There is a great sense of satisfaction from spending time working in the garden. There are also many benefits for our physical and mental health from being active in the outdoors. For example:
Gardening involves many of our critical functions including strength, endurance, dexterity, learning and problem solving, and sensory awareness
|Some Benefits of Gardening|
|Mental Health Benefits||Improve Sleep|
|Boost Productivity||Increase Creativity|
|Reduce Risk of Dementia||Reduce Blood Pressure|
Did You Know? One hour of gardening is equivalent to about 35 minutes of jogging!
How Gardening can Burn Calories:
|Activity||Calories Burned (kCal) per hour
|Cleaning the Garden||400|
|Mowing the Lawn||250-350|
|Weeding the Garden||200-400|
|Watering the Garden||120|
However, there are some cautionary tales associated with gardening and preventative measures we can take to avoid dangers in our gardens. Always paying attention to the safety tips below can help you avoid injury and stay well while enjoying your time in the garden.
Tools & Protective Equipment for Gardening
- Strong pair of shoes for digging and to avoid slipping when walking on wet leaves or moss. Also to withstand pressure from inadvertently standing on a rake or fork
- Strong pair of gardening gloves for protecting hands/skin when pruning roses
- Eye protection (goggles/visor) to prevent penetrating eye injuries while cutting/pruning or pruning hedges, spraying etc.
- Earmuffs when using cutting equipment, chain equipment e.g. chainsaws
- Lawnmowers: Remember to stop the motor. Many fingertip injuries/losses are caused by blades still running. If using a ride-on mower be aware of the dangers from projectiles e.g. stones, rocks and glass.
- Electrical Equipment: Remember to plug in an RCD (Residual Current Device) with all main voltage electrical equipment (e.g. lawnmower, chainsaw, hedge clippers). This lifesaving device disconnects electricity immediately should you accidentally cut through the cable.
- Hedge trimmers/Chainsaws: Wear protective gear to avoid lacerations (even amputations!)
- Ladders: Be careful where you place them before commencing work.
- Secateurs: Exercise caution when using these to avoid accidentally snipping your fingers.
Lighting and Water in the Garden
- Apart from security lights, consider installing lighting over doorways, along pathways, changes of level and around water features to increase visibility and prevent accidents.
- Apart from obvious hazards associated with small children, another danger associated with water features is a disease called Legionnaire’s Disease. The bacteria which cause this disease can cause a severe type of Pneumonia if inhaled. The bacterium lives in water at certain temperatures or where water feature hygiene is not regularly maintained.
- Very few gardeners have not seen a rat or mouse in or around a compost heap!
- Vermin spread diseases. Weil’s Disease is associated with rats. Mice can cause Listeriosis.
- Another danger is that spores from fungi and moulds, an essential part of the composting process, can be inhaled. This can be dangerous if you are immunosuppressed (e.g. undergoing chemotherapy or on large doses of steroids) and can cause severe pneumonia.
- Lyme disease is caused by tics carrying a bacterium. If you receive a bite from such a tic it can result in a distinctive skin rash, fevers, headache and arthritis.
- It has also been known to invade the nervous system and heart although this is rare.
- Foresters and people who herd sheep and deer are most commonly affected but some gardeners have been known to succumb to Lyme Disease
- Gardeners should ensure their vaccination status is up to date and get a booster when needed.
- Tetanus is also known as Lockjaw and is spread by spores of the bacterium found in horse dung/manure. These are widespread in the environment and even a small skin prick, e.g. from a rose thorn or jagged piece of tin, can result in a build-up of toxin producing bacteria.
- Hay fever, or seasonal allergic rhinitis, is a common condition caused by an allergy to pollen in the summer months
- Symptoms of hay fever include a runny nose, sneezing and watering/itchy eyes.
- The pollen that causes hay fever is released by plants and grasses.
- If you suffer from hay fever wear a mask in the garden and be aware of the pollen count (see weather forecasts/daily newspaper).
Think Safety When Planting and Gardening
- Keep plants that are spiky e.g. roses, cacti, holly, at the back of your border to avoid injuries.
- If using bamboo canes to stake tall plants remember to place plastic caps on top of these to avoid eye injuries.
- Remember to store weed killer/pesticides/plant tonics high up in garages and sheds out of the reach of small children and animals.
Some Poisonous Plants
|Foxglove leaves||Rhubarb Leaves||Daphne (poisonous berries)|
|Sweet Pea||Laburnum seeds||Euphorbia (white sap is toxic to skin and eyes)|
Children and Pets
- If you have a pet dog or cat be very strict about children washing their hands when they come in from the garden and before eating. Grandparents and parents should set the example!
- Pet faeces can contain nasty pathogens which spread diseases with severe consequences e.g. inflammation of the blood, heart, lungs and eyes (Toxoplasmosis and Toxocariasis from sandpits.)
- If you have a pet snake or turtle, make sure adults and children wash their hands after handling them as they can carry Salmonella which causes gastroenteritis.
Garden Tables and Chairs
- Scrub the surfaces of garden tables well with hot water and detergent as there may be bird dirt (which contains pathogens) or droppings from night visitors in areas where there are food crumbs.
- The same applies to bird feeders and you should always wear gloves when cleaning or disinfecting these.
Minding yourself While Gardening
- When lifting heavy objects in the garden always bend your knees beforehand to prevent back strain. Even better, wait or get help!!
- Remember to do gentle stretches between activities.
- Sun Protection: In fine weather you can safely spend up to 20 minutes outdoors without sun protection (SPF on the container) which will build up Vitamin D levels.
- But after that remember to Slip, Slop, Slap as the Australians say. Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat. Seek shade or shelter and slide on some sunglasses!