While not the most fun or exciting topic when it comes to gardening, safety is nevertheless something that should be front of mind whenever you step out to care for your fruit and veggie garden. Whether you’re a beginner or an expert gardener, it’s important to take precautions to ensure you don’t injure yourself or others. It can be as simple as wearing protective clothing or applying sunscreen while outside.
We’ve consulted with our gardening experts to share some top tips to help you have a fun and safe gardening experience. To make things even easier, we’ve broken things down into sections, so you can understand how to avoid gardening injuries at each stage of the process. So, let’s dig deep and learn more about gardening safety.
How can we prevent accidents in the garden?
Several thousand gardening accidents occur each year in the UK. Common incidents typically involve tools like shears, knives or power tools. Luckily, we can take several simple precautions to maintain safety in the garden. Knowing the proper processes when carrying out everyday tasks is half the battle. Then, you just have to hold yourself accountable as you plant, harvest and enjoy your outdoor space.
Taking the time to brush up on safety precautions goes a long way in preventing accidents. But we’re sure you already know that. After all, that’s why you are reading this article. But feel free to forward this page to a gardening buddy who will also find these tips helpful.
Preparation & planting
Gather your goggles!
Wearing appropriate protective clothing is crucial when starting a fruit and veggie garden. Not only will it save you from scrapes and cuts, but it can also help protect against burns from chemicals, heatstroke, and insect bites. We recommend splashing out on some good quality gardening gloves to start with. Leather gloves offer protection from skin irritants and cuts while providing a better grip when carrying out tasks with hand tools. This will limit their chances of slipping from your hands and possibly causing injury.
Aside from wearing gardening gloves, you should have a good pair of safety goggles to protect your eyes when cutting, mowing, trimming, and dealing with chemicals. We also recommend wearing a hat to protect you from the sun and trying to cover up with a long-sleeved t-shirt to prevent insect bites, scratches and sun damage.
Check your gardening equipment
Before carrying out any work in the garden, it’s wise to check that your tools and equipment are fit for purpose. Whatever you are using should be in good working order, easy to grip and have sharp blades (if applicable). If this is not the case, you should set to work fixing the issues, taking care to sharpen the blades of your shears, trowels, etc.
It may seem counterintuitive, given that this is a list of safety tips, and we’re instructing you to sharpen your tools. However, there is a good reason for this. It’s often the dull tools that cause more harm. This is because gardeners tend to apply more pressure and exert more force behind tools that are struggling to dig or cut. This increased force can cause muscle strain and lead to a loss of control, causing accidents or injury. Also, dull blades are more prone to slipping from surfaces which can be incredibly dangerous.
Keep in mind that damaged or malfunctioning tools can cause serious harm if not properly fixed. So, before you start any project, check your hand shovel, rakes, and other tools for loose handles, broken parts, missing screws, etc.
Beware of chemicals
While generally a safe hobby, gardening can, at times, involve a lot of strong chemicals. Typically used while weeding or for pest and disease control, these chemicals should be handled with care. You must carefully read the instructions on the package and purchase them from a trusted source. If you need clarification on the application or how to use your chosen chemical safely, feel free to do some online research or pop into your local garden centre to ask an expert.
It’s also important to protect your hands when handling any chemicals. So, remember to put on your gloves before you get started. You should also know that mixing chemicals together is a big no-no. That is unless the manufacturer’s instructions give you the ok. However, even so, you should proceed with caution. You don’t want to cause injury to yourself or your plants.
When you’ve finished handling your chemicals, store them in a safe, cool, dark area. Preferably on a high shelf, far out of the reach of children and pets. Ensure the area where they are kept is secured with a lock and don’t forget to carefully clean the equipment you were using with the chemicals after use.
Mind your knees
Be kind to your knees and invest in a knee pad. This simple, inexpensive accessory will put less strain on your joints when you’re bending over to attend to your fruit and veggies. After all, supporting your joints is crucial, no matter your age. Repeated kneeling or crouching can result in serious discomfort, stiffness, and even knee-related injuries or conditions. Knee pads or a knee mat will help absorb the impact and act as a barrier with the hard earth to prevent cuts or scrapes.
