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Get ready for fall with pet-friendly indoor gardening

By Melinda Myers

Houseplants make a wonderful addition to our home’s décor and improve the indoor air quality. Those with pets however may struggle with keeping plants safe from curious pets and the pets safe from indoor greenery.

The good news is you can grow an indoor garden even when you own pets. Yes, some do love to dig in the soil or even eat our favorite houseplants, but with proper plant selection and planning you can keep your pets safe while enjoying an indoor garden.

Start by selecting plants that are safe for your pets. Consult the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals website for a list of pet-safe plants to grow and toxic plants you should avoid. This will reduce your anxiety by helping you create an indoor green space safe for your pets.

Incorporate a few easy-care plants like blunt leaf peperomia, cast iron plant, spider plant, and Swedish ivy that are not toxic to cats and dogs. Add some color to your indoor garden with dog and cat safe African violets and Phalaenopsis orchid.

Next, adjust your gardening style to keep your plants safe from curious pets. Mulch the soil in large planters with chunky woodchips or decorative stones to prevent cats from using the planters as a spare litter box. Just make sure the mulch is not attractive to or poses a danger to dogs or other pets that might be tempted to eat the mulch or get it lodged in their mouth.

Or invest in a commercial mat designed to prevent digging. Most are made of plastic or rubber with upward facing nubs that humanely discourage digging. Just cut the mat to size and set it on the soil surface.

Consider elevating your garden by growing plants in hanging baskets or in pots placed on high shelves out of the reach of curious animals. Be sure to keep up with pruning as those long-dangling stems can provide tempting entertainment.

Break out the homemade or commercial repellents for those persistent pets. Use products labeled for this purpose or make sure your homemade concoction is safe for pets, plants and furnishings.

Enlisting scare tactics may be the next step to keeping your plants safe from grazing pets. Squirt bottles, noisemakers, and commercial devices may help deter pets from digging and munching on plants.

Using a variety of strategies often yields the best results. Once you find the best method for keeping your plants safe and pets healthy and happy, you’ll be able to enjoy the beauty and benefits indoor plants provide.

Melinda Myers is the author of more than 20 gardening books and is the host of The Great Courses’ How to Grow Anything DVD series. Her website, www.MelindaMyers.com, offers gardening tips and videos.

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