Connecticut Backyard Journal: Adaptive Gardening

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While caring for a sore shoulder, I remember all of the things I should be doing to keep my body in shape for the gardening season. It’s so easy to do too much at this time of year. There are flowers to plant, shrubs to dig and move, compost and mulch to be spread, and bags of manure to be carried. I think I keep myself in pretty good shape over the winter, but gardening works a whole host of other muscles.

Let’s stop for a moment and examine some ways we can make gardening easier for our bodies. First, take the time to warm up in the morning. Ten minutes of yoga stretching and moving will loosen up your joints and muscles so they’re less likely to be pulled in the yard. Also, start out with less physical tasks like planting, transplanting, and raking.

Be careful of your orientation for heavier tasks like digging and carrying. Keep bags of mulch and fertilizer close to your body as you walk to activate core muscles. Use long-handled shovels to dig, bend your knees, and twist from your waist. It’s better to engage large muscle groups than just using your arms and shoulders for digging and lifting. Consider adaptable tools like ergonomic rakes and shovels. These have padded handles that take the strain off your hands, and some are shaped to keep your back upright as you dig and rake.

Consider building waist-high raised beds for vegetables and flowers to relieve back pain. When you bend over, prop your knees on the floor with pads and look for adaptive hand tools that take the strain off your wrists and arms.