How do I keep my back safe when I am gardening?

Q23:

We are fortunate in Vancouver that signs of spring start popping up a bit earlier than the rest of the country - that means the planting season can start a bit earlier as well.  Gardening is a great and rewarding activity - here are some tips to keep your body healthy and your thumbs green:

1. Pace yourself.  Planting a new garden or prepping your existing one is a big job with lots of digging, shovelling and lifting.  This means not only a large amount of physical work but also lots of bending and twisting as you haul the dirt around.  Keep your back safe by using proper technique: face the same direction you are digging into, bend your knees, and consciously draw in your lower abdominal muscles before you lift.  Shovel more light loads than fewer heavy ones.  And Rome was not built in a day - this can be a multi-day job!


2. Consider a kneeling bench.  Back, hip or knee problems can make it difficult to kneel or bend down low to dig out garden beds.  Stores like Lee Valley make padded kneeling benches that provide a soft surface to kneel or sit on and sturdy handles to make it easier when you are getting up.


3. Work higher.  If you are transplanting or re-potting plants, do it at a table or work bench that is at least waist height.  This way you can stand while you work - your body will appreciate the break from bending/stooping.


4. Choose your tools wisely.  All that digging, gripping and cutting can be difficult on hands (especially thumbs!) and elbows - sometimes the start of the season means developing tendinitis or irritating an already arthritic joint.  Make sure your tools are sharp so they work effectively, this will reduce your workload.  If gripping small things is hard, padding your tools with something to make the handles wider can make it easier on your hands.  Switch tasks frequently to avoid a repetitive strain injury like elbow tendinitis.


Happy planting everyone!!