Happy propagating season! Well, at least here in California, that is. The calla lilies are popping up around here, which inspired this post. It’s so beautiful, but toxic when eaten by humans and pets. I’m a huge safety person- as you can tell my only posts are about gardening safety, but I think it’s something often overlooked. When planning a Spring garden for young children to play, consider the safety of the plants. Here is a short list:

  1. Nasturtium. These are wonderfully peppery plants. The seed pods can actually be pickled like capers. In fact, they are often called “poor mans capers” and if you’re here in Northern California, they’re most likely growing somewhere in your neighborhood year round.

  2. Marigold. Colorful and edible annuals. Show children how to reseed the garden with spent flower heads!

  3. Borage. A beautiful striking blue-purple star shaped flower and great companion to strawberry plants.

  4. Allium. This member of the onion family is not as sweet to eat, but they are so interesting to look at. They can get up to five feet tall. They kind of look like lollipops.

  5. Sunflower. A true classic. These gorgeous giants are a friend to birds, too, making them a good thing to plant to invite feathery friends into your garden. Kids will be amazed when these grow 10-15 feet high.

  6. Star Jasmine. It smells good and is a nice viney option for flower crown making. Plan carefully though, this plant needs to be staked and can grow 25-35 feet tall.

  7. Lavender. There are so many different types of lavender, over 450 varieties, and it is as versatile as it is draught tolerant. Cooking, aromatherapy, crafting, and fragrant bouquets are just some examples of how to use lavender. Experiment with different types of lavender in your garden and see if children can find the differences and similarities.

  8. Vegetables. When gardening with kids you must give up the idea of the perfectly harvested fruits (of your labor). Tomatoes picked too soon can be simply placed on a windowsill to complete ripening, and a little leaf here or there will not kill a plant. Teaching children to respect plants while also encouraging them to harvest some must be a little confusing to a toddler.

  9. Herbs. While safe for most, some herbs like chamomile can cause a reaction in children who are also allergic to ragweed.

Be careful planting: Azalea, Boxwood, Cala Lily, Cyclamen, Daffodil, Delphinium, Foxglove, Hyacinth, Hydrangea, Lantana, Larkspur, Mistletoe, Oleander, Rhododendron.

Check out this list for more information on poison plants and have poison control center saved as a contact in your phone. The number for the American Association of Poison Control Centers 24 hour hotline is: (800) 222-1222


Gardening Safety

Gardening with kids is fun, but can turn dangerous very quickly. Follow these easy steps to make sure you and your child stay safe. 

1. Sunscreen and Hat

     Very important safety precaution for parents and kids alike. As a general rule, the sun is hottest and UV light most likely to burn the skin between the hours of 11am-3pm. Take breaks in the shade or indoors between these times and always remember to wear sunscreen 50+ and a hat. A wide brim hat is best, but don't forget to put sunscreen on the tops of little ears if wearing a ball cap or bonnet. 

2. Water Water

     Plenty of water to stay hydrated through the hard work of gardening, yes. But also pay attention to little ones around water features such as ponds, fountains, and pools. It is best to gate them in or cover them while not in use. Don't leave buckets of water around where kids will be playing unsupervised, think rain barrels and watering cans. 

3. Poisonous plants

     Teach kids early on not to eat ANYTHING from the garden without permission, including those edible fruits and vegetables. With so many poisonous flowers and leaves, it is best to supervise what they are eating. Also be sure to look for Poison Ivy and Poison Oak in the garden and eradicate it safely away from the area in which kids will play. You can even check with your local Master Gardener organization to see if they have a list of toxic plants in your area! 

4. High Stakes

     Make sure to put little balls or figurines on top of stakes. It would be great to teach kids to garden while wearing eye protection, but not realistic. Un-capped stakes can be a threat to the eyes as well as a fall-into kind of hazard. 

5. Garden Tools

     Keep all tools safely away from kids. Kid-sized tools are best for toddlers through adolescence with adult-sized tools being introduced to teens. Make sure all sharp pruners and loppers are stored above where kids can reach, both on their own and with a step stool. Make sure not to leave tools lying on the ground. Kids should be supervised while gardening, especially while using any tools. Even hand trowels can be sharp when vigorously digging. 

6. Use Manure and Soil Safely

     Fresh raw manure should never be used in a garden with kids and should be avoided altogether. Aged manure is safer, but could still contain organisms unsafe for toddlers to handle. If you must use manure, try a commercially composted (not one cured in home compost) type which claims to be pathogen-free. As an extra precaution, use manure sparingly (or not at all) and only after the last fall crops have been harvested and at least 3-4 months (overwinter) before spring planting. Know what is in your soil- you can read the labels or contact the company. I prefer Dr. Earth Pot of Gold because it is people and pet-safe, and manure free, but there are plenty of safe commercially available soils out there. 



*This is just a basic list. It is tempting to let kids garden alone, but it is very important they be supervised by an adult.