Shopping for plants in Singapore but wondering which ones are toxic for your cat and/or dog? I speak with veterinarian and plantswoman, Gloria Lee, who highlights edible and ornamental plants poisonous to cats and dogs and explains what pet owners should do if their pet is poisoned.
1. Are most plants safe for cats/dogs? Is there a rule of thumb when it comes to choosing safe plants?
Most plants are in general not systemically toxic to cats/dogs. The more commonly available plants in Singapore which happen to be toxic to cats/dogs, are generally locally irritating to the mucosa or lining of the gut, thereby causing unpleasant gastric signs of drooling, vomiting and diarrhea. In general, plants with sap can be considered not edible. To be safe, all plants should be considered potentially toxic, unless otherwise proven. This is especially so if you have puppies which have no safety valve when it comes to chewable things. Puppies are more likely to ingest large amounts of inappropriate materials, causing more serious problems
2. Which edible and ornamental plants should cat/dog owners completely avoid having around the home?
I cannot think of an edible plant which should be avoided around the home, unless you are referring to something like brinjals and tomatoes where the green unripe fruits are toxic. There are some highly, highly toxic plants which can kill outright e.g. oleander, all bulbs belonging to the Lily family, Rangoon Creeper (Quisqualis indica), Deadly nightshade (Atropa belladonna), Datura etc. Flowers in bouquets are sometimes more attractive to cats and dogs and also need to be considered, not just the plants themselves. Bouquets often involve exotic flowers not grown in Singapore or the tropics, and hence, do not ping the radar when investigating a potential source of toxicity.
The common plants found which cause gastric signs are often ‘house plants’ or corridor plants e.g. Dieffenbachia (dumb cane), Money plant, ZZ plant (Zamioculcas), Peace Lily, Mother in law’s plant, philodendrons- these only cause issues if ingested in sufficient quantities- which then depends on the size/weight of the pet.
There are many benefits to growing green manure crops, mainly to improve soil conditions for growing your next crop of healthy vegetables. These benefits include higher nitrogen availability, additional organic matter, increased beneficial micro organisms, improved soil structure and water retention, breaking up hard soil, and in some cases soil fumigation and weed suppression. I would highly recommend growing green manure plants as part of a crop rotation strategy – don’t have one? I’ll show you how 🙂
What is green manure?
Green manure consists of leguminous plants such as those in the peas, beans and grass family which have nitrogen fixing capabilities. Liberally distribute or broadcast seeds in your pots or garden plot, and after around 6 weeks, “chop and drop” these plants and dig it into the soil and leave to break down for 1-2 weeks to add nutrients back into the soil. Don’t wait till it begins to flower or fruit or you will lose these nutrients.
For our tropical climate in Singapore, I would suggest the following:
- Mustard seed
- Pigeon pea
- Soy bean
- Green bean / Mung bean
- Winged bean
- Lab Lab
If you happen to forget to chop and drop your plant in time, at least you can eat the pods of pea and bean plants, or use mustard seeds, leaves and flowers in your cooking. If you are looking to purchase some of these seeds, I have cowpea and lablab available here. I will eventually update this post to include links where you can buy these seeds.
During my recent visit to Melbourne, I was kindly invited by Anthony of AusPots Permaculture to pay a visit to his permaculture mentor’s farm and nursery in Monbulk – Telopea Mountain Permaculture & Nursery, a 15 acre property. Formerly a cut-flower farm, it has been transformed into a biodynamic, permaculture farm and nursery by Peter and Silvia, who primarily run the space, and occasionally they have some helping hands for much needed assistance.
Peter manages the plants, while Silvia is in charge of animal husbandry. Telopea Mountain Permaculture & Nursery houses more than 1000 heritage fruit varieties, and has the largest private collection of apple varieties in Australia, they also sell rootstock and scion wood from organic and biodynamic fruit trees. They own rare breeds of animals, including poultry, which I got to admire from a distance. In addition, they conduct permaculture courses, cheese making classes, as well as heritage fruit tree classes, among others.
The nursery is open on Fridays but an appointment is necessary if you would like a farm tour. Anthony shared that he likes to drop by on this day to see Peter and Silvia and also to see which other permies are around for a chat.
Have you ever considered spending several months at a time farming in Japan as part of the WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) programme? Shermain, Ken and Kai Ni took time off work last year to do just that, hopping from one farm to the next, accumulating meaningful memories, a vast array of knowledge, and friendships along the way. Shermain even ended up finding employment in Kagawa, where she is now based.
Shermain travelled as an individual while Ken and Kai Ni travelled as a couple. In this post, they relate their WWOOFing experiences, and dispense some advice on how you can be prepared for your adventure!
1. How long did you go for and which towns did you visit?
Total: Almost 6 months.
I WOOFed from 2nd August 2016 – 30th October 2016, went and volunteered at Kamikatsu from 21st Nov to 15th Dec, and then back to Kagawa to WWOOF all the way till 25th Jan.
Places that I WWOOFed at:
Ayagawa, Kagawa (h32438)
Fujino (Kanagawa) (h35620)