If you have kids and pets, chances are, they – and you – will spend quite a bit of time outdoors when winter weather finally wanders off for the season. Protect those you love the most by doing these eight simple projects now. With a long weekend, you can make your lawn a safer place for your entire family come spring.
1. Eliminate poisonous plants
The flowers of spring and the greenery of summer may have gone, but it’s likely that evidence of poison ivy, poison oak, poison sumac, and other irritating undergrowth remain. If you aren’t sure which poisonous plants are common in your area, check out the CDC’s geographic distribution map.
2. Repair fencing to discourage animals from entering
Foxes, raccoons, opossums, and other small mammals are a threat to kids and pets alike. While there’s no way to guarantee these or other pests won’t get into your yard, a broken fence is an open invitation. Walk the perimeter of your property to see if there are any areas that may leave your yard vulnerable.
3. Fix cracked concrete and asphalt
According to the World Health Organization, falling is the second leading cause of accidental death worldwide. Chances are, your children won’t suffer more than a scuffed knee and busted elbow by tripping over broken concrete, but is it really worth the risk? Most concrete repairs are relatively easy and only require concrete repair mix and a few common household tools.
4. Look for holes in the lawn
Now that the grass has died off, you should have no problem finding and fixing another falling hazard: holes. Use a high-quality topsoil to level any dips or divots that could lead to a misstep.
5. Inspect trees and shrubs for potential falling limbs
Dangers are everywhere outdoors and that includes in the trees. Inspect your trees and shrubs for dead limbs and remove anything that might not make it through the winter. Dead limbs can hang on for months under normal circumstances and can fall without notice causing critical injuries that can drastically reduce a young child’s quality-of-life. Don’t forget to trim limbs that may interfere with power lines or obscure your view of your children’s play area. Contact a professional to evaluate and remove any potentially dangerous large or high limbs and to remove trees that are not healthy enough to survive the season.
6. Fix loose railings and boards on porch, deck, and patio
Check your deck, patio, and porch for loose railings and popped or damaged boards, which can cause injury, especially to an unsuspecting child looking for stability when entering or exiting the home. Andrea Davis of RedFin further suggests mending loose shutters and other outdoor fixtures.
7. Perform maintenance on lawn equipment
Pediatric lawnmower injuries are not rare and affect thousands of children each summer. While your lawnmower is put up for the season, make sure its blades are tight and that shields are properly in place to prevent flying debris, such as rocks and toys, from becoming shrapnel that could potentially put your child in the hospital.
8. Check play structures for damage
Your children’s play structures – swing set, trampoline, seesaw, etc. – are pieces of equipment they are in close contact with that pose a significant threat to their health and safety without proper upkeep. Even if you supervise your child during play, you probably don’t climb onto these toys to inspect for damage. Make sure they are safe for next season by fixing loose screws, cleaning away rust, repairing splintered wood, ensuring tethers are tightly in the ground, and putting back anything that’s fallen out of place.
None of these projects should take more than a few hours but all can prevent a lifetime of regret. While it’s tough to think about summer when the weather man promises snow, keeping your lawn safe will ensure its continued use throughout the other three seasons. But remember, when in doubt, have a professional check it out. After all, the goal is to fix small issues, not to turn them in to big problems.