Here in MA like other Northeast States most of us have been somewhat dormant for the winter. Outside of maybe our normal every day exercise routine that is. However, now that it is getting warmer outside and the landscape is coming back to life, it is time to get outside and get into our landscape and start our gardening chores. A Lot of the movements that you will be doing while gardening are probably not part of your normal everyday exercise routine or should I say the extended period that you will be in some positions is not done everyday. So, please read below to get some helpful gardening safety tips to help keep your back and the rest of your body free from injury. So, you can enjoy your landscape and all the benefits of your hard work instead of being laid up in bed with a bad back!
1. Stretch, Stretch, Stretch!! I can’t emphasize this enough. Stretch before and after your gardening work. I have included some pictures above that have basic stretches if you are not familiar with regular stretching. Disclaimer, I am not a physical therapist or a personal trainer but these are some of the basic stretches that I do for myself before I work in my landscape. It makes a big difference in my life and for my back!
2. Plan ahead. Make some reasonable goals and don’t try to tackle it all at once. Say you have weeding, edging, trimming, etc.. Think about how long it will take you to do each task. Plan what the most important thing to do today is and set that as your goal. If you are really good at breaking things down, you really could spend a little time each day instead of doing it all at once.
3. Pace yourself. Do the hard stuff first before you’re exhausted and would tend to overexert. Leave more effortless work for the end of your day. For example, do your digging, trimming and weeding first then at the end of the day when things are cleaned up go around with your granular fertilizers to feed your plants.
4. Help to save your back by using a wheelbarrow or garden cart when moving heavy items. Try to avoid bending at the waist and lifting. Bend those knees, hold the item as close as you can and use your legs to do the lifting instead of your back.
3. Gardening tools can also be your best friend. Make sure the tools are ergonomic and comfortable to use. Use telescopic or extended handles to eliminate any strain from reaching. For example, watering wands are ideal for hanging baskets.
4. Keep digging and cutting tools sharp to cut down on the amount of effort you will have to put forth.
5. Use knee pads or a stool while weeding.
6. Wear gloves and long sleeves, if possible. Especially, if you have rose bushes or anything thorny to trim. Long sleeves can help save you from looking like you were in a bad animal attack afterwards. Gloves can help save your hands from getting hurt as well. These items will also give you extra protection if you don’t know what poison ivy, sumac or oak looks like and you pick it up.
7. Drink lots of water and stay hydrated. I know when I get zoned in a project, I s0metimes forget to eat and drink when I should. But, it is important to stay hydrated. Fill a water bottle before you go outside and keep it near you. That will make it easier instead of having to go in the house.
8. Put on sunscreen to protect your skin and if you are really sensitive to the sun, wear a hat and sunglasses.
9. Take breaks every so often. If you start feeling a muscle being strained, do something else for a while and then go back when you are not feeling the strain anymore.
10. When you are done, stretch, stretch, stretch!! Your body will thank you.
Here is a link to another site that also has some great stretches and tips to make gardening in your landscape much more enjoyable and to reduce your risk of injury: http://gardenmaking.com/stretch-for-gardeners/