Gardening can be an extremely rewarding hobby that has plenty of health benefits — your hard work, the fresh air, and the beautiful flowers or tasty fruits and vegetables you end up with are all fulfilling in their own right.
Gardening has already been proven to be great for both your physical and mental health, but before you get started, you'll want to make sure that you don't lose sight of the health and safety concerns that gardening also brings.
Though gardening is often thought to be fairly safe, you may actually run into a lot of garden-related hazards.
That's no reason to stay away from this timeless hobby — as long as you are careful, nothing quite beats gardening. You do, however, need to know what you can expect, so that you can avoid the most common health and safety pitfalls associated with working in the garden.
Why Should You Start Gardening?
Gardening is great for many reasons — you get much more physical activity than you were probably expecting (it's not all about weeding on your knees, after all), your very own crops or gorgeous plants, and you can quite probably look forward to improved mental health. Even if you just want to start a very small garden on your balcony, it can be very fulfilling.
Spending more time in nature has been shown to boost your mood and if you’re gardening with your family, you can even spend some quality time together doing something fun and exciting that also happens to be uniquely productive. Gardening also gives those who frequently sit at their computer a chance to get some much needed physical activity.
Since food is getting more and more expensive, growing your own crops also offers a sustainable and cheap way to get food. The English were invited to plant "Victory Gardens" during the Second World War, and as times are getting tougher, it's time to revive that old tradition.
What Should You Look Out for While Gardening?
If you’re new to gardening, you might not know about common garden-related injuries and other health and safety risks. Let’s take a look at some of the most common health and safety risks when gardening.
1. Gardening Equipment Injuries
If you’re not skilled with a pair of garden shears or any other garden tool, you may just end up cutting yourself.
This type of injury is most common in children who don’t know how to use gardening tools and are left without supervision. Don't think it can't happen to you if you're a fully-grown adult, though, and always have a first-aid kit on hand.
2. Muscle Aches and Back Pain
Gardening requires a lot of repetitive movements — digging, weeding, and pruning are among just some of the things you'll need to do. If you do this for long periods of time, you can count on back and muscle aches, especially if you were sedentary before you started gardening.
To prevent muscle aches and back pain, make sure to do stretching exercises before and after gardening. Avoid repetitive tasks and take frequent breaks when gardening.
3. Heat-Related Injuries During the Summer
When gardening, you'll be spending prolonged periods of time in the sun, and this could lead to a variety of heat-related injuries, especially in the hot summer. Heat injuries include heat stroke, heat exhaustion, dehydration, and sunburns if you don't put on sunscreen. Time flies when you're having fun, so you may not notice that you haven't had water in a while or just how hot it is.
Try gardening when it's slightly cooler to avoid the scorching sun. Make sure to put on sunscreen, wear a hat, and drink plenty of water when spending time outside.
4. Poisonous Plants
As Terry Pratchett said, "All mushrooms are edible — but some are edible only once." Some of the most common garden plants are poisonous. Some can even kill. Stinging nettle, fox glove, lily of the valley, and Chinese lanterns are some of the more popular poisonous garden plants. Handle them with care, or pay the price.
If you've got kids, take a page from the gun enthusiasts' playbook — all guns are loaded, always. Make sure your kids don't eat any garden plants without your say-so, under any circumstances.
5. Using Fertilizer
If you're looking into gardening you may also wonder what fertilizer you should use. Did you know that some fertilizers are in fact quite dangerous and can even kill or increase your risk of cancer if you aren't careful? You could, alternatively, try natural alternatives, like compost.
6. Cat Poop and Toxoplasmosis
Nearly all gardens feature cat poop, which you'll encounter when you dig through the soil, sometimes in royal doses.
Toxoplasmosis is bad, bad news if you're pregnant, but more recent research shows that it can give you "Crazy Cat Lady" disease even if you're not. COVID has already taught you what to do. Don't touch your face without washing your hands first.
7 Bugs Are Good, Mosquitoes Are Bad
While spending a lot of time outside, you'll come across a lot of insects, like the mosquitoes that may annoy you while you work later at the day. You may also find bees come to your garden, which you might be afraid of, but if you leave them alone, it's a fairly low risk they'll sting you.
To prevent mosquitoes from taking over your garden, you could try growing mosquito-repellent plants like lavender, garlic, or rosemary.
How To Stay Safe While Gardening
Generally, be safe when around unfamiliar equipment, listen to your body, and make sure to look up if the plants you are growing are poisonous. Over time you'll get better at gardening and know how to tend to your garden properly while avoiding any health and safety risks. Gardening can be for anyone, as long as they are willing to learn and take the safety precautions.