Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Commonsense in the Garden

Now that the weather has improved (not that I don’t love and appreciate the rain – but it does hinder my time in the garden), I have been outside the past few days weeding, sowing, preparing beds and cleaning. I was tidying up an area with lots of pots down the back of the garden when one of the biggest red back spiders I have seen came crawling out from between the pots.

There was a pot in the space in the photo, that is where the spider was living.

His body was about the size of my thumb, which for my overseas friends is big. I won’t show you any pictures of him because photos of spiders give me the heebie-jeebies and also because when I saw him, I grabbed my weapon of choice – the back of my shovel– and mooshed him. For the record, red backs are extremely easy to moosh (their bodies must be soft) but can play dead so you need to see guts to make sure they really are dead.

I am not trying to scare you away from your garden or make your skin crawl, but I would like to highlight the importance of taking some safety measures. There are some creatures that do have the potential to kill you and they can be found in the average Sydney backyard, the main two are the red back spider and the funnel web spider (the funnel web being by far the more deadly of the two but thankfully I have not seen one except in captivity). There are also some very dangerous snakes like the king brown and they can come into backyards that are close to bush land. The Berry Patch is well and truly plonked in the middle of suburbia and is not likely to get any snakes, thankfully.

Still, commonsense can reduce the chances of being bitten. Simple precautions like always wearing protective shoes (I have been very lax in this – way too hot for my gumboots at the moment) and leather gloves. It also isn’t particularly smart to stick your hand into small places that can be a favourite for spiders or snakes. Also for the record, I did not do that when I met my red back spider. I was moving the pots with my shovel to check for spiders before lifting them.

It’s not just the deadly creatures either. Even crickets can give a nasty bite if you are digging around in the ground barehanded. Blue tongue lizards are another than can really hurt and the bite can easily become infected. Then there are rose thorns and other spines on plants that can cause damage. All of these things can be avoided by using proper gloves.

There is also the sun to consider – perhaps that can be the most deadly. Covering up, wearing a hat and sunscreen are a must for most of the year.

It sounds dangerous doesn’t it? The reality is that other than skin cancer, life threatening happenings are extremely rare. It should not mean that we throw caution to the wind though. All it takes is a bit of common sense and the flat side of a garden shovel within easy reach at all times.

On a less creepy note, here is what I have been doing in the garden.

Here are red cabbage seeds I planted in punnets on the weekend.

Here is my purple basil and thai basil seedlings. I sowed too many seeds but couldn't bring myself to only use some of them so they will become a border in the front garden. To the left of them you can see some dwarf sweetpea seedlings.


greenfumb said...

I too live in suburban Sydney and I found a funnel web spider on the front veranda last week, I still have it in a pot because I don't really know what to do with it. And our across-the-road neighbours have had several red bellied black snakes and they do not back onto any bush, just an overgrown garden, very scary.

Emma @ the Berry Patch said...

Hi Greenfumb,

I would never have imagined red bellied black snakes in a suburbian back yard. We have parts of our backyard that are overgrown and we are trying to clear it. Let's hope we don't come across any snakes.

What did your neighbours do?


greenfumb said...

The cats had brought them in the house I think so they just whacked them. They were only small ones.

I think the worst thing to do with snakes is sneak up on them, make sure you make lots of noise to scare them away if you are clearing overgrown vegetation - and wear your wellies of course.

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