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DIY Squad: Child Proofing A Small-Space Container Garden

by Fern on August 15, 2013

in Apartment Garden Challenges,DIY Squad,Gardening with Kids,High Rise Gardening,Product Review,Reviews

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When I was just under two years old, I fell off my parent’s second story balcony. I was playing out there when I saw our cat Yaz in a nearby tree. I reached for the cat and fell through the railings. Luckily I landed on grass and while I fractured my skull, the fracture was along one of the sutures and I didn’t suffer any brain damage. I always thought it was funny that I fell off the balcony, but my mom, who was the one who found me, never could laugh about it. Now as a mom myself, I can empathize with how it must have felt to see your baby lying on the ground beneath your balcony.

So, as you can imagine, I’ve been worrying and researching about balcony garden safety from pretty much the moment I found out I was pregnant. Obviously you should never leave a baby or small child on a balcony or raised deck by themselves. And even if you have a patio securely planted on terra firma, you should still take a few minutes to make it child-friendly, and always keep an eye on your infant. Here are my suggestions for making your container garden a safe place for you to enjoy a bit of sunshine with your child.

Control Access To Your Outdoor Space

First and foremost, you need to make sure that your child is never able to go outside without your knowledge. My balcony is accessed through a door with keyless deadbolt and a lever door handle. There are child safety mechanisms for both lever door handles as well as round knobs that make it so little hands can’t open the door. In addition to that, I think I am going to also put either a chain door fastener or a door guard on that door (up high) because I suspect that the child proof door handles/knobs only fool younger toddlers.

There is also a window that could grant access to my balcony from my son’s room. I don’t think I’ll bother child-proofing it because it is so heavy, I have a hard time raising it up. However, there are devices that make it so you can’t open a window beyond a certain point, if your windows are easier to open. I would put the window lock at a point so that the window is only able to open 4 inches or less, as that is the width that is considered safe for stair and balcony railings.

Lock Up Your Tools, Fertilizers & Pesticides

No more leaving your tools, fertilizers, and pesticides just strewn about your garden space. That’s tacky anyway (though I’m guilty of this sin on occasion!). My son is only 7 months old and he already grabs for everything within arm’s reach and usually puts everything he grabs straight into his mouth. The best option is to keep anything that could be dangerous in a location that your baby NEVER has access to, like a locked cabinet in the garage. However, realistically, you’re going to want to keep some things close at hand. I have this storage box/side table on my balcony. It’s where I keep my trowel and clippers (and gloves, twist ties, etc). I’m going to look into adding a simple lock so that my little guy absolutely, positively can’t get in there.

Check Your Railings

Before you let your child out onto your deck or balcony, check the railings. Are they in good condition? Securely fastened to the deck/wall? Now go grab your tape measure and check the distance between railings, and between the floor and the bottom beam. There should be no space greater than four inches. If there is a spot with a greater than 4 inch space, your child could squeeze through. If you do find that your railings are too far apart, you can weave a special netting through the bars to make things more secure. You may have to discuss this with your home owners association to get permission. If they try to make your life difficult, you might point out that railings too widely spaced are likely a code violation in addition to being a huge safety liability.

Move Plants, Chairs, and Benches Away from Railings

Kids like to climb. And it only takes a split second with your back turned for a toddler to mount a plant pot and pull themselves over your balcony or deck railing. It’s pretty much the same skill that they’ll use to get out of baby jail their crib. When moving your pots back, you might want to redesign your containers so that the focal point plant is in the center of the pot (if the pot is not going to be against a wall) or at the back of the pot (if the pot is against a wall). Also, while you’re at it, make sure your larger pots can’t be toppled over when your baby pulls up on the rim. This could be especially problematic if you have pot feet underneath that make the pot a bit unstable.

Protect Your Plants From Your Kid and Your Kid From Your Plants

Some of your plants may be poisonous, and you don’t want your baby to eat your other ornamental plants, even if it won’t hurt him or her. So, the best thing to do is keep plants that are not for your child out of reach. This is a great database to check whether your plants are poisonous or not: FDA Poisonous Plants Database.

I really love pots that hang on the railings not just for keeping them out of reach, but for making more room outside too.

Now it’s your turn. What have you done to make your garden safe for little gardeners? For more garden inspiration and supplies, check out the True Value Pinterest page and website.

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This post is sponsored by True Value Hardware. However, the opinions and ideas are all my own. You can read more about my review and sponsor policy here.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Carol August 15, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Although I do my best to make sure we don’t have poisonous plants, I have a stack-a-pot filled with different herbs that are all safe to pick and eat. I tell the kids that they are free to eat any of these plants as much as they like. I grow organically as well so no fear of poisonous pesticides. They seem very happy to pick and munch from the different herbs because they feel it’s especially for them (and they have a choice to choose from in the stack-a-pot).

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Fern August 17, 2013 at 8:36 pm

Carol–Good idea to have a “do pick” area where kids can taste to their little hearts’ content!

Dennis August 26, 2013 at 3:19 pm

Real nice guide, Fern! This summer me & my wife learned what it means to baby-proof a garden. Brushing everything clean for a toddler is actually a lot of fun and you get to find stuff!

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Stephanie August 28, 2013 at 10:05 pm

I don’t have kids, but these are great ideas for my dog and to keep in mind when friends come over with their kids!

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John October 23, 2013 at 10:58 am

This is great advice, my grandson keeps trying to push my plants off my deck. Now he thinks it’s a game to make grandpa run across the deck.

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