Make Your Landscape Safe During the Holidays

R. L. Rhodes
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Winter can be hazardous. Make sure friends and family make it to your holiday celebrations safe and sound.

Dipping temperatures lend themselves to icy surfaces. Lovely drifts of snow can conceal the upturned tines of a forgotten garden rake. Even before you start planning your holiday parties and outdoor activities, give a thought to how your guests will arrive. Use the following tips to make sure your festivities aren’t marred by mishap and injury.

  • If your landscape contains in-ground water features, like a water garden or fountain, you may want to cover them during the cold months to prevent them from posing a slipping hazard.
  • If your area is prone to snow, be sure to clear the yard ahead of time. What’s plain as day in any other season may be easily concealed by a blanket of snow and turn into a tripping hazard. Tools, in particular, should be stored away for the winter, but don’t forget about other potential hazards, like sporting equipment, children’s or pets’ toys, and low piles of wood or brush.
  • Unmovable features that might present a similar hazard in your landscape can be marked with driveway reflectors to make them easier to avoid.
  • Provide a clear path from the curb to the door most frequently used by guests. That will take the guess work out of trying to cross your yard. Snow compacts as more of it falls, and compacted snow will quickly turn into hazardous ice, so don’t procrastinate.
  • Spreading sand on a paved surface won’t eliminate the need for removing ice, but it will make ice easier to remove by preventing it from bonding with the pavement. Salt works as well, but can corrode metal surfaces and may wash into your yard, killing your grass after the snow thaws.
  • When shoveling snow and ice, don’t take on more than you can handle. Take particular care if you have a heart condition or are otherwise out of shape. Shoveling can be more strenuous than you expect.
  • When using a snow blower, stick to areas you know have already been cleared of objects other than snow. You don’t want the machine picking up something heavy and throwing it through a window or at another person.
  • If decorating the exterior of your home is part of your holiday tradition, it’s important to avoid obstructing frequently used paths and activity spaces. Fasten them securely so that there’s little chance that they’ll topple over onto someone or into their path. Keep them settled far back from nearby streets so that, in the event that they do get knocked over by a strong wind, they don’t end up blocking traffic. That’s especially important if you’re a Griswold—the sort of holiday enthusiast who likes to douse both home and yard in lights and inflatables.
  • When lighting up your landscape, only use lights that have been certified for outdoor use by the independent regulatory agency Underwriters Laboratories—UL, for short.
  • To ward off the possibility of an electrical short, be sure to check light strings and other electric-powered decorations thoroughly before putting them up. Avoid stringing them in areas where they might be severed by a door, landscaping tool, or car and bicycle wheels.

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