Although your yard or garden is a great place for kids and pets to enjoy, it can also be extremely dangerous. Common outdoor items can be toxic to humans and animals. Being safe, however, is easy when you know how to go about it.

Being outside in the spring or summer is a joy to humans and pets. Outdoor enjoyment must, however, be accompanied by a measure of caution to keep those dear to you safe. Common yard and garden items such as plant food, fertilizer, petals and leaves can be toxic, if not fatal, to animals and humans, especially children. A recent USA Weekend article offers the following tips to be safe outdoors:

Be a Label Reader. As with all products, reading labels can be important for your health and safety. Not only will reading labels on lawn and garden products inform you about how to use the product correctly, you will also learn whether the product is toxic. Newer pesticides have toxicity warnings, but if you want to be completely safe, you can avoid chemicals by using organic or chemical-free products, such as Organic-Gro or Serenade Garden Disease Control. If you do have to use toxic lawn and garden products, be sure to use child- and pet-resistant packaging and lock the products up.

Know Toxic Plants. Many beautiful plants can be toxic to humans and animals if ingested. Some non-toxic plants can also cause irritation or allergic reactions if touched. Also, keep in mind that some plants are safe for humans but toxic to animals. For instance, aloe, English ivy, Easter lilies, daffodils and tulips are all poisonous to animals. For a list of toxic and non-toxic plants, visit the ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center through the ASPCA's Web site at You can also access a list of toxic regional plants by calling your local poison control center (via 1-800-222-1222).

Use Natural Repellants. You can keep dogs and cats out of your flower and vegetable gardens by planting natural repellants. According to Cheryl Smith, author of Dog Friendly Gardens, Garden Friendly Dogs, dogs and cats find the scent of Coleus canina distasteful. You can plant this annual with lavender flowers around your gardens to keep pets out. You can keep your children out of certain areas in the yard or garden by teaching them where they can and cannot go and by putting up attractive borders or fencing.

Give Everyone Their Place. If animals and kids have appealing areas outside to explore and enjoy, they are less likely to go where you don't want them. For example, you can give your dog his or her own digging pit. A pit should be twice as long as the animal and filled with dirt or sand. Cat owners can try planting catnip or catmint in an outdoor plot, large planter or window box. Kids should also have their own area, filled with plenty of things to do. Although not always attractive, swing sets are always good for hours of entertainment and exercise. You can also choose to set up a soccer net or basketball net.