomes a unique proposition. Spritzing chemicals from a spray bottle or tossing toxic powder along your beds is not okay. No way, no how, are you going to add potential hazards to your otherwise healthy garden. But the bugs remain, and if left unchecked, will devour your precious bounty.

How to Eliminate Pests the Organic Way

Organic methods require you to be smarter than the bugs. Quicker than the fiends. You must be vigilant. Determined. And yes, skilled in the art of “dispatch.” Take heart sensitive souls, killing isn’t a requirement. We’re talking pluck and relocate, moving the invaders out and away from your garden. If they’re out of sight, your fruits and leaves will be safe. 

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For those with squeamish bellies, relax—you’ll get over any ill-feelings quite quickly once you witness the devastation wrought by these garden marauders. Incredibly, all your hard work and plant care can be reduced to stems in a matter of hours. Take the hornworm. This beast will consume an entire tomato plant in one chomping, much like the little fella in the storybook, The Hungry Caterpillar.

Seriously?

Seriously. But the good news is that hornworms and caterpillars are easy to catch—albeit difficult to spot—and easily plucked from the vine. If slugs and snails are a problem, set out a bowl of beer. Seems they have an affinity for the stuff but find it easier to get “in to” than “out of.” Like many things in life, eh? Diatomaceous earth will wreak havoc on the insides of many garden pests and prevent them from consuming your plants while garlic spray works to repel them altogether. Neem oil is another good bet and widely available in most garden centers.

Beneficial Insects Will Handle the Work of Pest Control

However, if the task of grabbing insects makes you recoil, or creating organic concoctions sounds too complicated, why not invite a few of your neighborhood ladybugs to move in? While you’re at it, ask a few frogs over, too.  Hey, let’s say we make it a party and invite a few friendly dragonflies to join the mix, some hoverflies, a pair of lacewings, and heck, give a shout out to some gorgeous cardinals. Why?

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Because according to the laws of Mother Nature, everyone needs to eat—insects, birds and amphibians included. Did you know ladybugs absolutely love aphids, while frogs consume crickets and spiders like they’re going out of style?  Dragonflies make a feast of mosquitoes and flies and cardinals?  I hear they feed grasshoppers to their young

Have you ever heard of anything more glorious?  I mean, grasshoppers can prove to be a horrible nuisance when it comes to plants. And I must confess, anything that keeps them on the run receives an extra star in my garden journal. These bugs are known as “beneficials” because they benefit your garden by chasing the bad bugs out.

Companion Planting Keeps the Pests at Bay

Consider companion planting when it comes to garden pest control. This is the practice of interplanting according to beneficial relationships between plants. For instance, rosemary deters cabbage moths, dill attracts hornworms, marigolds repel whiteflies while lavender nourishes a host of beneficial insects.  Marigolds can also deter the invisible nematodes lurking in your soil.

rsz_mel_row of garlic

While I love the scent of garlic, many insects do not and will stay away. Planting garlic in and around your garden will help protect against a host of insects. For those edible landscape enthusiasts, try planting garlic around your roses as it helps ward off aphids.  

These are just a few examples, but you can download an entire list from my website, BloominThyme, and take heart in knowing your garden is chemical and poison-free. 


Award-winning author and blogger D.S. Venetta lives in Central Florida with her husband and two children. It was volunteering in her children’s Montessori school garden that gave rise to her new series Wild Tales & Garden Thrills, stories bursting with the real-life experiences of young gardeners. Children see the world from a totally different perspective than adults and Venetta knows their adventures will surely inspire a new generation to get outside and get digging.

Essential Summer Maintenance for a Healthy Garden

I just came in from doing a bit of garden maintenance. I gather a bucket and my garden snips and walk around my large privacy fenced patio to visit all the container plants, herbs and vines in my patio garden. If vegetables are ready to be picked, I place them on my garden bench.

lush container garden

Some would hesitate to cut the beautiful flowers, I know. But if they are growing leggy, I take the snippers to them. Some might call it brutal, watching the pretty flowers fall to the cement. But I know it is important to keep the plants trimmed in order to have healthy growth.

Once you trim back the leggy portions of your plants, they will grow back in a different form. The energy that goes all the way down that leggy stem is put to better use. The plant will become fuller and more rounded.

large containers with foliage

Then I hose down the cement to get rid of the plant debris that fell victim to my snippers. I stand back and gaze at my beautiful garden, at the various galvanized, terra cotta and plastic containers full of lush plants. I even plant sedum in big pieces of driftwood.

My patio garden gives me months of gorgeous blooms, fresh vegetables and herbs, and vines winding up the fence.

vining container along fence

Then I wash out the bird baths and refill them with fresh water. This should be done on a daily basis. I am rewarded with lots of birds visiting me, singing me awake each morning. It is a glorious sound that I never grow tired of.

Such is my heaven on earth right behind my one level apartment. My garden changes with the seasons. The annuals give me a lot of bang for my buck, but fade away at the end of summer. The perennials edge back up through the soil in my containers every spring after a long winter’s sleep.

containers of greens and flowers

It is essential to a healthy garden to do regular maintenance. But remember, you can gather those flower stems and put them in a jar of water in your kitchen and enjoy them that way. Then you won’t feel so bad about taking the snippers to your plants while keeping your garden healthy and robust.

