Who wants to think about gardening safety when the great outdoors is finally warm and welcoming?
If you are like me, then you would rather think about how beautiful your flowers are going to look.
Still...even though you will only be in your yard, there are some basic safety measures that should be taken every summer.
These 11 tips for gardening (and landscaping) safely will keep make sure you are fit to enjoy another year of lovely flowers and enticing produce:
You are your most valuable possession, so don't break yourself before the growing season is over. Make sure you are following these safety measures to prevent physical injury while in your garden:
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Using the Right Tools (And Use Them Correctly!)
Choose tools that are the right length and weight for your body. Rather than buying tools based on price or brand name, shop for equipment that is comfortable to hold for long periods of time.
Pay Attention to Your Posture
Keeping your back straight while working with heavy tools can prevent achy muscles and sprains later on. Try not to stand too long in a hunched position, never bend when you need to kneel, and never stretch or twist to move a heavy object.
Use a ladder to reach limbs, hedges, gutters, and other high spots, rather than holding your arms overhead too long. Your shoulders and back will thank you, and you will get the job done a lot faster.
Watch Your Step
If you do use a ladder, make sure you choose one that is sturdy. A tall stepladder will provide more security than an extension ladder. Use the best ladder for the job.
Don't lean off of the ladder to pick anything up. Lifting something heavy from that position can put undue strain on your muscles, or cause you to lose your balance and fall.
Always wear shoes that have good traction. (Flip-flops and sandals are not the best footwear for gardening for a variety of reasons.)
Be Careful With Heavy Objects
Who would think that caring for delicate little flowers involved so much heavy lifting? Mulch, fertilizer, water buckets, pots, planters, rocks...they all weigh a lot, and most are awkward to carry.
A good gardening safety rule is:
"If you have to lift something heavy...don't!"
Try to use a wheelbarrow, cart or other item to transport all that weighty stuff.
Avoid Fatigue and Heat Exhaustion
Its easy to lose track of time when you are outside. If you are planning on doing a long day's work outside, remember to take plenty of breaks. Set a timer on your phone or use a kitchen timer.
When the timer goes off, take a little rest in the shade, drink some water or ice-cold lemonade. What good is a garden if you don't take time to sit back and admire it a little, right?
If it is very hot, try to work back and forth between shady areas and sunny areas. Wear sunscreen, and if possible, a hat.
Stay Hydrated and Fueled Up
If you don't want to track all your gardening evidence in and out of the house, keep a small cooler nearby packed with your favorite drink.
The hotter it is, the more important it is for you to keep yourself hydrated while you work (and its always important to look chic...even when you are sweaty and covered in manure).
Don't forget to keep your energy levels up with some light snacks. Or heavy snacks. That's up to you. Personally, I like Cheezits. (A lot.)
Wear Appropriate Clothing
Depending on the type of work you are going to do, you may want to rethink those shorts and tank tops. In general, working in your yard or garden can put you at risk for cuts, bruises, scratches, scrapes, burns, punctures, bites, stings, and chemicals exposure.
Remember that many toxins can enter your body through the skin. If you wear gloves so it won't get on your hands, then why leave your legs and feet bare?
Mowing and weedtrimming can also throw debris and rocks back at your body. If you live in a rural area, there may be snakes, ticks, and other yucky critters.
And of course, there is always the risk of stepping or kneeling on thorns, nails, glass and other poky things. I totally recommend jeans and at least a sturdy pair of sneakers.
Tool and Equipment Safety
It takes only a few extra minutes to make sure that tools are handled and stored properly.Those few minutes could mean the difference between life and death (or serious injury).
- Keep sharp tools locked away or placed high out of reach when not in use (especially if you have children and pets.)
- When you take a five minute break, make sure to lean shovels, rakes and other items with handles upright so no one trips on them, or steps on the blades accidentally.
- Keep tools sharpened to save you extra time and muscle strain. The sharper your tool, the easier the job.
- Never let children or pets play near power tools while in use. Even a few feet away is too close for things like mowers and weed trimmers that can sling rocks and other debris.
(Note: Two years ago, my husband was mowing and hit a marble that was hidden in the grass. The mower flung it fifteen feet with enough force to leave a huge dent in our metal front door. Think what that would do to a person or animal!)
- Don't operate anything with a motor while under the influence of alcohol or medication that makes you sleepy. It only takes a little alcohol mixed with some summer heat to impair good judgement and balance.
- Maintain equipment properly. Do a quick inspection of all of your tools at the beginning of the season, and repair or replace anything that is broken, frayed or otherwise dangerous.
Gardening Safety While Using Chemicals
- ALWAYS read the label carefully before mixing, applying or disposing of any chemicals. Make sure you are using the correct chemical for the job at hand. (Don't guess!)
- Keep children and pets away from areas where chemicals are being mixed and applied. Make sure that any breeze won't blow the chemicals onto places you don't them.
- Wear the proper safety equipment. Dispose of chemicals responsibly. Try natural solutions when possible, especially around edible plants and play areas.
Plant Safety In the Garden
Did you know those very plants you are nurturing could be dangerous? Many beautiful plants are toxic to children and animals. So are some weeds! Be sure to research what is growing in your yard, and take measures to isolate dangerous plants out of reach.
Remember though, that almost any plant can make someone sick if consumed in mass quantities. However, the plants usually don't taste that great.
This is true of some plants that are listed as toxic too. Many are bitter tasting and would cause an emetic reaction long before a child or animal could eat enough to be dangerous.
Still, check your plants thoroughly. Some are very dangerous. Others only cause minor symptoms such as temporary numbness on the tongue.
If anyone in your home is allergic to bee or wasps stings,(or just doesn't like getting stung a lot) you might want to avoid some wildflowers and most fruit plants in the main yard area.
It may look harmless, but something as delicious as a pecan can actually be dangerous at times.
Nuts and seed balls that fall from trees can cause injuries if they roll underfoot. (I've known two people who suffered broken bones from slipping on nuts and seed cones.)
They can also become flying missiles when they meet your lawnmower.
Just to be safe, make sure to keep tree debris raked up. Twigs and branches can cause trips and pokes too.
Some More Basic Yard Safety Tips for Spring
- Don't dig unless you know where your power and septic lines are located.
- Watch for low hanging lines if you are trimming trees.
- If you live in a "snake-y" place, teach yourself and your kids to identify venomous varieties. (Don't try to capture one yourself.)
- Also, be careful about turning pots, rocks, and timbers over if they have sat overwinter. These are good hiding spots for snakes and venomous spiders too. (We have those as well. Fun.)
- Make sure your decorative and play items are safe too.
- Check swing sets and toys for brittleness and loose hardware.
- Make sure picnic tables and lawn furnishings aren't rickety.
- Smooth down splinters and repaint wooden items.
- Replace lighting or power cords if needed.
- Make sure walkways are level with no loose stones, boards or bricks.
- Fill in any holes dug by animals.
- Empty out containers of standing water to prevent accidental drownings or mosquito swarms.
If you are allowed to burn debris in your yard, I'm sure you don't play around. But still...always, always have a water hose nearby.
Build small fires instead of large ones. Pay attention to burn bans. Don't burn on windy days, and never assume that it can't escape you.
Your yard and garden should be a source of pleasure throughout the year. By gardening safely and setting some basic rules for everyone to follow, you can breeze through the summer and enjoy nature--without any strains, sprains or bruises!