collaborative guest post
Whether you’re a rookie gardener taking their first steps along the journey, or a seasoned pro, watching people enjoy the fruits of your labour (literally in some cases!) can be a truly uplifting feeling. It is even more joyous to see the pure delight of one’s children when they experience the garden you meticulously crafted for the first time.
Your lawn can serve as both a classroom and a playground for your child – they can run about in the grass, chasing after butterflies and toads, and subconsciously be introduced to the biological marvels of mother Earth. If you play along with them from time to time, you can teach them the names of all the different denizens of the garden, which will be even more educational.
Besides, rope swings, treehouses, and sandboxes make for some of the fondest memories for children when they grow up, and a lawn provides you the opportunity to set all these up. But before you go ahead and leave your toddler to explore the garden by themselves, make sure that it is completely safe – you’ll be surprised at the nuanced safety concerns that can arise in the garden:
Use a human-friendly fertiliser
Opposite to what many fertiliser companies would have you think, you don’t actually have to fertilise your lawn multiple times a year – indeed, you may not have to fertilise it even once. Before you decide to buy any fertiliser product, have a professional analyse the level of potassium, phosphorus, and nitrogen in your soil (these are the key nutrients needed by plants to grow). It may well be that your soil already possesses them in sufficient quantities, so applying a fertiliser in this situation would be an overkill.
But beyond that, if the soil analysis reveals that you do need to fertilise, try to choose a child safe fertiliser which does not contain chemicals that could end up harming your child if they get exposed to it (quite likely given how toddlers tend to touch everything they can in the garden!). Also, do not fertilise more than once in a year – try doing so in fall, since it is unlikely that you’ll have your children playing outside in the cold winter, and by the time spring comes, the fertiliser will have been absorbed deeply by the soil.
Fertilising once will also have the benefit of minimising environmental pollution (as excess nitrates and phosphates tend to drain into local water sources which in turn leads to the death of aquatic life).
Don’t use herbicides and pesticides
Instead of using chemicals to curtail the growth of weeds and herbs, opt to pull them out with your hands instead. Sure it requires sweating under the sun for some time, but the resulting environment will be absolutely safer for your kids to play in (besides, it’s good exercise).
Similarly, you can deal with insects and pests without resorting to harsh chemicals that are dangerous for both toddlers and for the plants growing in the garden themselves. Organic pesticides such as neem trees (used by farmers in India) and zhol mol (used by domestic gardeners in Nepal) are two examples of substances that can be used to safely substitute chemical pesticides.
Another way to fight harmful pests is to introduce insects that eat them up without themselves damaging your plants – ladybugs are a classic example of this. Besides this benefit, they are also bound to fascinate your kids with their distinct, vibrant markings.
Minimize the use of gas-powered tools
Using a gas-powered lawn mower will adversely impact the air quality of your garden since one of the byproducts of fuel combustion is carbon monoxide, continued exposure to which can lead to a number of nasty (and sometimes fatal) symptoms. Note that this applies to all other gas-powered tools too, for instance, using a gas powered snow blower to clear your lawn of snow in the winter will have the same effect. So if you do have to use a gas-powered tool, use it as little as possible, and make sure that it is in prime operating condition – such as these top-notch gas snow blowers covered by Backyard Boss.
Of course, it will be altogether better if you stick to a manual or electric-powered alternative. Also, keep in mind that letting the grass grow tall will strengthen their roots in the soil – so it’ll help the garden look better in the long run. That said, do not let it run so tall that it becomes a breeding ground for rodents and reptiles that could hurt an unsuspecting individual!
Fence off dangerous parts
If you’re growing thorny plants such as cacti, rose bushes, lemon bushes etc., make sure that they are fenced up to keep your curious toddler from inadvertently grabbing the stem and ending up with prickle wounds and (possible) infections.
On a related note, do not plant a colorful plant in your garden (which is bound to tempt a child to touch it or, in some cases, taste it) unless you’ve verified that it does not contain any poisonous or toxic substances.
It is only natural for children to explore the surroundings they are placed in – and indeed, exposing them to nature early on can be both physically and mentally nurturing for them. However, some care and vigilance from you, particularly when the kids are toddlers, will ensure that they are able to enjoy all the garden fun without being exposed to potential dangers.