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How to Identify Dangerous Plants in Your Garden

Babies and young children love to put things in their mouths. Young babies, not being very mobile, will happily make do with whatever is immediately to hand. Soil, pebbles, the odd insect, all will be carefully tasted, chewed and then, hopefully, spat out.

As they get older and more mobile children widen the range of the inedibles they attempt to eat. Anything colourful, especially berries, is tempting, and as many of these are poisonous the potential for disaster is considerable.

Set aside a couple of hours, arm yourself with a list of dangerous plants and take a stroll around your garden. You’ll be amazed at the results of your survey. Many of the most commonly grown plants, such as foxgloves and lupins, are poisonous, but do not pose much of a risk as few children would ever be tempted to eat them. It is the plants and trees with berries that pose the problem. Most children cannot distinguish between blackcurrants and deadly nightshade or laburnum seed pods and pea pods, and they are quite likely to think that anything that looks like food must be food.

dangerous plant How to Identify Dangerous Plants in Your Garden

The first thing to do is to train your children from the earliest age never to put things in their mouths or to eat anything unless you have specifically stated that it is safe. Next remove as many poisonous plants as possible, fence off any others that you want to keep, and make a real effort to remove any berries that fall on the ground.

If you find your child has been eating something poisonous, check that there is not any plant matter left in the mouth, then seek medical advice. Remember to take a sample of the plant with you if you go to the doctor or hospital. Do not try to make the child vomit.

When carrying out your survey of the garden also look out for the many garden plants and weeds that cause skin rashes and allergies. As children tear around a garden they are likely to brush against plants and so fall victim to any irritating leaves, stems or sap.

It is well known that weeds such as poison ivy cause dreadful rashes, vet there are many cultivated plants capable of producing similar if not worse skin reactions. Most dangerous of all are the plants with photo-sensitive sup, that when exposed to sunlight triggers a chemical reaction which makes the sap incredibly irritating.

Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazz-ianurn) is a common example of such a plant. It is wonderfully architectural, with its spreading while umbrella flowers on top of tail woody stems. Yet it is best excluded from any garden where children play as there have been numerous cases of children using these hollow woody stems as pea shooters and then developing vicious blisters around their mouths as soon as they go into the sunlight. The blisters can last for weeks, while the underlying damage to the skin may not be repaired for months.

Other common garden plants which can cause serious skin problems include the spurges (Euphorbia), rue (Hula and species), monkshood (Aconitum and species), hemlock (Conium macula turn). Colchicurn and species, and the easier oil plain (Ricinus communis). Site such plains at the hack of the borders where children are less likely to come into contact with llicm and warn them of the danger.

Plants with spikes and thorns are obviously a danger to children. Herberts. Pyracantha and sloe (Primus spinosa) all have long, needles, sharp thorns and Mahonia and holly leaves are very spiky, especially once they have died and fallen to the ground to dry out. The lips of yucca leaves have especially strong, sharp spikes, and most varieties of roses and blackberries have cruel thorns. However, it would be a shame simply to ban these attractive plains from the garden, so if they cannot be doctored in any way, for example by snipping the lips off the yucca, site them where they are out of the reach of children. Also, clear up old leaves and thorns as they fall.

How to Grow Edible Plants in Your Kitchen Garden

Everyone has their favourite fruit and vegetables, but itˇŻs a general rule it is a good idea to grow things which are either relatively rare or expensive to buy. Vegetables in season are often cheaper to buy in the supermarket than to grow at home, so choose a few crops which are quick to mature and some with a long cropping period, such as courgettes, spinach and the more exotic varieties of lettuce or mixed salad leaves (cut-and-come-again). It’s possible to extend your harvest by staggering the times of sowing, ensuring that the crops ripen in succession and you don’t end up with a glut of one vegetable.

kitchen garden plants How to Grow Edible Plants in Your Kitchen Garden

If the garden is very small, grow herbs, fruit and vegetables in flower borders. Small plants, such as fluffy-headed carrots and leafy lettuces should be placed at the front of the beds, with delicate fronds of fennel and asparagus and the large leaves of rhubarb behind, and at the back of the border the tallest vegetables such as globe artichokes. Plant peas and beans to scramble up a fence or make a feature of cane wigwams for these and oilier climbers.

Many herbs, fruit and vegetables are so decorative that it is worth growing them on their own in containers so that their shapes and colours can be fully appreciated. Plant a frilly-leaved lettuce in a pot, or place a colourful miniature pepper plant as a centrepiece to a table. Courgettes are easy to grow and have glorious, trumpet-shaped, yellow blooms.

Be sure to include fruit and vegetables that children can smirk on, such as peas -which always taste sweetest when picked straight from the pod – and little cherry tomatoes. Alpine strawberries are also an excellent choice. Plant these as edging to your vegetable beds then send the children off alter lunch to pick their pudding. They will lie happy for ages, searching for the delicious, succulent little fruit.

While tiny alpine strawberries may escape the full attention of birds it is unlikely that any soft fruit will be so lucky. So if you are planning to grow redcurrants, raspberries or blackcurrants and do not want to share the fruits of your labours with every bird from miles around then it is worth growing them in a fruit cage. These are simple constructions made of netting and posts which can be bought ready-made then taken down and stored at the end of the growing season. Check carefully from time to time to make sure that there are no tears or gaps in the netting as small birds can easily become trapped inside.

