Waimea Nurseries

Safe Gardening

Safe Gardening

Gardening is a popular pastime enjoyed by thousands of New Zealanders, helping people relax and escape the stresses of life. It provides enjoyment and exercise. The huge growth of interest in home-grown vegetables and fruit in recent years has added to people’s culinary enjoyment, and helped stretch their budgets further. Soil is rich with living organisms beneficial to plants which generally cause no harm to animals or people. Soil does however contain some organisms that can be harmful to people, if simple precautions are not taken. A type of Legionella bacteria, which is commonly found in the environment, is one of these. It has been shown to cause Legionnaires’ disease in a few people. This guide provides some simple and natural steps that all gardeners can take to reduce risk while continuing to enjoy their garden.

Reducing the Risk

As low as the incidence of Legionella contracted from gardening may be, it’s a serious issue and there are a few simple, easy and natural steps that all gardeners can take to reduce the risk while continuing to enjoy their garden. The Ministry of Health’s “Safer and Healthier Gardening” booklet provides guidelines to help reduce the risks for the home gardener:

• Minimise the amount of dust when working in the garden.
• Water your garden and indoor plants using a gentle spray.
• Read the warning on bags of composted potting mixes.
• Wear gloves when handling soil, mulches, compost or potting mix.
• Wear a dust mask if handling potting mixes indoors or in windy conditions.
• Dampen potting mixes before use.
• Open bags of soil products or composted potting mixes slowly and away from the face.
• Make sure the working area (glasshouse, potting shed) is well ventilated.
• Wash hands thoroughly after gardening or handling soil products.

See your doctor immediately if you develop a flu-like illness that is worsening. Antibiotics are effective against legionellosis if given early. When working around bulk supplies of potting mix, avoid breathing dust or inhaling steam or mist.

More Information
Safer and Healthier Gardening - HE4605, August 2010 Ministry of Health
Read here: https://www.healthed.govt.nz/resource/safer-and-healthier-gardening

NZ Plant Producers Incorporated Legionnaires' Disease information

Read here: https://nzppi.co.nz/news/4-8/legionnaires-disease


 Legionella and legionellosis

Legionnaires’ disease (legionellosis) is a respiratory (lung) infection, caused by the Legionella bacteria and may be contracted from air conditioning and when you handle garden soils, compost and potting mixes. Legionella bacteria occur naturally in the environment and are common in water, garden soils, compost, soil conditioner and potting mixes. Legionella appears to infect humans by inhalation of dust or liquid droplets contaminated with the bacteria. The severity of legionellosis can range from a relatively mild respiratory non-pneumonic illness (Pontiac fever) to pneumonia (Legionnaires’ disease) which, if left untreated, may be fatal. There are two strains of Legionella bacteria responsible for most cases of legionellosis in New Zealand. Legionella pneumophilia has been responsible for illnesses linked to engineered water systems and cooling towers used in air conditioning systems of buildings. On the other hand human exposure to Legionella longbeachae, has been linked to the inhalation of airborne droplets or particles from garden soils, potting mix or composts containing the bacteria. Few who come into contact with the bacteria become sick and symptoms will vary from person to person.