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Dealing With Backyard Bugs, Poison Plants

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Summertime and the living may seem easy, especially in our backyard, a place that can lull us into a false sense of security. But hidden hazards can await us at every turn.

In fact, many gardeners do not realize that a lot of the common flowers, shrubs and trees growing in their backyards may be poisonous, Good Morning America's Gardening Contributor Rebecca Kolls said. Some of the most common poisonous flowers include: Lily of the Valley, Delphiniums and Peonies.

The key is to do your homework. Know which plants you have growing in your backyard and which ones are poisonous and you might want to get rid of a few of them. As for the poisonous plants that come without an invitation, like poison sumac or poison ivy, there are other ways to handle them.

"Pulling up these plants is not an option because you want to get to the root of the plant," Kolls said. "The best way to do that is with a weed killer. But keep in mind wherever you spray this, everything it touches will die."

Kill Unwanted Plants

To get rid of unwanted plants, take a one-gallon milk jug, cut out the bottom and cut out the top. Next, place the jug over the plant you want to eradicate and spray inside.

"Remember, if any part of your clothing should happen to touch these plants, it will carry the poisonous oils, so be sure to wash your clothes immediately, gloves included," Kolls said. Unfortunately, a lot of the chemicals used to beautify backyards are also harmful to your health.

"Use them only when you have to -- kind of like a prescription," Kolls said. "Use them wisely, read the directions thoroughly and don't forget, if you are using airborne chemicals, you need to protect yourself. You want long pants, boots, eye protection, a mask, gloves and a long sleeve shirt."

Basically you should wear the same kind of clothes you would wear when mowing or weed whacking.

For safety, it is also wise to keep both feet on the ground at all times when using anything with a cord or anything that cuts, Kolls said.

Also, remember to put away tools. Something as simple as a rake can really catch you by surprise. A strewn hose can similarly trip you up.

Rain Brings Poison Mushrooms

Rain is always welcome in our backyards, but it does, however, bring on the mushrooms.

"Mushrooms are actually a sign of healthy soil, but most them are poisonous, so you really need to get rid of them," Kolls said. "You can spray them or you can just hand pick."

Where there is water, there's going to be mosquitoes, especially after a rain, so it is important to walk around your garden and look for anything that can hold water.

"In something as simple as a saucer, a female mosquito can lay up to 300 eggs," Kolls said. "So be sure every couple of days to dump standing water."

Even without rain, it's important that you change your birdbath every couple of days and repair any leaky hoses.

For those with water gardens, there are new products on the market that will kill mosquitoes and are totally safe for the environment.

Keeping Bugs Away

But what about protecting yourself? Mosquitoes can carry West Nile virus, while ticks, may carry Lyme Disease. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the best repellents on the market are those that contain the ingredient deet. The EPA recommends spraying any exposed skin lightly, and also recommends spraying the bottom of your pants to avoid ticks, Kolls said.

One last item: keep cool in your backyard. Before heading out, use plenty of sunscreen, don't forget your hat and drink lots of water. If you're thirsty, that means you are already a quart low.

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Copyright 2003 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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