The Hazards of Gardening

by Preston Brady III, 2023

We don’t like to equate the word hazard with the idyllic world of gardening – after all, one of the main points of gardening is to get lost in the humbling routine of digging dirt, pulling weeds, planting herbs, vegetables, flowers. It’s supposed to be a stress-free zone, a place you can go and just use your hands, watch the butterflies and bees, make your own special little piece of land and grow things. You might stand there and manually water the garden, admiring the work you have accomplished, maybe pluck a few rosemary needles or sprigs of thyme or oregano because while you were basically in a no-think zone you did come up with an idea for cooking dinner tonight. Suddenly you see a family of just-out-of-the-nest baby blue jays parked on the birdfeeder you have hanging from a nearby tree. They seem oblivious to you, almost thankful and knowing it was you who provided the snack they are partaking.

And in this oblivious zone it can be easy to forget there are potential hazards to gardening – usually nothing major, but you do want to be cognizant of the possibilities. For example I was planting some new herbs in one of my gardens yesterday. I was wearing gardening gloves and was using a little hand trowel. But even using a trowel to dig the spot for the new, small plant, I still used my free hand to pull weeds and pull back the dirt I have dug. About 8 inches down I found the bottom portion of a glass bottle with very jagged edges (pictured below.) Fortunately I saw the glass before I may have touched it, and used the trowel to gently dig around it so it could be extracted. Of course the jagged side was facing up. I took care not to try and pop the piece up by forcefully placing the trowel under it. Patience is important during a find such as this. This garden is on part of an empty lot I purchased some years back, next to my house. It was all overgrown with brush and I called in a man with a bush hog to help start the clearing. It took some time but the lot is now filled with gardens and several trees that were left. What is strange is all the glass and glass bottles I have found on the lot. Perhaps before I bought the house people used to ride by and toss their empties into the lot. Moral of story: if you are gardening on land whose history you are not compete aware, take precautions because there could be glass, rusty metal, no telling what buried only a few inches beneath the surface. In case it’s time for you to replenish your garden tools, check out some of the offers at Amazon:

Something else I do, living in the subtropical South USA , is to pre-disturb the area I am going to be working with a rake, in case a snake or two have decided to camp out in the grass or bushes.

Also in my neck of the woods we often find red ants. In fact I disturbed a small nest of them the other day in the garden. They came crawling out probably muttering about how the queen was going to have to be moved yet another time. I immediately moved to the opposite side of the tree and pulled weeds there. By the time I got back to the ant part of the garden they were all gone.

If you are gardening in areas connected to structures or objects such as birdbaths, fountains, retaining walls, etc., and you have not worked this area for some time, do a pre-disturb routine because certain spiders like to make dark, never disturbed areas their home. The brown recluse comes to mind.

If you are gardening in an area with trees, and there has been recent wind and rain, you may want to do a spot check of limbs in case any might be about to fall.

If your gardening brings you the edge of a busy road while you are edging or cutting grass, my advice is don’t. It amazes me when I see people working the edge of a yard on a busy street, basically trusting that every person who drives within 2 feet of them going 40 or more miles per hour, does not have their phone in their face texting someone about nonsense. I saw a delivery driver yesterday (not in my neighborhood) driving with his phone propped up on the top of the steering wheel. Although it is illegal to text and drive in the state of Alabama, the fines are low – first violation is $25.00. Here’s something interesting though: In Missouri and Montana if you are at least 21 years old you can legally text and drive. One word: Wow. If you must garden or landscape near the edge of a road that is sometimes busy, pick a time when it’s not busy. Wait until you see no vehicles coming your way. Also, another word of caution: If you are cutting grass near the edge of a road, point the exit for the grass towards your own yard – not the street. Cut grass is slick and if you spray it on a road it is a danger to motorcyclists and bicyclists.

I almost feel like Debbie Downer from SNL with all these precautions, but the truth is they are real possibilities and it doesn’t take much extra effort to exercise a little caution and care so your gardening can be enjoyable and hassle-free. 2023

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