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Yard safety tips for Planting Out Weekend

Jeff Lowenfels

This is Planting Out Weekend. Wow, after 11-plus feet of snow, who would have thought we would be here (and with such a gentle break-up)? Nature is wonderful.

There are lots of things to do this weekend. However, the most important as far as I am concerned, is that you keep it safe. Gardening can be a dangerous hobby, so be careful out there.

First, take it easy. Yes, Alaska is unforgiving when it comes to timing in the garden. You miss a week and you may miss the whole season. Still, if you have a heart attack trying to do everything, you may never garden again. You don't have to do everything in one day or even in one weekend. Pace yourself.

The best thing you can do is sit down and make a list of the things you need to do in the yard. Yes, there are lots of things, perhaps too many. So prioritize between hardening off new plants, mowing the lawn, cleaning the tool shed, attaching the hoses, fixing the lawn mower, trimming the raspberries and moving the ligularia, etc. Figure out which chores you can put off without completely disastrous consequences down the line.

After you write it all down decide if you need to purchase anything to get things done. If you do, take care of it today or tomorrow so that you don't have interrupt yourself by constantly hopping into the car all weekend to get what you need.

If you have family helpers, now is the time to make assignments and make it clear how important it is to complete them.

Next, don't kill or hurt yourself with exertion. For many this will be the first exercise since winter set in. Keep that in mind. Stretch before you start and pace yourself. Some don't mind limping into work Tuesday, but it really isn't good for your body. Drink plenty of water. Wear gloves to prevent blisters and splinters. You know the routine. Yardening is a hobby, not an occupation. We are supposed to be having fun. Make sure you do.

I might add that gardening is not an aerobic hobby. You are supposed to be able to hear the birds, sing to yourself, quietly think, soak in the smells and sensations. Gardening sessions are not gym classes. They should be more like yoga sessions.

This is also a weekend when many take it upon themselves to use dangerous equipment: lawn aerators, rototillers (but only if you are putting in a new garden), chain saws, power edgers, hedge clippers, tall ladders and all manner of potentially dangerous rental equipment to complete landscaping jobs (not to mention simply using the lawn mower or tractor to mow the lawn.)

It is easy to be lax and not wear ear protectors and safety glasses or even shoes with hard toes. There is no OSHA around the yard to enforce a safe workplace. Still, I like to be around for the next weekend, so I think about the rules I learned in shop class. It's a good idea for all gardeners.

And (you knew it was coming) there are the pesticides and herbicides. Do not use them. Yes, I am speaking about dandelion killers this week. The main ingredient in the "chemical" dandelion killers is 2,4-D. It has been linked to endocrine disruption, kidney and liver damage, reproduction toxicity and harm to birds and dogs. Earthworms hate the stuff as do lots of beneficial insects like bees. It is easily brought into the home on feet. (beyondpesticides.org/pesticides/factsheets/2,4-D.pdf for more) and it moves in the air tremendous distances.

For too long I promoted the use of all sorts of dangerous chemicals in these columns. (For the grave damage I did, I am obliged to make up for this whenever I can.) All you have to do is read the labels to know you don't want to use them. Take the pledge give them up forever. You owe it to yourself, your spouse, children and grandchildren as well as your pets, neighbors and the rest of us.

In short -- Whoopee! It's the big weekend. Have fun planting things in the ground. However, be safe out there. Enjoy yourself, but don't be careless because you are giddy that we finally made to Planting Out Weekend.

Jeff Lowenfels is a member of the Garden Writers Hall of Fame. You can reach him at teamingwithmicrobes.com and hear him (and call in) on the Garden Party from 10 a.m.-noon on Saturdays on KBYR, 700 AM.

Garden calendar

PLANTING OUT: MANY SOURDOUGH GARDENERS WAIT ONE MORE WEEK, SO AGAIN, THERE IS NO NEED TO RUSH AND GET EVERYONE DONE ALL AT ONCE.

ALASKA BOTANICAL GARDEN SPRING PLANT SALE: 9 A.M. TO 4 P.M. ON SATURDAY. MEMBERS ONLY IN THE FIRST HOUR, SO IT PAYS TO JOIN. SEE WWW.ALASKABG.ORG.

RHUBARB: HARVEST SOME (IF YOU MUST). LEAVES ARE POISONOUS, BUT CAN BE COMPOSTED.

MYCORRHIZAL FUNGI: GET SOME AND APPLY TO TRANSPLANTS BEFORE THEY GO IN THE GROUND. COLE CROPS, BLUEBERRIES AND RHODODENDRONS ARE THE EXCEPTION.

DANDELIONS: PICK OR MOW FLOWERS. DON'T LET THEM GO TO SEED. USE A HAND TOOL TO DIG 'EM FOR 15 MINUTES EVERY DAY FOR A TWO WEEKS AND GET THINGS UNDER CONTROL. CLOVE, VINEGAR OR IRON-BASED SPRAYS WORK TOO.

DELPHINIUM DEFOLIATOR: CHECK YOUR PLANTS. THEY ARE THERE! SPRAY WITH BT, AZAMAX OR NEEM OIL. FOLLOW DIRECTIONS.

NURSERIES: VISIT AND BUY. STUFF GOES FAST! LOOK FOR GREAT SALES ON BARE ROOT STUFF.


Jeff Lowenfels
Gardening