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We’re all eager for things to dry up so we can get outside and work in the garden. Right besides us, tagging along cheerfully are our small children and pets. What looks to us as a relaxing pass time, can often be a dangerous adventure for the curious person at our side.

Every year, thousands of children and pets are poisoned eating the leaves, flowers or berries from plants not recognized as dangerous.  Not to mention the careless use and storage of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers.

We all take pride in our gardens and would not want to live without the simple pleasures they provide, but we all love our kids and pets more and I am here to tell you they can live together safely with a little help from you.

Many people with young children and pets, who never thought of going organic before, are looking for natural alternatives to chemical herbicides and pesticides. There is too much evidence that shows how exposure to some herbicides and pesticides can cause severe nerve damage in both young children and pets.

If you MUST spray, place kids and pets inside the house with the windows closed while the spraying is going on. Also remove all toys, sandbox, and pets water and food dishes. It is best to wait 24 hours before returning to a sprayed area, but give at least a few hours for everything to dry before allowing them outside.

When using a dry granular pesticide, it is advice to wait till the dust is settled before letting your pet out. (I personally would never allow a child or pet of mine to ever play where it has been sprayed.)

A child or pet that shows any signs of exposure poisoning should be rushed to emergency medical care. Pets that are exposed can suffer vomiting, salivate and urinate excessively or even die suddenly.

A few years ago, I had the honor of meeting a lovely lady, Mireille Guay, who teaches at the University of Sherbrooke. Ms Guay has conducted much personal research on the effects of lawn spraying in the Sherbrooke area. She has witnessed healthy pets, dying a few days after the application of pesticides, and many children developing diseases like childhood leukemia.

She is actively working to educate people of these dangers and works with young people on a dandelion campaign, making hundreds of jars of dandelion jelly and passing them out with information on natural weed control, she become one of our areas strongest advocates against the use of pesticides and herbicides in residential areas.

Even if you are organic and think you are safe there are some plants that are dangerous to both small children and pets. Here is a list of a few of them; 

        CASTOR BEAN: This African native is a shrub-like plant with clusters of seedpods. Chewing it can be potentially fatal.

        AVOCADO: This plant’s seeds, leaves and skin are considered a cardiovascular toxin and are fatal to birds; it can also cause kidney or organ failure.


        FOXGLOVE (DIGITALIS): Also known a Dead Men’s Bells, can be fatal when ingested.

        HYDRANGEA: Is a beautiful shade-loving plant that contains cyanide.

        POINTSETTIA: We’ve all heard of the dangers of this plant, some say it has been given a bad name, others still swear it is dangerous. It is said to bring on dermatitis in some animals and can also be a gastrointestinal toxin. Just in case, I’d keep them up high out of the reach.

        AMARYLLIS: The flower seems to be o.k. but watch out for the bulbs which are considered to be a gastrointestinal and neurological toxin.

        RHUBARB LEAVES: These are known to cause kidney or organ failure.

        BEGONIA: A pretty, but potentially fatal flower, which causes kidney or organ failure.

        JACK-IN-THE-PULPIT:           This shade loving plant, usually found in the woods can cause kidney and organ failure.

        OLEANDER: This bush, admired for it’s pastel flowers is very poisonous and can be fatal

        PHILODENDRON: This plant grows most often inside; its leaves can cause kidney or organ failure.

        AUTOUM CROCUS: These attractive, tiny flowers are considered extremely poisonous; it’s also a cardiovascular and gastrointestinal toxin.

        SCHEFFELERA: Also referred to as the umbrella plant, often you’ll find these plants indoors, this leafy green plant can cause kidney and organ failure.

        YEW: This ornamental tree type plant with needle-like foliage is fatal when eaten.

        LILY OF THE VALLEY:           Nothing smells better than a bed of these tiny white, bell shaped flowers, but eating them could prove fatal.

        LATANA: Clusters of these tiny flowers attract butterflies, but don’t let it attract your child or pet, this plant is known to cause liver failure.

        ROSARY PEA: This slender vine produces pea shaped pods and can be fatal when chewed.

        AZELEA: This bush is breathtaking when filled with flowers; it’s also a gastrointestinal, neurological and cardiovascular toxin.

Besides the above plants, it is important to note a few common foods are toxic to pets. Chocolate, onions, vegetables from the cabbage family and alcohol should be kept away from pets at all times.