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Earth and safety; Gardening club; From fish ponds and poisonous plants to slippery spots and nasty edges, wise up to potential hazards and have peace of mind all year round.

Byline: with DAVID DOMONEY

Given how much time we spend outdoors, it's not surprising accidents happen in the garden.

Although the majority are from people overdoing it - pulling muscles or not stretching before work - sharp tools, powerful electric or petrol-driven cutting devices and poorly maintained kit all play their part.

But sometimes the dangers can be more subtle - slippery, leaf-strewn paths, rotten branches or badly managed borders can all cause accidents if you're not careful.

So casting your eye over your garden to check for potential risks - especially if you've got young children or grandchildren - is something you should do on a regular basis.

Gardens are primarily designed with adults in mind so can contain no end of dangers for little ones.

So is your garden a safe space? First, think about your plants. Most are absolutely fine in your garden, but there are a few common ones that you should be aware of.

Foxglove, wisteria, laurels, laburnum and rhododendrons are some varieties you may want to avoid if you have toddlers wandering around the garden. And thorny plants and berries might not be a great ideas, in general.

Do some research on the plants which are in your garden already and check before you buy any new ones.

The Royal Horticultural Society has a brilliant online list where you can find potentially harmful garden plants. Visit rhs.org.uk/advice.

Thankfully, poisoning by plants is not common in the UK. Some garden plants present a hazard, but the risk of severe poisoning, skin reaction or allergy is generally very low.

Poorly maintained surfaces are another obvious outdoor danger area for young and old.

Watch out for trip hazards and avoid leaving cables or equipment plugged in or lying about.

And take care around smooth, wet paving stones or decking boards covered in algae. Luckily, there are several easy ways to avoid slick floors.

Anti-slip floor paint has a gritty texture and is great for applying to smooth stone floors.

Treat decking regularly with algaecide, especially at this time of year, and put grip-strips on any steps. Don't forget to check for rotten boards and move pots or containers to avoid a build-up of slimy moss.

Be aware of things that could topple. Kids will climb on anything, so ensure tall container pots, statues and garden furniture are all secure enough to handle your little monkeys.

Ponds are beautiful garden features and you don't have to fill them in to get peace of mind.

Add a secure picket fence around the pond or a sturdy pond-guard metal mesh across the surface. There's a range of child-safe fencing options available if you need to cordon off an area, from smooth-edged wooden pickets to extendable mesh.

You need to decide if you want a permanent solution or if you just need to close off an area until the children are a little older.

They are also great to create a separate area for pets to avoid mess. And as a rule, keep glass out of the garden. If you are having a garden party, put the good stuff away and use plastic cups and flutes.

Trust me, it may be less elegant, but if you get shattered glass in the grass, you will be walking on it and hurting yourself for years to come.

Choose softness over style when it comes to corners. Low, sharp-edged walls, and even the corners of your house or shed, can be covered with rubber or foam corner guards to buffer any stumbling tots.

You can also get rubber or foam mats for the patio floor if youngsters are wandering around.

Kids rarely watch their feet as they careen through the garden, so you will also want to get shot of any unnecessary trip hazards.

Does the path really need edging stones? And does that border need to drop off like that? The flatter the better, really.

Finally, do a sweep for other hazards. Remember that gravel is a choke risk, and ropes should never be left tied to play equipment or trees.

You can also disinfect your patio area when necessary with Jeyes Patio Cleaner, especially after a party of barbecue.

And watch out for slippery areas caused by grease or dropped drinks.

"Slippery decking and stones can be a danger for young and old

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Title Annotation:Features; Opinion Column
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Nov 20, 2016
Words:735
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