As I look over my summer landscaping, it’s amazing how much it has grown. We got quite a bit of timely rainfall, followed by significant heat and humidity. This combination has allowed the turf grasses, shrubs, perennials and annuals to grow like crazy. Mine have extended beyond their boundaries.

There is still plenty of time to begin cutting back some of the hardier shrubs and perennials without putting them at risk for winter damage. Remember, never prune spring-blooming plants this late in the season, or you may eliminate the buds for next spring’s flowers.

As I have started tidying up my landscaping, I’ve come across some hidden dangers I wanted to warn you about.

The scariest for me are hidden yellow jacket nests. On a few occasions, I’ve been ready to reach in to prune when out they fly. I’ve been stung by them a few times and that is no fun. So has my husband while helping me. One thing you can do is watch the shrub you’d like to prune during the day to see if you see yellow jackets flying nearby. Or you may want to take a long stick or tool and rustle all of the plants nearby a bit while at a distance. Then, just be on the lookout for their papery nests while working, especially the deeper you go. Finally, wear gloves and long sleeves just in case the stinging insects surprise you.

Using a stick in flower beds is also a good way to scare off snakes that might be hiding or looking for food. Never stick your hands in deeply until you’ve made some noise and given snakes time to vacate.

Other hidden dangers are dead limbs and sticks. I don’t know how many times I’ve been getting after a shrub and clearing out around it when I get poked by a dead limb — stabbed to the point of bleeding. This is one more reason to take care when working in flower beds. Gloves and long sleeves will help with this.

Another danger I’ve run across that surprised me was poison ivy. I’ve been hunkered down in flower beds pulling out weeds and invasive Bermuda when I reach in only to see small poison ivy plants down near the soil.

Birds and small mammals can spread this unwanted plant’s seeds/fruits into areas where they nest and root around for food. Although I’ve never contracted the poison ivy rash, I don’t want to start by pulling it up with my hands. This is where gloves and long sleeves come in handy, as well as carefully dripping some herbicide killer on it to rid your landscaping of the highly poisonous plant.

Spiders and other insects are probably lurking in the depths of your landscaping, so again, gloves and long sleeves can shield your skin from bites or stings. And you may find, like I have, that there are some plants that will irritate your skin on contact. Covering up and then washing your skin with soap after working will help alleviate irritation.

Darla Horner Menking is an outdoor enthusiast and Herald correspondent. Contact her at

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