When lockdown in the UK started, those with gardens were extremely lucky. Endowed with some private space to get away from the news, isolate and potter in our plots, we sowed, planted, nurtured and thrived in the presence of nature. Gardens, plants and nature are quite magical; they allow us to be in the moment, to grow our own food, to indulge a passion or hobby and to be outside in the fresh air. Forest or nature bathing is now recognised to be good for us.
Stay safe in the garden
You wouldn’t cross the road without looking, so be aware of some of the hidden dangers that might be present in the garden. For your sake and that of children and any visitors. In the UK we are so fortunate that we have very few venomous insects and snakes, even so insect bites and stings can cause health issues. Most creatures exist in our gardens with little interaction and pose little threat, but when threatened some will bite or sting. Go careful in your summer garden and be aware and observant. Look for activity around plants in flower, movement in the undergrowth and sunbathing creatures on the hot paving and gravel. Look but don’t touch. Most are more afraid of you and will move off when they sense your presence. Change your thinking; sharing your plot with snakes, lizards, slow worms and more is a true blessing. Give them space and shelter and enjoy their presence. Watch the bees but don’t get too close, if a bumblebee raises a leg at you, it’s not a high five; it’s a warning to back off. Bees rarely sting unless they feel their nest is in danger or are threatened themselves. Give them some space and try not to walk into their flight path.
Wasps can get a bit feisty in summer. Don’t swat them away, tempt them elsewhere with a jammy treat. Check inside every glass before you take a sip and especially cans of sweet, fizzy drinks. Horseflies, mosquitoes and midges are best deterred with an insect repellent, if you react to bites or have an infected bite be sure to seek medical attention as quickly as possible.
You can protect yourself from some threats by simply covering up. Wearing loose, light clothing can stop insect bites and will also protect from the sun. Make sure you use the correct sunscreen on any exposed skin to prevent burning and the risk of skin cancer. A floppy hat in the garden is ideal. Gardening gloves will protect your fingers and hands from prickles and danger in the soil, including tetanus. Make more of a shady spot by setting a table and chairs within its cooler embrace so that you can eat or drink al fresco out of the heat of the sun.
Always wear trousers and long sleeved tops when cutting the grass, trimming the edges and hedges and when in contact with garden and wild plants. Some plants can cause a skin reaction. If you are plagued with hay fever, limit your time outside when the risk is highest and get advice from your pharmacist or GP to help minimise your symptoms.
Water adds a whole new dimension to the garden. The sound of running water reverberates through the borders. It’s a lifeline for wildlife, which will quickly take advantage of a source of fresh water. Watch dragonflies and damselflies as they dance and zoom above the reflective surface. Frogs, newts and toads uncannily find water very quickly as do larger creatures in need of a drink. A shallow end is vital for wildlife to safely enter and exit, but it’s also an important consideration if children have access to your garden.
Water is a magnet for children who are fascinated by the reflections and the wildlife that it attracts. Be sure to supervise little ones at all times in the garden and design your water feature so that it can be safely exited in case of accidents.