Take regular breaks
It’s important to be kind to yourself when you’re working in your garden all day. We know it can be easy to get caught up in your tasks and lose track of time. However, taking regular breaks is essential. It’s best to have time to re-focus, as zoning out and losing concentration when handling sharp tools can be incredibly dangerous.
Plus, breaks can help you to avoid stress or strain injuries. Planting and weeding often involve repetitive motions that can put a strain on your back, knees, and hands. We recommend setting an alarm or reminder on your phone to ensure you get up and take a little stretch every 15 minutes or so.
Taking breaks will also allow you to take time away from the sun. This is especially important during the hottest parts of the day (usually around 11 am-3 pm) when the risk of sunburn and dehydration is high. You would be surprised at how easy it is to get sun damage, even with our (usually) miserable UK weather. So, take 10 minutes for yourself in a shady spot or inside to enjoy a cool-down before returning to work.
Stay hydrated, stay happy
No, we’re not talking about the plants. We’re talking about you. Gardening is thirsty work, after all. So, keeping a bottle of cool water beside you to sip on during your tasks is always a good idea. Drinking will help keep you energised when doing strenuous activities like digging and also help you regulate your temperature. This will therefore reduce your risk of overheating and stave off exhaustion. You’ll also want to limit the risk of heat stroke by popping on a hat too!
Maintenance & harvesting
Spf is your new best friend
When maintaining and harvesting your fruit and veggie garden, you can expect to be outside for hours at a time. That’s why it’s vital to prevent sun damage by slathering on the SPF. Even one minor sunburn can increase your risk of skin cancer, so apply at least a factor 30 sunscreen that protects against UVA and UVB rays.
Use your tools wisely
Gardening machinery and other tools can be hazardous if not used properly. That’s why brushing up on some essential safety tips is important before starting any task that requires them. Here are a few things we recommend looking out for:
- Ensure your equipment has safety guards, and make sure you know how to apply them properly.
- Read the manufacturer’s instructions before starting work with any tool.
- If using electric tools, be careful not to trip over their cords.
- Wear the appropriate safety gear, whether that be safety goggles, earmuffs, or gloves.
- Select tools that are the right size for you and have an easy-to-grip surface so that they won’t slip from your hands.
- Check your equipment regularly to ensure blades are sharp (if applicable) and things are in good working order.
Mow like a pro
Speaking of gardening tools, perhaps the most intimidating of them all is the lawnmower. Here are some things to consider before you get your mower out of your shed:
- Clear the garden section you plan on mowing before you get to cutting. You will want to avoid large stones, toys, or other debris getting caught in your lawnmower. They could cause damage to your equipment or even become projectiles when hit, causing serious injury to yourself or others.
- Avoid wearing shorts or skirts when mowing. Always opt for jeans to protect your legs. You’ll also want to use steel-toed shoes to protect your feet from injury.
- Regularly inspect your lawnmower for broken parts, leaks, or other damage.
- Ride-on lawnmowers are not completely stable, so ensure that you are going slow when turning corners to avoid tipping.
- If you have a fuel-powered lawnmower, be careful. Ensure you refuel outside and only when the engine is cool.
- Always keep your hands and feet away from your mower’s blades. If you need to remove debris from the blades, use a stick and only do this when your lawnmower is turned off.
- Turn off the engine, put on safeguards, and store in a safe and secure area when not in use. If you have kids, you’ll want to avoid them accessing this dangerous machinery.
Keep kids safe in the garden
Do you often find the little ones running around your garden while you’re out doing your work? If so, you may want to brush up on the following child-friendly safety tips:
- Give kids a lesson on basic safety measures they must follow in the garden.
- Ensure the children are covered with sunscreen and regularly sipping on water if they are outside.
- Keep children inside or far away when you are mowing the lawn.
- Don’t leave any of your tools out and unattended.
- Secure all your fences and gates, especially if your little ones are young.
- Ensure all your chemicals and other dangerous gardening tools are stored out of reach of your children. We recommend securely locking them in a shed (the chemicals, not the children).
We hope that you have found these health and safety tips helpful and that you keep these safety precautions in mind as you carry out your gardening activities. If you wish to learn more ways to stay safe and make your garden great, check out our knowledge hub. Plus, don’t hesitate to contact us on social media (@gardeningexpress). We would love to hear from you!