Gardening rules and safety

Throughout their growing years children are learning the rules of life. This applies just as much to gardening as to any other activity. 

Some common sense rules:

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  • Don’t touch anything in someone else’s garden unless you have their permission.
  • Never eat anything in the garden unless you know it is okay.
  • Ask before you pick flowers.
  • Wear sunscreen and a hat as a routine when you are outside in the garden.
  • Wear gloves when handling soil or potting soil, when moving anything rough or sharp, or working where spiders may lurk.
  • Wear boots or solid footwear. Just remember to always check inside boots before putting them on, especially if they have been stored outdoors.
  • Garden in suitable old clothes.
  • Wash hands well after handling potting soil, soil or compost. 

Beware of poisonous plants

Some common garden plants are poisonous and their planting should, if possible, be avoided in kids’ gardens. This list is by no means exhaustive, but the inclusion of so many commonly grown plants serves to reinforce how important it is that children are taught never to eat anything in the garden unless they know it is safe. All parts of the following plants are poisonous:

  • Agapanthus
  • Caladium – coloured-leaf indoor plant
  • Brugmansia – Angel’s Trumpet
  • Delphiniums
  • Foxgloves
  • Helleborus species – also known as Christmas Roses
  • Lily of the valley
  • Lobelia
  • Rhododendrons and Azaleas
  • Thevetia peruviana – known as Yellow Oleander or Be-still Tree 

The leaves of the following plants are poisonous:

  • Box (Buxus spp)
  • Calendula
  • Elephant’s Ears
  • Rhubarb
  • Tomato 

The flowers of the arum lily are poisonous. 

The milky sap of the following is poisonous:

  • Frangipani
  • Oleander
  • Poinsettia 

The fruits and seeds of the following are poisonous:

  • Cestrum nocturnum – night-scented Jessamine
  • Clivias
  • Cycads
  • Duranta – Pigeon Berry
  • Laburnum
  • Melia azederach – White Cedar
  • Moreton Bay chestnut – Black Bean
  • Peppercorn tree
  • Privet
  • Sweet peas
  • Wisteria
  • Yew 

These tubers and bulbs are poisonous:

  • Daffodils
  • Gloriosa Lily
  • Hyacinth bulbs 

Who to call in the event of a poisoning

Red Cross Children’s Hospital Poison Info Centre (021) 689 5227

Tygerberg Poison Info Centre (021) 931 6129

Netcare Poison Centre 0800 333 444 (toll free)

Orange Free State University Poison Centre  (051) 401 3111 

Also, see our chapter on Poisoning

Quick tips:

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  • If it is not a food plant, do not eat it.
  • Teach children not to play with or eat growing plants.
  • Use gloves when pruning or weeding and keep skin covered.
  • Do not leave prunings or uprooted plants in reach of farm animals or pets.
  • Check plant labels for toxicity warnings (sometimes stated on label). 

You can review our First Aid section which provides a basic overview of First Aid procedures. 

For more information see Gardening with kids or Parenting.

 
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