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Garden Safety Tips

No matter how old you are, it is important to watch out for yourself when working in the garden. Here are some garden safety tips to keep you and your family at your best for the season.

Garden Safety

A garden is a relatively safe place to spend your time in the summer. It’s a great way to get in physical activity, grow nutritious food for your family, or maybe produce beautiful flowers for your table. Gardening can be a meditation, a place for peace and enjoyment. Really there are countless ways gardening is good for you, body and soul.

Still, no matter how tranquil the garden, there are many ways you might put yourself at risk while working out in the garden. Thankfully with just a few considerations you can prevent most hazards you might encounter.

Sun Protection

One area I always need to be more mindful is with sun protection. Too much sun can of course cause short term issues like sunburn. It can also cause higher risk issues over the long term like skin cancer.

​To protect yourself from the sun here are a few things to try!

  • Long Sleeves or Garden Sleeves such as these from Farmers Defense. Please note that link is an affiliate link, meaning I get a small percentage if you decide to buy some of their gear.
  • Wide-Brimmed Hat
  • Sun Glasses
  • Sunscreen – Be sure to reapply after two hours!

Tools

Proper care and attention to hand tools can reduce chances of garden injury. Make sure sharp tools are stored properly in containers or sheaths and place them out of reach of little ones.

​A popular saying goes there is nothing more dangerous in the kitchen than a dull knife. The same could be said for harvest knives, shears, etc. Make sure they are sharp so they work more efficiently.

Always use the right tool for the job. Injuries can happen more easily if you are trying to force a tool to do something it wasn’t made to do.

​If you are utilizing power tools in the garden, be sure you know how to use them correctly. Wear sturdy shoes to protect your feet, include eye protection when appropriate, etc. 

Plant Irritations

Keep aware of plants that might cause skin irritations like poison ivy, thistles, etc. You might discover after working with certain plants that you have sensitivities.

For example, my mother and grandpa have mild allergic reactions to tomato plants. They are fine with tomatoes themselves, but they get very rashy when their skin is exposed to the leaves of plants. 

Another plant of note is parsnip. Parsnip tops have a liquid inside that when exposed to direct sun can cause serious skin issues, akin to very bad poison ivy. I learned this the hard way and had nasty raised blisters all across my hands for weeks!

You can avoid this problem by wearing long sleeves and gloves, or just avoiding plants that you are sensitive to.

how to harvest nettles with scissors and gloves
Stinging nettle can certainly cause skin irritations.

​Hydration

This is another one I often neglect in the garden. Be sure to drink plenty of water when working out in the garden! Especially on days with high temperatures, be sure you drink before, during, and after your gardening activities.

​Manure

If you are utilizing manure in your garden as fertilizer, make sure it is properly composted first. Foods that have direct contact with improperly composted manure can lead to risk of e coli. You don’t want your fresh garden produce to end in a trip to the emergency room.

Fertilizer and Chemicals

I personally do not use synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, or herbicides in my garden. If you choose to, be sure you follow the instructions on the container exactly as written. You should wear gloves as needed, then measure and dilute the additive accurately.

Lifting, Bending, and General Body Care

A few safety precautions in the garden can go a long way to keeping your whole body safe. Be aware of your physical body and how you use it in the garden.

Heavy objects like bags of soil or tillage equipment can pose a risk to even an expert gardener. Here are a few things to consider.

  • ​Take a short break from repetitive motions like hoeing, weeding, etc.
  • Wear knee pads for low work. 
  • If appropriate and possible, use raised bed planters to allow less wear and tear on your back.
  • Use tools like wheelbarrows, wagons, etc. to work smarter and not harder.
  • Ask for help when it comes to heavy lifting or make it lighter. Open the soil bag where it sits and scoop some out into a smaller bucket.
  • Always lift with your legs, not your back.
  • Wear sturdy shoes to protect your feet and your posture.
  • Pay attention to how you feel. Does your heart rate feel high? Do you feel like you might have a high body temperature? Take a break, drink some water, find some shade.
  • Split up garden tasks over several days rather than tackling it all at once.

Protection from Insects

Minnesota is a beautiful place to live. Unfortunately, our summers are absolutely plagued by mosquitos and ticks. Some of the best ways to protect yourself from insect bites and creepy crawlies like ticks…

  • Wear Long Pants
  • Long-Sleeved Shirts
  • High Rubber Boots
  • Tuck Pants into socks – You look like a dweeb but dweebs don’t get lymes disease.
  • Apply Gentle Insect Repellent
  • Avoid the garden at dawn or dusk when bugs are at their worst
  • Plan your busier garden times for windy days if possible

​Sharp Objects

I am constantly finding little pokey bits of wire, broken pots, and other various hazards in random places. Take time to find these areas and fix them up so they are no longer a risk.

It’s a good idea to be up to date on your tetanus vaccination in case a rusty bit of metal finds you regardless. 

Know Your Plants

If your garden includes a certain amount of wild plants intermixed, be sure you are keen on your plant identification.

Some poisonous plants can wind up in your garden from birds, squirrels the wind, etc. Be sure you are harvesting and eating the correct plants. 

Properly Store Equipment

Garden equipment has a way of finding itself on the ground or left somewhere convenient when something pressing comes up. It’s hard work keeping all your garden gear well organized, but this can help to reduce risk of injury by preventing hazards.

Hose in the tall grass might be a tripping hazard. A rake or a hoe on the ground facing the wrong way might smack you in the face like a cartoon character.

It is a good idea to keep your work area organized and put your tools back in their places. Unless you want to make up a cool story about how you ran down a criminal and got a black eye from the ensuing fistfight, rather than that your hoe got the best of you.

Protecting Little Gardeners

Every tip mentioned above goes double for the little gardeners in your life. It is your job to keep them safe in the garden so they can live long healthy lives, hopefully filled with a passion for tending a garden as well. Here are a few considerations for gardening with children.

  • Keep dangerous items out of reach.
  • ​Provide Shade
  • Take short breaks
  • Create a space such as a mud kitchen, sandbox, or their own garden bed they can freely and safely explore.

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