The Homeowners Column

The Homeowners Column

Tips for “Injury Free” Gardening

Photo of Sandra Mason

Sandra Mason
Extension Educator, Horticulture
slmason@illinois.edu

Some things are assured. Our daffodils bloom in April. Our backs ache in May. But it doesn't have to be that way. It may not be so much what we do, as how we do it. By rethinking our gardening techniques we may be able to at least lessen the need for an aspirin.

Have more fun and less fatigue with these gardening tips:

  • Avoid doing the same task for more than 30 minutes. Take regular breaks to give your parts a rest. If necessary, set a timer. Actually sit in those fancy benches we buy and enjoy the view.
  • Stretch before, during and after. Try yoga and improve your flexibility.
  • Remember what your mom told you- "Stand up straight!" Maintain good posture at all times as you work.
  • Lift objects by bending at the knees not bending your back.
  • Hold items close to your body. One of my worst injuries occurred when I bought some bags of soil after work. Of course I had my business clothes on and my momma raised me right so I didn't want to get my clothes dirty. So I picked up the bags and I held them away from my body. I felt a twinge as though a rubber band had broken in my back. Keep an old shirt or coat in your vehicle for those unplanned shopping occasions. Or make sure you always have your garden slave around to carry bags.
  • Avoid unnecessary twisting. Instead of shoveling soil or compost by digging and twisting to empty the shovel, move your feet instead. When raking, don't reach. Keep the center of gravity and movement close to your body. Move to the chore – Don't bring the chore to you.

Sometimes just finding the right tools makes gardening easier.

  • Purchase pruners that fit your hand. When pruner handles are expanded completely they shouldn't go past your first knuckle. Many brands such as Felco offer pruners for large to small hands and even pruners for lefties.
  • Check out the heavy duty gel knee pads available in the flooring section of lumber supply stores.
  • Use a hand truck or dolly to move heavy bags of soil, mulch or fertilizer.
  • Use a wheeled chair or "scoot seat" designed for garden use. If possible take it for a test drive. Some of them work better on concrete than they do in grass or mulch.
  • Use a cart with big wheels. Small wheels do not roll well in mulch or on uneven surfaces.
  • Reserve wheelbarrows for light weight materials. Heavy items may shift in transit and cause you to twist your back.
  • Enlist a garden buddy. Start an exchange program. Offer to work on their project this week and next week you both work on yours. It's amazing how much faster the work proceeds when you garden with a buddy.
  • Stay healthy. Remember as you get older your body's maintenance crew takes longer breaks.

U of I Horticulture Club's Mom's Day Flower Show Leafing through the Pages

Saturday, April 8 from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM and Sunday, April 9 from 9 AM to 2:30 PM. Held at U of I Stock Pavilion; 1402 West Pennsylvania; Urbana (east of Memorial Stadium and west of Lincoln Avenue). Free with opportunities to shop for plants and get help with your gardening selections from students, faculty and Master Gardeners.

Best Plants for Illinois

Join us Tuesday, April 18 at 7 PM for "Best Plants for Illinois" by Bill Aldrich, author of five garden books including Perennials for Illinois and Month-by-Month in the Garden for Illinois and editor of "Chicagoland Gardening" magazine; Held at Champaign Extension auditorium. Free, but please register by calling 217-333-7672.

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