There are many new varieties of fruit that allow gardeners with even very small patches to enjoy picking their own. Look for dwarf trees and the very slim ballerina breeds. You can maximise space by training trees into fan shapes to grow against the house or as espaliers, cordons or step-overs to work as dividers within the garden.

Like fruit and vegetables, herbs demand a sunny, sheltered spot with well-drained soil. Yet they are happy to grow among the flowers and plants in borders, with fruit and vegetables, alone in a formal herb garden or in pots on the patio.

Herbs are important for more than their flavours. Many have extremely pretty flowers and foliage, are wonderfully aromatic and attract all kinds of insects, especially bees and butterflies.

The most basic selection of herbs for the family garden should include rosemary, lavender, mint, parsley, sage and thyme. However, do try to and find space for coriander, oregano and basil, which all look extremely pretty as well as having a delicious fragrance and taste. Mint is very invasive, so if you want to include it in a border or herb garden plant it in a container sunk into the soil, to prevent the roots from spreading.

A formal herb garden adds a special touch to any space and can be quite small. Like European medieval monks, early American settlers grew herbs for medicinal as well as culinary purposes and favoured a simple square or rectangular shape intersected by a path in the shape of a cross and with an island bed in the centre. This may originally have housed a beehive, although nowadays a sundial or obelisk is more practical. Such a design could easily be copied in a space of no more than a few square metres or yards.

In the past herbs have also been used as dyes, and children can have great fun experimenting with these. Most people are familiar with the wonderful blue that comes from indigo, but less well known is that sorrel yields an unusual greeny-yellow dye whilst a good yellow comes from marigolds.

How to Add Live Plants to Your Freshwater Aquarium

Aquarium plants are, for some aquarists, a hobby in themselves. We cannot hope to provide here the detail that will eventually be required if your interest develops along this path – but there are entire books devoted to the subject.

Plants for freshwater and brackish aquaria: You may be surprised to learn that some plants sold for aquarium use are: by nature not aquatic at all; are aquatic for only part of the year (water levels rise and fall seasonally but plants are rooted to the spot!); have the option of being wholly or partially aquatic, depending on where they happen to have taken root; or normally have only their lower parts immersed (marginal plants). Dieffenbachia, commonly sold for aquaria, is not only terrestrial and won’t live long in water, but is actually poisonous.

You will, we trust, by now not be surprised to learn that some plants have water chemistry likes and dislikes, just like fishes, depending on the natural conditions in which they evolved. In particular, few will survive in brackish water. Plants, like fishes, can sometimes be gradually acclimatized to alien conditions by a slow process of adjustment.

aquarium plants How to Add Live Plants to Your Freshwater Aquarium

Always remember that plants are living things. You wouldn’t, we trust, buy a fish until you had an aquarium, or subject a tropical species to a long journey in freezing conditions without benefit of insulation. Aquatic plants are often more difficult to keep alive than fishes, so handle them with equal care. Don’t buy them until the aquarium is up and running, and at working temperature for tropical species, which should be kept warm at till times. Buying plants: Your initial choice of plants will probably be dictated not by what is ‘biotope correct’, or even what you want, but by what is actually available. Most of the plants you will find offered in aquatic shops are hardy ones that will survive in a variety of water conditions. Try to buy plants that are grown rooted in special tanks or display units. Tropical plants displayed in trays may be chilled, and hence in bad condition. Plants grown in aquaria containing fish may carry disease and should, ideally, be quarantined. Look for snails in the tank – you may not want them in your tank, but you will most certainly get them if there are tiny on the plants you buy!

You may get a better choice of plants, and accompanying advice on their requirements and culture, by buying from tin aquatic plant nursery, usually by mail order.

Other aquarists are another source of plants -well-rooted ones that haven’t been sent by mail or left unplanted in shops for weeks. They burst into new growth with an enthusiasm not generally seen in commercial plants until months after purchase, simply because of the minimal upset. However, the warnings about disease and snails apply here too, so accept plants only from friends you trust and whose aquaria you have inspected.

Marine Vegetation: Most plants utilized in the marine aquarium are algae: not the simple ‘nuisance’ kind that coat underwater surfaces with a thin green or brown layer, but those better known to the man in the street as ‘seaweeds’.

Occasionally a specialized tank may contain mangrove seedlings or eelgrass, hut these plants can be difficult to obtain and don’t usually survive long under aquarium conditions. Algae, on the other hand, are readily available from most stores with a good marine section. Those such as Caulerpa prolifera, C. mexicana and C. sertularioid.es will normally flourish under the correct conditions (e.g. good water quality and adequate lighting), but the chances of long-term success in tt fish-only aquarium are slim. Constant browsing by fish, high dissolved waste levels and some medications all serve severely to reduce or even destroy growths of algae.

Be prepared

Acquire all the equipment you will need in advance; once you start setting up you won’t want to have to stop because you are missing some essential item.

Remember, some of the decor goes in before some of the equipment, and vice versa, so buy both in advance – except for plants. As we have already warned, they must wait until their home is ready.

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