Gardens are a haven. A place to retreat, grow our favourite plants and enjoy time connecting with nature.
But to enjoy gardening time we have to stay safe and care for ourselves, and others, while we’re in the garden.
I’ve been inspired to write this article and share a few tips for staying safe while gardening after a recent health issue.
Through a small wound on the top joint of my finger, a bacteria got into the joints causing septic arthritis and two operations to clean out the infection were needed. It was a very challenging time!
From this I’ve learnt that it’s quite common for gardeners to get injuries that require medical attention, and like me, need hospitalisation and surgery.
So I’m sharing a few tips from my Therapeutic Horticulture Programs, as we complete safety guides prior to completing activities to ensure all gardeners are safe.
- Let’s start with your own personal safety…PPE. Personal Protective Equipment is a must when gardening!
Items include gloves to protect skin, hat and long sleeves for sun protection (long sleeves also needed to protect skin on arms when pruning or planting), masks to protect against bacteria from gardening products (such as potting mix, soils, fertilisers, etc), glasses or eye protection when using power tools or when pruning and shoes to protect feet from bacteria, sharp tools, rough surfaces or plants.
Protecting our body ensures that we can continue to enjoy gardening activities without the risk of injury.
- Do a weather check. Before heading out to the garden, either in your home or a group gardening activity, it’s a good idea to check the weather forecast and prepare yourself for conditions.
If it’s a warm, sunny day get ready with a hat, sunscreen lotion, long sleeves and water. Take breaks in the shade and if possible complete activities in the cooler part of the day during summer. On cold, wet or windy days set up activities under cover at tables and warm up your body before getting started (see next point)
Here’s an article with a few ideas for enjoying gardening through weather changes - https://soiltosupper.com/how-to-keep-gardening-through-bad-weather/
- Warm up Your Body! Before grabbing tools and heading into the garden, get your body warmed up and muscles moving. This helps to prepare your body for movement and prevent injury, improves strength and flexibility, increases energy, strengthens cardiovascular system and improves emotional wellbeing.
Many great reasons to get your body ready for gardening!
- Using tools and equipment safely. All gardeners need tools. It’s how we get jobs done and create beautiful garden areas. But some safety is needed when using and storing tools to reduce the risks of injury to ourselves and other gardeners.
When not using larger tools (shovel, mattock, fork, rake, or broom) stand them upright against a wall or in the shed. Smaller hand tools can be placed in plastic tubs, a tool kit or left in a safe, visible place when not in use.
Close and store secateurs and other sharp tools when not in use.
Hoses can be a major trip hazard! When using hoses keep an eye out for kinks in the hose, or getting caught on garden edges or plants, so we don’t trip over. Roll up hoses onto a hose reel to prevent tripping when not in use. This also helps to keep the hose out of sunshine so it doesn’t perish.
Find tips for maintaining tools and equipment HERE!
- Gardening products come with health warnings. Always read the packaging and follow manufacturers instructions. Garden products contain a range of bacteria that can cause harm to our respiratory system if breathed in, skin conditions if in contact with cuts or wounds on skin, can irritate eyes and cause other health issues.
Follow organic gardening methods to reduce or remove the use of chemicals. Find a few ideas for organic gardening here - https://soiltosupper.com/easy-ideas-for-organic-gardening/
Wear gloves when using products and wear latex gloves under gardening gloves if you have skin conditions. Wear masks and eye wear when using garden products.
Dampen off potting mix before using and especially when placing at tables for table-top activities. Never refill trays or tubs with potting mix at the table. Use in a well ventilated area with masks and gloves.
- Get to know your plants. Some plants are poisonous and toxic if eaten, so get to know the plants growing in your garden, or a little bit of information when buying new plants, so you’re aware of any parts of the plant that could be harmful.
One example are tomatoes…one of our favourites! The ripened fruit is delicious when eaten fresh but the leaves and stems are highly toxic if ingested. Also, Rhubarb leaves are toxic, but the stems are delicious when cooked.
When growing edible and medicinal plants it’s good to know their uses and what parts of the plant to harvest and enjoy.
Plants can be spikey, have serrated edges or prickles that can scratch, tear or puncture skin. This can cause skin irritations and infections if wounds aren’t cleaned.
- Insects in the garden are beneficial for pollinating plants and keeping away the ‘bad’ bugs. But for people who are allergic to bugs this can cause serious health issues.
We usually know what we have allergies, reactions or intolerance to but when gardening with others get to know if they could potentially react to something in the garden so you know how to help them if needed.
TIP – for garden areas to be accessible for all gardeners, check that pathways are safe, even and wide enough for wheelchairs and mobility aids.
Also check garden edging for any sharp or pointed angles that could cause injury, garden beds are at a good height and wheelchair friendly or children to access and that there’s many safe spaces for people with mental health conditions or developmental disability to comfortably enjoy the spaces outdoors.
And keep a first-aid kit close by to use if needed.
Gardening is one of my favourite pastimes, and probably yours too, so I don’t want to be negative, but to make sure we continue enjoying our gardens for many years to come, we need to stay safe and keep other gardeners safe too, so it is a fun, relaxing and healthy experience for all!
If you’re looking at ways to reduce risks in the garden…
- Eliminate the hazard, eg put tools away and wind up the hose.
- Choose safer equipment or materials.
- Use PPE…gloves for me from now on!
- Consider redesigning areas if possible to create safe spaces and all ability accessibility.
These safety tips are good for home gardeners or groups within aged care, community organisations, community gardens, school gardens and wherever gardeners gather!
Please get in touch if you have any questions about gardening safely.
Looking for guidance in your garden?
Here’s three ways I can support you now!
- Ask a Question in our Free Facebook Club. It’s also a great place to connect with other gardeners and share your garden.
- Join the FREE “Grow Your Health” Program HERE and gather tips for growing your health in the garden.
- Learn Online through our courses and training programs. Find out more HERE. This is the one location online to help you with success in the garden!
Helping you learn, grow and thrive.