Safety Is Job One
Iron rake | sharp hoe
| sharp clippers | sharp hedge trimmers
Examples of sharp
plant parts, such as rose thorns
One or more
containers of strong garden chemicals, such as Roundup
Small container |
young plant or seedling you can spare
Garden safety is very important. A
kids' garden club should follow a few basic safety rules. Go over these with
some eye-opening demonstrations, and the students are much more likely to play
1. Tool safety.
Always keep in mind where your tools
are when you're gardening. If they are not in your hands, they should be in
their container, locked if they have a lock, or out of the way where others
won't accidentally step on them.
For example, lay an iron rake and hoe
on the grass with the sharp edge pointing upward. Slowly and carefully walk up
to the tool and step on the upraised, sharp end, causing the entire long handle
to come crashing up and into your face. Remember, do this slowly and carefully
so that you don't get hurt! But let the students think about how much that
would hurt if they laid those tools in the grass and their friends didn't
notice them, then stepped on them and got bonked. Always, always lay tools out
of the way where people don't walk and with the sharp edges pointing DOWN
whenever you have them out but aren't using them.
Students should carefully practice
opening and locking sharp tools such as garden clippers and hedge trimmers. The
rule is to use these tools only with adult supervision, and always lock them
when not in use so that a younger child won't accidentally get them and get
If you have a rose plant or a
long-stemmed rose with thorns, demonstrate how powerfully sharp thorns are, and
underscore the importance of wearing protective shoes, long sleeves and gloves
around plants with sharp parts . . . literally, to save your skin.
2. Garden clothing.
Never work in a garden barefoot or
wearing sandals or flip-flops. Always wear footgear that protects and covers
all parts of your feet. Athletic shoes and waterproof boots are best.
If you were to step on something
sharp, or drop a heavy set of sharp clippers on your foot, you could get a
Long pants are a good idea if you're
going to be planting, because your knees will get really dirty as you kneel to
Long sleeves are also a good idea,
even in the hottest months of the summer, to protect your arms from scratches
and bug bites. A lot of gardeners prefer to work in the early morning hours,
when long sleeves aren't uncomfortable because it's not so hot.
Gloves are a great idea, and
waterproof ones are the best. You can get tiny cuts in a garden that feel as
painful as a paper cut, but gloves protect you. Also, dirt gets under your
fingernails when you garden bare-handed and it's hard to clean out.
3. Garden chemicals.
For Kids Garden Club activities, we
are going to be totally organic gardeners. Organic means natural - no chemicals
that don't exist in the garden will be used to help grow plants.
Now, of course there are tons of
chemicals in garden soil, so we are using chemicals all the time to grow our
plants. We just aren't using chemicals that are man-made and put together in a
processing plant. Instead, our chemicals are natural.
The main reason for this is garden
safety - for the students as well as the lucky recipients of the vegetables and
fruits that they might grow. There's nothing wrong with the proper use of
garden chemicals, from the phlox lover who sprays mildew-resistant chemical to
keep the flower's leaves green and not gray, to the large-scale farmer who
couldn't possibly squash the bugs by hand on 180 acres of crops. But for our
purposes, we're going to avoid garden chemicals because organic methods can do
the same things and not threaten anybody's health or safety.
Since most kids' gardens are
relatively small, we are able to use chemical-free methods that keep our plants
growing well. For example, if you have phlox plants and don't want their
characteristic mildew, you just plant them an adult hand-span apart and make sure
they are planted in full sun. Air circulation between these plants, and ample
light, is what keeps mildew away without chemicals.
Similarly, if you have planted
zucchini, pumpkins and yellow squash, and in mid-summer they are attacked by
waves of squash bugs, if you only have a few plants to protect, you can take
the time to squash the squash bugs one by one, and not have to spray them with
Especially since you and people you
love will be eating those veggies, you don't want to put harsh chemicals on
them. And even if you're spraying on flowers, you don't want to air to pick up
little droplets of the chemical and carry it to your neighbor's vegetable
garden, which in a way is putting a little poison on your neighbor's food
So we'll stay organic and practice the
good methods that can keep ourselves, our plants and our neighbors healthy and
For an idea of just how harsh these
chemicals can be, gently wash the dirt off the roots of a young plant or
seedling. Then pour some garden chemicals into a small container. Place the
plant's roots into the chemical. Watch what happens. Ew, ew, ewwww! In proper
amounts, and for the proper purposes, garden chemicals are fine. But they also
can hurt and kill. So we're just not going to go there in our Kids Garden Club.