Gardens and outdoor entertaining areas offer endless opportunities for little people to get into all sorts of mischief, and it’s usually in places that adults would never even think to look. Take some time to analyse your own garden this spring to ensure your outdoor area is safe for any small people who might be using it. Professional landscaper Matt Leacy of Landart Landscapes gave us his top tips for achieving an outdoor space that’s safe for every member of your family.
“You don’t need to compromise your outdoor aesthetic to ensure a safe and fun backyard; with smart and strategic landscape design, you can achieve both, and it doesn’t have to cost you an arm and a leg,” says Matt.
Soften your surfaces
“If you have kids running around frequently, it’s worth looking at how you can soften surfaces to decrease the chance and severity of damage that can come with falls and accidents. Cut back trees and plants with sharp branches – and consider introducing some soft plantings, hedges and groundcovers to act as barriers around potentially dangerous garden beds and hardscapes.”
“Wooly Bush (Adenanthos) is the softest most beautiful plant to touch. Kids love them because they look a little pine-like and spikey, but when you touch them they are soft and silky. For groundcovers, I recommend Dymondia, Zoysia and Dichondra, as these can be walked over without being destroyed. They are also relatively hardy and able to contend with cooler weather conditions. Synthetic grasses are also another good option for softening hard ground surfaces. They’re not quite as soft and nice as the real thing, but they’re a fantastic substitute for south-facing play areas where grass won’t grow. They can be laid directly over concrete to help soften and green-up an area.”
“If you have lots of slippery surfaces in areas like patios, walkways and swimming pool decks, I suggest adding some non-skid, non-slip surfaces such as pavers or rubber flooring to reduce the risks of falls.”
Remove poisonous plants
“Avoid any potentially toxic or prickly plants that kids might come into contact with. Steer clear of varieties like cactuses, Oleander (as a general rule, anything with white sap) hydrangeas, chillies, azaleas, agave, and some succulents, to name a few. If you’re unsure, consult your local garden centre or a landscape designer.”
Double-check pool safety
“All pools need to be fenced in compliance with local building codes and registered with local council. In particular, pools need to comply with certain height requirements. In New South Wales, for example, pool fences need to be at least 1.2 metres high, and if the pool backs up onto a boundary fence, the boundary fence needs to be at least 1.8 metres high. There are also minimum requirements pertaining to the height and size of security latches, gaps and horizontal pales. Note that pool fence rules can differ depending on what state or territory you live in, so it’s best to contact your local council if you’re unsure about what requirements apply to you.”
Create an engaging space
“The easiest way to boost safety and control the ways that kids interact with outdoor spaces is to create child-friendly zones that attract their attention, and keep them away from potentially hazardous areas. Kids will be less likely to hang around dodgy areas if you’ve created a safe and engaging outdoor space with lots of fun and engaging activities.”
“Think about what your kids love and introduce those elements to your space accordingly. A wall or fence that acts as a chalkboard is great for kids who love to draw, other kids like swings, sandpit areas or cubby-houses.”
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