Many people dream of having a garden, and perhaps living in suburbia or even on a farm. I had that dream while living for nine years in Bangladesh, one of the most crowded, over-populated countries on earth.
Twenty-one years ago when Gene and I moved to our three acres in Sunnyslope, I thought I had moved to heaven! My gardening adventure began almost immediately. And so did my education in garden safety.
The first incident happened fairly quickly. We had inherited large areas with massive junipers. One day Gene climbed into the bank of plants below the house to find a malfunctioning sprinkler and emerged with his hand over his eye. Sure enough, even though he was wearing glasses, a sharp branch had scratched his cornea. A visit to the eye doctor followed.
It wasn’t long until we hired a landscaper with a “Bobcat” and began the process of removing huge swaths of overgrown junipers.
Lesson one: Protective goggles are a must when pruning or working around plants with strong, sharp needles and branches.
Tools themselves can be dangerous if not used or stored properly. Rakes, shovels, pitchforks, if left lying about, can easily cause serious damage, either punctures or a sharp blow to the face or head. Long-bladed, sharp hedge shears can be dangerous, too — we have cut small irrigation tubing numerous times when using them to shear grass or perennials.
A friend of mine barely escaped being electrocuted in her greenhouse when she lost patience with a large tropical plant infested with aphids. She grabbed her shears and with a “Take That!” she whacked it right off to the bottom. The whole greenhouse instantly went dark as she had also cut the electricity cord running behind the plant. I hate to think what would have happened if she had been standing barefoot on a wet mat.
Lesson two: Use caution and wear rubber-soled shoes when using electric tools and extension cords. Electric lawnmowers, blowers, hedge trimmers, drills and saws all used in the garden can be extremely dangerous.
Nearly everyone has a story about an accident with a ladder. Climbing down from picking fruit one fall, I missed the last rung of the ladder and wound up flat on my back with a bucket of plums spilled all over. A visit to the chiropractor immediately followed.
Ladders aren’t the only way we try to climb in the garden. We had a garden bench that was left out in the weather all year, right next to a “Sweet Autumn” clematis spreading beautifully up a wire fence. For years I had climbed up on this bench to pull down the old vine every spring so the new one could clamber up again. This time, when I stood up on the bench, it split right in the middle, and “wham,” I landed flat on my back again.
Lesson three: Inspect your garden furniture every spring to see if it is safe to use, especially those pieces left out year round.
Snakes. Yes, we who live in Wenatchee are all aware that we live in “rattler country.” A Master Gardener friend of mine was reminded of that a few years ago when she reached into a perennial bed to deadhead a handful of daisies and was struck in the finger by a rattlesnake. Fortunately she was wearing a gardening glove that mitigated the amount of venom that got into her bloodstream, but still there was a quick trip to the emergency room!
Snakes hide in other places in the garden and usually are no trouble. I have had two come into the house (not rattlers) riding inside large potted plants that spent the summer outside in a double pot.
Lesson four: Check your potted plants when you bring them inside this fall and wear your garden gloves AT ALL TIMES when working outside.
Always be aware that our own safety needs require our thoughtfulness even though our gardens are a piece of heaven!
A WSU Master Gardeners of Chelan County column appears weekly in the At Home section. Gloria Kupferman is one of three columnists featured.