Last updated: April 16th 2017 The garden is a fantastic place for your kids to play and learn about nature, but the outdoor experience can have some hazards.
Though a lot of fun in the warmer weather, gardens can also be full of dangers, and while you may have removed or limited some of the most obvious ones, there could be hidden hazards in your garden that you don’t know about. The aim of this guide is to help you identify some key problem areas, and how you can eliminate those hazards and make your garden a safer place for children.
Remember every garden is different, so why not take a moment to check yours.
DIY - Garden Safety Jobs You Can Do Yourself
You can do several landscaping fixes yourself to make the garden safer for the kids. You may choose to hire professionals for some of these tasks, just because it will save you time and effort, but these suggestions should help those who want to do what they can to keep their gardens safe on their own.
Lawncare - Basic Garden Maintenance
The most basic way to keep the garden safe is to keep it clean at all times. Remove rubbish when you see it, get rid of sticks and larger rocks, trim the grass to expose tripping hazards and rake the leaves to ensure that pests have no place to hide.
By taking care of the garden regularly you will deter pests from taking up residence there and you will know just how safe the area is first-hand. Leaves, tall grass, fallen branches and other debris on your garden can be inviting homes for pests and can hide a number of hazards, so keeping the garden trimmed and clean at all times is a must.
Hedge Trimming - Deter Pests and Cut Back Thorns
This is another task that you may want to leave to the professionals but that you can do yourself if you are skilled enough and have the right tools. Hedges, once they are overgrown, can harbour pests and take up valuable garden space, but it is more important to keep them trimmed because of the physical danger an overgrown hedge or bush can provide.
There may be thorns in the bushes that need to be trimmed back, and if the hedges have grown into the garden and the children’s play space, the children may become scratched or injured if they run into the bushes. The ideal growth for a hedge in a garden is right at the edge, making up the border. If it grows into the garden itself, kids are likely to bump into it or play around it.
You may also consider bringing plants inside, or even covering them up. Not every plant is going to be hardy enough to withstand a tough Winter, and if you want to protect your investment, you’ll find a way to give them the protection they need. Keep in mind that certain types of plans cannot thrive in colder environments and you want to choose plants that are designed for where you live.
Fencing - Keep Kids In and Keep Kids Out!
This is one landscaping task you can start on your own, but it is advised to have a professional assess when you are finished. It’s a lot of work to place a fence around flowers you want to protect, around a pool you want to keep kids away from and when no adults are present or to block off access to the road. However, it takes someone experienced to tell if the fence is safe and able to do its job. Kids will be kids, and they may play rough around the fences. If they fall into it, you want to know that the fence won’t give way and allow them to go somewhere they shouldn’t be.
Some fences are simply made for decoration, and they aren’t very practical and won’t be able to hold up to much abuse. If you are trying to protect your kids with a fence, you not only want to make sure it is the right kind of fence, but that it is also secured properly. Once you have set up your fence, you should examine it for weaknesses and possible hazards.
It’s important to have a perimeter fence in your garden, if there are going to be kids in it. Even if you are watching them, they may escape your notice from time to time, and its won’t take long for them to get into trouble if there is nothing stopping them from leaving the garden. Secure fencing gives you peace of mind and ensures that the kids will stay safe whether someone is watching over them or not.
Fences also need to be the right height for your children. A small fence may be okay to keep toddlers in, but once your kids get a bit bigger, they will be climbing on everything and may be able to easily clamber over the fence. Think about adjusting your fence for their growth, and if you are okay with them climbing on it once they get a little older, you need to ensure the fence has no spikes or anything else that could endanger them.
You also want to make sure any pond or pool is secured and closed off. No matter how small it is, children can still drown in the water, and you need to have a perimeter fence around the water to ensure no accidents occur. No matter how well behaved your kids or how well they know the boundaries you have set, there is always the chance that something unfortunate can happen if they are left unattended near any kind of pool. A secure fence will allow you to provide safety for your children while they in the garden.
BBQs - Safe Practices To Keep Children Away
If your garden has a barbecuing area, you want to be sure it’s safe for kids to play around. Movable barbecues can be packed away in the shed or basement, but a barbecue pit is a bit tougher to deal with. You may want to set up a perimeter fence and ensure that all supplies, such as charcoal, lighter fluid and lighters are locked up when not in use. For those times when the barbecue is in use and the kids are playing nearby, you may need to set up a partition to keep the kids away from it. This will allow you to preserve your garden's beauty without sacrificing safety.
You also want to clean up the barbecue area when you are done. Clearing the grill itself will prevent flare-ups and help you to keep everything under control. Another great way to keep control over the barbecuing area is to have a fire extinguisher handy when you grill.
Kids are going to be naturally curious about the barbecue, so you can satisfy that curiosity by showing them how it works. Walk them through the process you use to start on the barbecue and cook on it so that they don’t feel the need to try it out for themselves.
