Another Backyard Is Possible!

How to nurture a nontoxic yard that's safe for Fido

| September / October 2004

As a novice but enthusiastic gardener, I've learned to make the most of the Midwest's short growing season. I look for plants that do well when they're planted early, and I choose only the heartiest perennials and the least finicky annuals. The majority of my time, however, is spent keeping vigil over my dog, who eats dirt, grass, plants, vegetables, and rocks (yes, rocks). If I want my fleeting garden -- or even just my grass -- to make it to the fall, Fido's head needs to stay out of the dirt.

And if I want my beloved pooch to stay healthy, I also need to consider how I help my garden grow. Even for dogs that show no interest in eating the landscaping, venturing outside in a chemically drenched yard can be a dangerous prospect. Cancer risk is significantly greater for domestic pets in homes where pesticides are regularly applied to the lawn. And studies show that about 3 percent of chemical herbicides applied to lawns get tracked inside on paws and feet and become household dust -- breathed by humans and pets alike.

So how do you keep the garden thriving and the dog healthy? Go organic. Trading in chemicals for natural alternatives is easy and inexpensive.


Chemically treated wood can leech toxins into your soil if it's used in fencing or garden borders or lattice. Try cedar, which benefits soil, smells great, and won't harm pets. Or use locally found stone in your garden, saving the fossil fuels used to ship rock from elsewhere.