Beware - dangers can lurk in your landscape

Smooth-surfaced garden steps can be tricky to negotiate. Photo by Getty Images.
Smooth-surfaced garden steps can be tricky to negotiate. Photo by Getty Images.
Most people consider gardens and landscapes fairly safe spaces except for the patches of poison ivy you weren't paying attention to.

But the landscape can be dangerous.

Here are some safe practices:Don't place large shrubs or tall walls in your line of vision where seeing pedestrians is necessary.

Plan for visibility when pulling out to the street from your driveway.

Keep clear lines of vision for several hundred metres where you intersect thoroughfares.

If you want to screen your property, design walls or screening shrubs so that your car is past them before you reach the path or street.

Texture on walking surfaces must provide traction even when wet.

Concrete can have a broom finish; bricks and flagstones should have a rough texture.

Illuminate walking surfaces.

Very low lights aimed on to paving and not directed at your eyes, will offer visibility without ruining the ambience.

Steps are one of the trickiest landscape elements to negotiate. They should not be built too steeply.

The absolute maximum riser height (vertical rise) per step should be 15cm, and the tread size (stepping surface) should never be less than 35cm.

Illuminate steps from above, and never have just a single step in your landscape.

Design professionals call this a "trip step".

A flight of stairs in your garden shouldn't have more than 10 steps without a landing.

All water features demand attention.

A person can drown in a small amount of water, and children are particularly attracted to it.

Make sure you locate ponds or swimming pools where people are not likely to stumble in when you aren't there.

Lighting water entails safety considerations. Mixing electricity and water can be dangerous. Be sure to use only approved equipment.

Install recessed lighting in swimming pools.

Place grilles or grates over the fixtures so debris and swimmers do not damage them.

Given the high consciousness today for the safe use of insecticides, herbicides, fungicides and other chemicals, look for bio-rational alternatives that are safer and more environmentally friendly than many synthetic materials.

Remember, they're still chemicals.

You'll want two sprayers to avoid damaging plants.

Use one for total brush killers (non-selective herbicides), and another for lawn weed killers, fertilisers and insecticides.

When you do your own maintenance, be careful.

Use gloves for pruning and handling logs, rocks and prickly plants.

Wear sturdy shoes and long pants for digging, sawing, mowing and using power equipment.

Finally, never plant tall-growing trees near power lines, and never trim a tree growing near a power line. Consult a professional.

- Joel M. Lerner, The Washington Post


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