Sheds - Keep Your Tools & Pesticides Locked Up
Your garden shed is another problem area that may need some examination. While it may look okay from a distance, once you get close, you could find that it has some nails protruding out or other sharp objects that can endanger children. It’s simple enough to hammer those nails in or down to remove the hazard, but make sure you get them all, especially those that are close to the ground and that won’t be as easy to see.
Sheds often serve as storage areas for a variety of garden tools, pesticides, fertilisers and flammable liquids, many of which will be unsafe for children. You’ll want to keep your shed secured always and make certain that the children cannot get in. Older sheds may need some fixing up to keep children from pulling at boards or damaging the shed to force their way inside.
Sheds are also convenient locations for rodents, wasps and other pests to hang out. To make the shed less appealing for them, be sure to clean out any debris inside and keep the floor swept and the tools all neatly stacked or stored. Also, spray for wasps and other pests, particularly during the Summer months, when they are most likely to take up residence there. Even if the kids cannot get inside the shed, the wasps and other pests can get out and bother them.
Hire Professionals - Safety Jobs For The Pros
You won’t be able to get rid of every hazard in your garden on your own. Sometimes, you will need some extra help, and that’s when we suggest calling in gardening experts and even tree surgeons. There are certain landscaping and gardening tasks that you are better off seeking out help for because you either don’t have the tools or training for it or it is simply too dangerous for the average person to take care of.
Tree Felling - Felling Unsafe Trees and Branches
Do you see what we mean by some of the tasks being a bit too dangerous for you to handle on your own? There are some people who can take down a tree themselves, and they have the tools and the experience to do so safely, but for most people, it’s not only safer to have professionals fell trees for them, it is also much more convenient.
If you have any concerns about your trees being rotten or about some of the branches possibly falling onto your garden where children play, then you should call in a tree specialist or landscaping expert. Anywhere there is going to be children, it is always a good idea to have the trees checked out every year to see if some of the branches need trimming or if the trees themselves need to be removed. The tree could look perfectly fine from the outside, but inside it might be rotting away.
When Winter comes or a heavy wind blows, it could send the tree or a branch crashing down. That can destroy your garden, damage your property and, most importantly, hurt anyone nearby. It’s better to avoid this problem altogether and have any suspect trees checked for signs of decay before anything bad happens.
Stump Removal - Less Trips and More Space
Another wooded hazard is the stump. If you have had trees removed before or a tree fell at some point and left a stump behind, you may have this dangerous tripping hazard in your garden. Stumps not only stand at the top of the list of garden tripping hazards but they also take up valuable space and detract from your garden’s natural beauty. Anyone who has tried to get rid of a stump on their own has probably felt like their efforts were almost completely useless. Once again, this is a job best left up to the experts, since they have the tools and manpower to get rid of stumps far easier than most people do.
Chemicals and Dangerous Plants - Things To Avoid
You must be careful about what grows in your garden and what chemicals you use there. Just because it looks pretty or keeps the garden free from pests, that doesn’t mean it is safe for your kids to be around.
Pesticides, fertilizers and chemicals of any kind need to all be carefully considered. It may be worth it to stop spraying your plants for bugs if it will mean that the kids stay safe. If your child is at the age where they put everything in their mouth, then take that into consideration when you allow them out into the garden. If you have sprayed the plants with chemicals, then there is a chance the kids will put that in their mouth. There are pest deterrents that are much safer for children than the typical pesticides, so you may want to consider some alternatives to preserve your garden and your child’s safety.
Thankfully serious poisoning by plants is rare in the UK, and most illnesses are caused by ingestion of the plant itself, however it is good practice to know what plants you have growing in your garden and to teach young children to not eat them. It’s also a good idea where possible to have a landscaping expert or horticulturist assess your plant life and determine if any of it will be dangerous to the kids. Certain plants can even be deadly, even ones that look harmless. Here is a list of a few common garden plants could be considered unsafe:
Swiss cheese plant
For a full range of plants potentially harmful to people visit the RHS page here. Some of these are more irritating than lethal, but it’s a good idea to keep them all out of your garden or out of reach of children if you want the kids to have a pleasant experience in the garden. Of course, how careful you must be with pests in your garden will depend on how old the kids are. If they are beyond putting everything in their mouth, you can probably just tell them not to touch certain plants and they will be fine. But you also must consider their playmates and how they will treat your garden plants.
Not all plants have to be removed or kept away from kids because they are poisonous. You also must consider those with thorns, like roses and certain kinds of bushes. You may be able to fence or net these off or you might want to think about removing them from your garden entirely. It’s up to you to decide how careful you must be with your kids around these plants.
Know Your Garden - It Can Be Safe AND Fun!
You know better than anyone what dangers are hiding in your garden. The hazards there may not be covered on this list, and you will have to do an individual assessment of the area to ensure that it is safe. You can also call in a landscaping or gardening service to assess the garden for you. They can alert you to any hazards and they may be able to fix them for you. It may take some effort, time and money to make your garden child friendly, but it is worth it for their safety.