Photos by Brenda Pruitt

Must-See Gardens Across the US: The Southeast

This is Part 1 of a 5-part series. 

Instead of pulling over to see the world’s 3rd biggest ball of yarn during your vacation, try something a little more worthwhile. This could be your only vacation of the year, so “fill your eyes with wonder” as the travel bloggers say and visit some unforgettable places. All over the U.S., there are publicly and privately funded, breathtaking gardens that can redefine your definition of horticulture. From pristine botanical memorials to fascinating plant sculptures, you will find your imagination running wild with your own backyard botanical ideas.

Plus, these gardens are prime for great pictures that are guaranteed to make your Instagram pop and may even inspire you to start a succulent garden, raised garden, or ‘living’ sculpture garden of your own! So, if you are journeying through the southeastern U.S., carve out some time to visit one or more of these amazing garden experiences.

Georgia

1. Atlanta Botanical Gardens

 Additional Provisions: concerts, auctions, adult classes, and private rentals.

Located in Atlanta’s Midtown next to the very active Piedmont park, the Atlanta Botanical Gardens brings some vibrant plant art to the hustle and bustle of a big city. The garden offers a kids’ area, rock gardens, a conservatory, a canopy walk, and a famous plant sculpture exhibition. These “living” sculptures can get up to 26 feet tall, taking the shape of mermaids, peacocks, camels, and other exciting creatures.

Atlanta Botanical Gardens
Image: Eric Sonstroem [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

2. Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens

 Additional Provisions: private events, workshops

Take some time during your tour of Georgia to visit this educational garden. Located 15 miles from Savannah, Georgia, these gardens reside at the Historic Bamboo Farm which is part of the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural & Environmental Sciences. Get ready to see a beautiful collection of palm varietals and get lost in their 4-acre Bamboo maze. 

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Image: Michael Rivera [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

Florida

1. Sunken Gardens in St. Petersburg

 Additional Provisions: weddings, workshops, guided tours

Located in scenic St. Petersburg next to the Tampa Bay, this garden is over 100 years old and boasts a collection of more than 50,000 plants. It includes beautiful pathways adorned with waterfalls and demonstration areas, offering a holistic botanical experience. They are also known for their workshops where you can learn about planting techniques or new horticultural research. For example, in the summer of 2018, they will host a rain garden and barrel workshop which teaches gardeners about collecting rain and distributing it within their gardens.

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Image: Peter Tosh from Wikimedia Commons

2. Disney’s Flower and Garden Festival at Epcot

 Additional Provisions: food demonstrations, outdoor kitchens, dining, events, tours, workshops

Held annually during in springtime, Disney’s Flower and Garden Festival is the most expensive on this list, but arguably provides the greatest amount of botanical wonder and more. From learning how-to, to outdoor garden concerts, to eating food picked directly from their gardens, it is one of the most renowned botanical experiences there is. Along with living sculptures featuring Anna and Elsa from Frozen and Bambi with his woodland critters, they feature a beautiful raised bed gardening exhibit. (Learn what raised bed gardening is here) Featured within them are plants from over 11 countries, and educational placards adorn each explaining how to take care of them and how the raised beds assist in their transition to a tropical climate.

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Image: Jennifer Lynn [CC BY 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Alabama

1. Huntsville Botanical Garden

 Additional Provisions: weddings, workshops, guided tours

If you want to walk a beautiful nature trail, enjoy specialty gardens, experience the nation’s largest open-air butterfly house, and feel the tranquility of an aquatic garden, then make your way to  the Huntsville Botanical Garden in Alabama. They are a non-profit garden dedicated to providing experiences that will delight adults and children. One of their most notable offerings is the Demonstration Vegetable Garden where visitors can learn about the practical styles of gardening such as row-gardening and square foot-gardening

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Image: Scott (originally posted to Flickr as 105) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

 

2. Arlington Antebellum Home and Gardens Birmingham

 Additional Provisions: weddings, events, art museum

Formerly a plantation, the Arlington Antebellum Home and Garden is now a beautiful 6-acre landscaped garden. It is part of the National Register of Historic Places, and features a restored garden room along with decorative art. The gardens highlight sharp lines and the beauty of landscaping, and the history behind the property is felt by every visitor. 

Alabama Arlington_Place_02_1
Image: [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

North Carolina

1. Biltmore House and Gardens

 Additional Provisions: outdoor adventures, food and wine, architecture, tours, events

As highlighted on their official website, the Biltmore House and Gardens located in North Carolina suggests that you make this a 3-day visit instead of just stopping by. Their gardens have featured in Travel + Leisure’s Top Ten Botanical Gardens of the World, and the Biltmore property itself is a historical legacy. Among the sights included are: a Tennis Lawn, Shrub Garden, conservatory, Spring Garden, Azalea Garden, and Bass Pond. Once you are done observing their horticultural space, you can relax with a Rose Petal facial in the Biltmore Spa. 

