Wishing gardeners a safe new year
My credentials for advising on safety in the garden are frankly, a little dodgy since I’ve had more garden accidents than most people.
But that’s how I learned what actions are best avoided – and their consequences.
It’s so important to wear safety glasses outside, but it took me two scratched corneas to do so.
Dangerous neighbourhoods for eyes include trees and shrubs that spring back in your face when you work on them, and tough weeds that release violently and shower your face with earth.
Face-height plant stakes are another nasty for unprotected eyes.
Topping them with small jars looks ugly, pill and film containers blow away.
Wine corks look great – but drilling the holes puts fingers at risk.
Until the perfect solution emerges, glasses are safer.
In the years I was clearing rocks to enlarge the vegetable garden, I had gardener’s back two or three times a year because I was determined to be a gardening hero.
The gardening hero works on after they get tired, focuses on one task until it’s finished, and never takes a break by turning to something that works a different part of the body.
Gardening heroes persist using metal wheelbarrows until they’re so old their joints stop cooperating.
The problem with lifting injuries is it’s so easy to underestimate how heavy something is. My most memorable accident came from lifting a small tub of water lilies. I still don’t understand why I didn’t tip the water out first.
Outside, one can slip at any time of year on mossy lawns, steps, and walkways. Algae-covered decks and stairs are even more dangerous. Round slices of tree-trunks as walkways in gardens are lovely in summer but their algae coating in winter is an invitation to the bone clinic.
In summer, gardens have other slipping hazards especially on slopes of dry grass.
Chances increase when people wear shoes with thin, flexible treads. That’s why I had several close encounters with a lawnmower at the foot of our steepest slope.
What is safest (though difficult) is to stay covered up in summer while gardening. Ideally this means long-sleeved shirts to protect against sunburn and hats to shield heads.
Gardeners close to forested areas might add tall rubber boots if they’re among trees and shrubs because ticks are out there attacking silently and painlessly.
I didn’t know I was bitten until one fell out of my hair.
Even relatively benign garden products need care.
Lime sulphur and insecticidal soap are agonizing if they get into eyes.
Mixing dusty fertilizers is a lung hazard unless you wear a mask or do the mixing outside while standing upwind.
But most injuries are the small everyday slivers and scratches that occasionally get infected.
That’s why wearing garden gloves can solve problems before they start.
Unfortunately, many are stiff and clumsy. Thin leather gloves are thorn-proof and flexible but expensive.
Alternatives include tightly-woven fabric gloves such as ‘Foxgloves’ which protect against all but large, determined thorns.
One vital protection for gardeners is the tetanus shot, which should be boosted every 10 years. Medical attention for any deep puncture wound is also vital.
Best wishes to you all for a safe New Year as well as a happy one.