Gardening safely – a reminder

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Bob Hatton
| Yellow globe messages

While we can garden here year round, activities begin in March for most of us. Garden cleaning, sharing, planting, transplanting, pruning and other activities call us to our gardens.

My body reminds me that the time I spend flexing, lifting, squatting, and stretching is something I will have to get used to for the season to come.

One way to deal with the increase in these spring activities is by varying the types of things I do every day and while at work. The biggest chores to be done in my gardens now are tidying up and transplanting. This means squatting, bending and kneeling to get down to where the action is.

None of these activities are welcomed by my back and arthritic knees. I switch from kneeling to crouching to squatting with some frequency. Different facilities require work at different heights, so I change my work accordingly to change position. This relieves the strain and ensures a little rest.

Last year during a repair operation on a torn left bicep in March, I learned to use certain tools differently than I have always done. For example, I can use my left hand with my trowel and weed control tool because with it I can push down but not lift or pull with it. I also reverse the way I use a shovel so my right hand does the lifting. This will serve me well again this year as I have recovered from an operation on the left rotator cuff.

There are gardening aids that can also help. My wife has a seat that is about 10 inches high so you can sit while weeding or doing other ground work. There are several different types of these that will work as long as your back allows you to bend forward. I adopted hers last year.

There are knee pads to soften knee contact with the floor. There are also benches that can be used as a seat or when turning over to kneel with the legs up to make it easier to get on and off.

Although there are many ergonomic tools and other devices that can make gardening easier and safely aid gardening, your head is the best tool. Think about what you can do and how you can safely do it. There are convenient ways to lift, reach, and even bend over objects.

I learned the correct bending technique years ago in physiotherapy while recovering from herniated discs in my lower back. It may look fun every time I stick my butt out to keep my spine straight, but it also works in the shower when I pick up fallen soap.

Just as we should treat our bodies properly by eating right and exercising, so should we thoughtfully take care of ourselves while gardening. I’ve found that physical activity doesn’t get easier with age, and the recovery time after an injury doesn’t get shorter. Injury prevention should be task one.