Biltmore_estate_garden
Image: No machine-readable author provided. Tom assumed (based on copyright claims). [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

2. The Elizabethan Gardens

Additional Provisions: weddings, events, tours, workshops

This 10.5 acre public garden, located in the Fort Raleigh National Historic Site, features 500 different plants and flowers cared for by five dedicated professional horticulturalists. They change the displays seasonally to reflect the natural beauty of every season, and visitors can also view the Queen’s Rose Garden in honor of Queen Elizabeth II. Another site to behold is the live oak - estimated to have lived since 1585. The Elizabethan Gardens are most well known for their Camellia collection which is comprised of over 80 Camellia varietals. Everyone can enjoy the pristine beauty of these gardens, and avid horticulturalists can especially enjoy the hybrid Lilies.

Elizabethan_Gardens_entrance_1
Image: Captain-tucker [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], from Wikimedia Commons

So, if travelling the southeast U.S. definitely add these amazing stops to your itinerary for some added tranquility and exploration.

Also, keep your eyes open for part 2 of this 5-part series as we explore the rest of the must-see gardens across the U.S.!

Never Feed These Foods to Your Dog

We all strive to be healthier and happier and as a dog mom, this holds true for my pets, too. But in our quest for better health, is it possible we might be feeding our pets “healthy” foods that can actually harm them? I mean, I know some people that only feed their dogs human food, from raw fish and eggs to fresh green beans and berries. They claim it’s better for the animal. But is it really?

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables for Your Dog

The short answer is yes—and no. Many of the foods we like to slide off our plates and share with our furry loved ones are good for them. Green beans and berries, carrots, and cucumbers are wonderful for dogs. Not only do they supply essential vitamins and minerals but crunching on carrots is good for a dog’s teeth. Cucumbers freshen their breath. Really! Plus, most dogs seem to enjoy them. Probably more than your kids.

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But there are some fruits and vegetables that are not good for your dog, and it’s an important distinction for us to learn.

Foods That Shouldn’t Be Fed to Pets

While onions and spinach are commonly grown vegetables, they should not be given to your dog or cat. Onions, leeks, garlic, and chives are part of a family of plants called Allium which is poisonous to most pets, especially cats. In fact,  eating onions can cause toxicity and life-threatening anemia in your pet. Vomiting, diarrhea, stomach pain, and nausea may also occur.

rsz_sweet_onions

Dogs can eat spinach, but according to the AKC, it’s very high in oxalic acid, which blocks the body’s ability to absorb calcium and can lead to kidney damage. Granted, your dog would probably have to eat a very large amount of spinach to have this problem, but it might be best to go with another vegetable.

Others on the list to avoid include avocado, cherries, grapes, and mushrooms. The pit, skin and leaves of the avocado contain persin, a toxin that can cause vomiting and diarrhea in dogs. While the flesh of an avocado has less of the persin, it’s still enough to cause them distress. Cherries are an obvious no-no due to the choking-hazard caused by their pits, but cherry plants also contain cyanide which is no good for any of us. Grapes are a more commonly known culprit, including raisins. They have proved to be extremely toxic for all breeds and can lead to acute kidney failure.

Mushrooms are a mixed bag of caution when it comes to your pet. Or you, for that matter. Generally speaking, the white button variety of mushrooms we find at our local supermarkets can be okay for consumption, but the more exotic species can lead to trouble. Admittedly, only 50-100 of the more than 50,000 species of mushrooms in the world have been proven to be toxic, but I find it’s better to avoid all fungi. I mean, do you really want to guess what kind of mushroom your dog is sniffing and nibbling at on those trail hikes you both adore? No way.

Cautionary Plants and Flowers for Your Pets

While we enjoy being outside in the sunshine, tending our garden and enjoying a healthy lifestyle, we should be aware of the dangers lurking within the beautiful petals and leaves of the landscape. Potato and tomato plants are members of the Solanaceae family and are among some of the most common home garden plants. However, while the fruits and roots of these plants are delicious to eat, their leaves are not. In fact, the stems and leaves can cause gastrointestinal upset in us and our pets, due to toxic substance called solanine. I doubt your pet will eat enough of the plant for it to have deadly consequences but ingesting the leaves can cause them serious distress. This warning also applies to other plants in this family, including eggplant, peppers, and petunias.

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A flower to definitely watch out for is the lily. All parts of the flower are toxic, including the pollen, and can be deadly for your pets. Cats are particularly vulnerable, because consuming the slightest amount can cause kidney failure. In fact, should the pollen catch in their fur and the animal grooms itself, it could be enough to kill them. Yikes! Take heed: It’s best to “know before you grow.” A little research before you begin planting will go a long way in protecting your precious loved ones. Your pets, of course!


Award-winning author and blogger D.S. Venetta lives in Central Florida with her husband and two children. It was volunteering in her children’s Montessori school garden that gave rise to her new series Wild Tales & Garden Thrills, stories bursting with the real-life experiences of young gardeners. Children see the world from a totally different perspective than adults and Venetta knows their adventures will surely inspire a new generation to get outside and get digging.