I recently suffered an injury that may have been a result of gardening activities so I thought that it would be a nice idea to devote a blog post to garden safety. It might sound silly but there are lots of ways you can injure yourself or others when gardening. There are also many things you can do to prevent gardening-related injuries.
Gardeners often deal with heavy objects. Things like potting mix, bales of mulch, wheelbarrows full of soil, watering cans etc can all be quite heavy. So the first thing you can do to stay safe in the garden is to use standard safe lifting procedures – keep your back straight and bend from the knees.
There are other things that are more specific to gardening as well. For instance, never over fill your wheelbarrow. When you’re loading your wheelbarrow with materials, regularly check how heavy it is as you’re filling it until you’re familiar with how much you can lift and then you can judge by eye. We all know that once we’ve filled a wheelbarrow, if it’s too heavy, we’re unlikely to want to empty it to make it lighter as that’s just more work.
If you use a watering can around the garden then this second example is for you. Instead of filling one watering can completely and risking an injury because you’re carrying the weight on only one side of your body, you can partially fill (to whatever level suits your strength) two watering cans – one for each hand. This evens up the weight and prevents injury.
Another common danger in gardens is slippery slopes. For instance, if you make regular trips along the same path through your lawn, the grass can be warn away and when it rains or you water, the ground can become muddy and slippery. If this is something you experience in your garden, consider placing stepping stones along the path and planting traffic resistant plants in between them. Alternatively, line the path with gravel or wood chips. This makes for a much grippier surface and it also helps prevent erosion – so it’s especially good on slopes.
If you have paved or concrete areas in your garden that get wet and slippery when you put the sprinkler on, consider installing a drip irrigation system. That way your water is directed exactly where you want it, making the hard surfaces in your garden safer – it saves you money on your water bill too.
Allergies and Toxic plants
For those of us who suffer hay fever, some gardens can make us uncomfortable. For those of us who suffer from more severe allergies or asthma, certain plants can be life threatening. If this is you, someone in your family or a friend who regularly visits, then some simple tips can help make your garden a safer place. Firstly, if a specific plant is known to cause problems, make sure it’s not present in your garden. Then try to eliminate the common problem plants. These include many weeds and wind pollinated plants such as corn and ornamental grasses. Allergies to these common plants can cause a range of symptoms. As an example, I, like many people, am allergic to Patterson’s Curse and physical contact results in moderate swelling of the limb that touched the plant and my face as well as hay fever type symptoms. Luckily I don’t suffer from anaphylactic reactions to it but there are those that do.
Plants can also be dangerous because they are toxic when ingested. Many ornamental plants such as daffodils and henbane, are toxic to varying degrees and whilst adults usually won’t eat such plants unless they mistake them for an edible species, children are much more likely to taste a pretty flower from the garden. If you have children in your household or children visit your garden make sure to research the plants you have in your garden as well as new plants you’re planning in buying. If any of these plants have toxic parts (particularly the above ground parts – roots are less likely to be ingested) educate the children about the dangers. If you’re still concerned, remove the plant from your garden – it might make a nice surprise for a friend or neighbour who doesn’t have children.
Note that many plants are toxic to pets as well so you may want to do the same research with pets in mind and remove anything that could make your animal sick.
Trees and their Limbs
Some trees are well known for their propensity to drop limbs. If you have a large garden, you might have one or more of these trees. If so, now might be a good time to consider safety precautions. Is the tree near a building? If so you may need to remove limbs or the whole tree to ensure the tree will not drop a limb on the structure and potentially injure anyone inside. Trees that aren’t near structures are much less hazardous but it’s a good idea to warn visitors so that they may be careful.
Trees that don’t drop limbs can still cause a hazard if they are damaged during a storm or heavy winds. Tree branches from strong, healthy trees can be torn from trunks and hurled into cars, houses and sheds but if the tree is not healthy, the likelihood is much greater. To minimise the risk, regularly inspect your trees for pests and diseases and promptly remove affected material. Consider removing heavy limbs that become weighed down as the tree ages because these are more likely to break off in heavy winds – if the tree is healthy, it should sprout new branches relatively quickly.
These are just some of the dangers present in many gardens and only a portion of the possible solutions. Have a think about the dangers in your garden and let us know the solutions you come up with by posting on the facebook.com/gardenrealm wall. In particular, let us know if you’ve sustained any gardening injuries and how you prevented further, similar injuries.