Trees And Ladders – Minimize The Risks In Your Garden
Now that Christmas is over, most of us are turning our minds to more serious business such as preparing for next summer. For gardeners this means preparing our outdoor spaces to look their best during the summer months when we can look forward to spending more time out of doors. Garden maintenance work is easiest to do before the spring growth starts and there are several jobs that need doing to ensure a beautiful garden come the summer:
• Raking up the leaves that have protected the ground (and any new growth) from frost in the harsh winter months
• Choosing seeds and bulbs for the garden flower beds and borders
• Planting new trees and shrubs to fill in any empty spaces in the garden (hide those ugly fences folks and surround yourself with lush green foliage for a total outdoor experience)
• Pruning trees and shrubs to help maintain their shape and look their best for our enjoyment
The most challenging of these jobs is pruning – there are wrong ways and right ways of pruning and getting it wrong can have long term effects on growth (including an absence of flowers and fruit or even the total destruction and die back of the tree or shrub in question). There’s plenty of information on how to prune – look online, consult your gardening books or visit your local library to check out the wealth of gardening books there.
Shrubs are usually quite straightforward – it’s usually just a matter of pruning to maintain a good shape that’s aesthetically pleasing. However, pruning trees is another matter altogether. Trees in small gardens (or close to houses and outbuildings) can damage the structures around them, especially if left to grow unhampered for years. This means that judicious pruning is necessary, especially on larger trees. Tree pruning is not an easy job because most of what will need pruning will be too tall to reach easily and will involve the use of climbing (either the tree itself or ladders to access the tree).
Most gardeners in the UK will have the necessary garden tools and equipment to do annual maintenance work on the garden itself, but few of us have the right stuff for performing tree surgery! Every spring in the UK we hear of gardeners who have suffered injuries from falls while doing their ‘tree work’. Pruning trees involves working at height – a dangerous undertaking for professionals, let alone for amateur gardeners. Professional tree surgeons will have the right fall protection and climbing gear that they need to ensure their safety – after all, taking a chain saw up a tree is pretty risky. There are laws and regulations in the UK that are designed to minimize the risks for those who work at height. Unfortunately, these laws don’t apply to the average gardener who may be climbing into an unruly horse chestnut in order to lop off a few of the higher branches.
One way that gardeners can minimise the risks this coming spring is to read some of the health and safety information on working at height. This is the best way to educate yourself on best practice and minimize the risk of falling so that when summer comes you’re fit and able to enjoy your garden in all its glory.