Herbs Safe for Animals and Wildlife
Answered by: Inge Poot
Question from: Carol
Posted on: April 25, 2001

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?

Domestic and wild animals pose different problems. The domestic ones have often lost their instincts with regard to what to eat and what to avoid – especially dogs – and to protect them you should avoid planting very poisonous plants that they may chew just out of boredom. Cats are not as bad, since we have never been able to confine or coddle them as much as dogs. As a result, the ones without the right instincts have tended to die out rather than propagate their defective genes!! As long as you have a lawn, dogs and cats will usually chew the grass when their tummies feel out of sorts, rather than any other plants.

The problem with wild animals is that they know precisely which plants taste good or won’t harm them and will make every effort to eat them! Rabbits and deer can be discouraged with a one meter (three foot) border of nasturtiums around the planted area. Any trees will have to be wrapped or sprayed with repellent in fall, because as soon as cold weather sets in their appetite switches from a love of tender greens to a love of bark. And to keep their teeth from getting too long, they will chomp off branches just to wear their teeth down. They have it in for the rose family, which includes our fruit trees. Use blood meal as a repellent for squirrels rabbits and deer as it is also a good fertilizer. But it may attract skunks and raccoons.

If something like a foxglove is on your "must have" list, put a green 60 centimeter (2 foot) fence around it and both you and the neighbourhood dogs and kids will be happy and safe. The dangerous plants are marked with a skull or "poisonous" in our catalogue and you should have no trouble avoiding them.

Check the "Richters Herb Growing Infobase" in the "Richters InfoCentre" area of our website for the sun and shade requirements of our plants as well as their expected heights and for some their spreads.

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