Home CELINA How Safe is your Backyard?

How Safe is your Backyard?

by Heather Reynolds

Throughout the work year, I see quite a few backyards! I consistently notice bad designs or a layout of structures, plants and miscellaneous items that can become, or have already become, hazardous. Either the resident or their children can be exposed to unnecessary risks.


A charcoal grill next to combustibles (say, a wooden deck rail or low-hanging tree branches) is a leading cause of BBQ fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association.

EASY FIX: Always make sure to leave a 10-foot clearing between your grill and deck rails, the side of the house, and overhanging plants, says David Markenson, MD, chairman of the American Red Cross Advisory Council on First Aid and Safety.


More than 68,000 people a year are poisoned by plants, reports the American Association of Poison Control Centers. Most end up with nothing worse than an upset stomach or an itchy skin rash. However, some plants can be fatal, especially to pets and small children.

EASY FIX: Do your homework before choosing backyard vegetation, says Amy Stewart, author of Flower Confidential: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful in the Business of Flowers. A few common plants require caution: Oleander, datura (also called jimson weed), and castor bean are all dangerous if swallowed. For a complete list of toxic plants, check out prevention.com/links.


Even the smallest amount of standing water can give mosquitoes a hospitable place to multiply, which raises your risk of bites — and infections such as West Nile virus. “I’ve seen mosquitoes breeding in a soda bottle cap,” says Joseph Conlon, technical advisor for the American Mosquito Control Association.

EASY FIX: Do a weekly check of buckets and plastic covers and dump any water to keep pests away. Also change the water in birdbaths, fountains, pet water bowls and bird feeders.


Charcoal may feel cool to the touch, but if you throw away coals while the insides are hot, you risk starting a fire.

EASY FIX: When you’ve finished grilling dinner, soak coals with cold water and then place them in a noncombustible metal can for safe disposal. Keep the can on a nonflammable surface, such as the driveway or a concrete patio.


According to the Home Safety Council, nearly a quarter of all drownings in the United States happen near home. Even if your kids are older, consider this: Easy access to your pool may lure neighborhood children or pets into the water when you’re not around.

EASY FIX: Whether your pool is built in or above ground, install a four-sided fence that is at least 5 feet high, with a self-latching gate. Don’t use the house as one side of the fence, because an open door provides an easy entry, and never place patio furniture close enough to the fence that it could be used to scale the barrier.


“Homeowners often use too many pesticides — conventional or natural — or apply them incorrectly”, says Jennifer Sass, PhD, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council. This not only wastes money but, in extreme cases, allows chemical levels to get high enough to cause flu like symptoms, she adds.

EASY FIX: Cut down on pests naturally by attracting birds and insects that eat the bugs that are attacking your prized roses. Install a birdhouse designed for bluebirds, which feed on insects or grow plants — such as those in the parsley and sunflower families — that attract predatory insects such as assassin bugs and parasitic wasps. Despite their ominous-sounding names, these critters do your garden good; predatory insects don’t hurt plants or people but destroy the bugs that do. Growing plants native to our region, which are less susceptible to infestation, can help also. 


If you don’t waterproof your deck every 3 to 5 years, moisture can seep in and warp the wood, upping your risk of falls.

EASY FIX: Inspect your deck every spring, paying extra attention to the ledger board, the place where the deck attaches to the house — it’s the most vulnerable to water damage. Keep your eyes peeled for splits and cracks — signs that moisture has gotten in. If you can easily penetrate ¼ to ½ inch of the wood with a screwdriver or ice pick, the wood may need to be replaced for safety reasons especially for kids.


This tempts you to overreach — and increases your risk of falling.

EASY FIX: Use a ladder that lets you work while standing four steps from the top. Your max reach should be no more than 4 feet above the ladder. Translation: If you’re going up 8 feet, choose a ladder that’s at least 4 feet high. Always follow the 4-to-1 rule: For every 4 feet the ladder extends up the house, bring the base out by a foot. “This gives you stability,” says Meri-K Appy, president of the Home Safety Council.

Question: Jimmie, what about lawn herbicides? Is it too late now that fall has come to worry about weeds? Thanks for your help! – Tim in Celina

Answer: Hi Tim! No, fall is a good time to apply herbicides to broadleaf weeds, especially some of the perennials, like dandelions. Such weeds will not be killed by the cold weather that’s right around the corner (in the North) once fall ends. They will be here next year so you might as well eradicate them now! Until next time…Happy Gardening!!


Send your landscaping and gardening questions to Jimmie Gibson Jr. at http://www.absolutelybushedlandscaping.com or jimmie@absolutelybushed.com  Jimmie is a Prosper resident and the owner of Absolutely Bushed Landscaping Company, an award winning, family and veteran owned and operated business created in 1980 to provide the highest quality custom Outdoor Renovation available to homeowners in the Dallas Ft. Worth area.

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