I was looking through some notes I took at a recent class and read that water-retaining crystals are not organic, and therefore it would be better to use coco coir instead. Yes, I thought, I've been doing the right thing, buying the lovely organic potting mix from Bulleen Art and Garden.
Whoa! Momentary backtrack. I've been using cocoa products in my garden? Haven't there been stories on the Net of dogs dying after finding cocoa mulch attractive and eating it?
A little bit of research and I can relax:
First, following a link from Fully Vetted, I arrived at an article on the American Veterinary Medicine Association site that says there are no canine deaths definitely attributable to eating cocoa bean mulch.
The article concludes, however
Dr. Hansen recommends that pet owners avoid use of cocoa bean shell mulch in landscaping accessible to unsupervised dogs, or at least use it cautiously around dogs with indiscriminate eating habits. The odds of dogs dying from eating the fresh mulch are low, but those suspected of ingesting it should be examined by a veterinarian.
Second, a phone call to Bulleen Art and Garden and a subsequent look at their website got me the information that their potting mix doesn't in fact have cocoa bean mulch in it.
It contains composted manure, composted seaweed and worm castings as well as an extensive range of trace elements, amino acids and naturally occuring growth stimulants. It promotes healthy microbiology, plant growth and disease resistance.
And you know the silliest thing about it all?
My notes recommended COCO coir, not COCOA mulch. One little letter of the alphabet to cause so much thought and research.