Herbs Unpalatable But Not Poisonous to Pets
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Carol
Posted on: April 8, 2002

I want to plant a combination of culinary and medicinal herbs. My garden area, which will be both in-ground and containers, gets part to full sun near the house, and part to full shade out in the yard. There are a lot of trees. We also have a wide variety of wild life (birds, squirrels, rabbits, etc) and neighborhood animals (cats and dogs) that come into the yard. I’d prefer not to put any animal at risk with anything I plant, and would prefer to not have them munching on my plants. Any suggestions?

You would probably be safest to plant plants that are reputed to repel various mammals. Rue is supposed to repel cats. Nasturtiums repel rabbits and deer. Chili peppers won’t be eaten by mammals or birds. Onions are supposed to repel rabbits.

As far as cats and dogs go, they rarely eat any poisonous plants out of doors. They may in the house because they may get desperate for something fresh to nibble on and can’t find anything that tastes good. Out of doors they will almost always choose grass! That leaves wildlife to worry about, who eat a lot more things than cats and dogs. Your best bet there would be to plant what you like, but enclose the area with a one meter(3 foot) wide swath of nasturtiums. It will keep the rabbits and deer out of it. Do not use fish or blood products to fertilize your plants or repel herbivores, because that will make cats, racoons and dogs think there is something yummy buried that they ought to dig up for a snack! Just remember, that many culinary herbs have very strong tastes that we like as a sprinkle in our food, but a mouthful is another story. The uninvited mammals visiting your garden think so too.

In medicinal herbs I would worry more about children than animals and if children might end up in your garden, then either a small-meshed fence or no poisonous herbs in the garden is the only answer. In the poisonous herbs a little may be helpful for your ailments, but the mouthful that a child might try is not worth the risk.

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