Gardener's Grapevine 2013.01.16

Written by David Green.

As I’m writing this I am sitting in my husband’s hospital room at Toledo Hospital. He had a total hip replacement two weeks ago. I pick on him and tell him it’s so he doesn’t have to help me plant and weed the gardens this year. The truth of the matter is, he had an injury deep in his hip in college and it was repeatedly misdiagnosed. There comes a point with every injury when it has to be treated with the most extreme treatment to correct the issue.

As gardeners we utilize our bodies in many varying ways. Anybody who has ever put in a good hard day working in a garden hauling dirt, emptying wheelbarrows full of weeds, stooping, straightening  and crawling around on the ground is sure to know the end result on their body. Muscle aches and stiffness to the max, with an exhaustion that will make you want to sleep the sleep of the dead. True garden lovers will do what it takes to get where they want to be.

In most work settings now, ergonomics is a huge part of running any company. If the employees are not aware of their body mechanics there will be an increase in injuries and employee down time. Poor ergonomics can cause a lot of expense. The same can be said in all your home work, in and out of the garden.

When working close to the ground, you need to be aware of soreness. Instead of bending at the waist, bend your knees. Not only does it save your lower back, it works your gluteal muscles which are hard to stretch and work out. This way of bending will give gardeners that tight backside we all strive for and not make you have such a sore back that you can’t move without pain.

When emptying a wheelbarrow or wagon do not overfill it. Trying to lift all that weight can strain any number of joints and muscles. I use a wagon that has a dump feature on it and it also has a 400 pound load capacity. Well the wagon may be able to hold 400 pounds, but I can’t begin to lift that amount of weight. To dump it you must release a handle in the front of the wagon and lift it up. If I had 400 pounds in it where would that leave me? If you don’t have a dump feature, use a pitchfork and clean the debris out. 

Ergonomics goes for the small bones and muscles also. Do you weed by hand? What kind of stress does this put on the joints and muscles in your hands? Most all garden tools that are long-handled are available in handheld versions. Many have padded handles to further cut the stress to your hand muscles.

My good friend Sandy Cahill taught me a great way to cut down on stress to your knees when kneeling down to work on something. Take a bed pillow, wrap it in plastic and kneel on it, and no sore stressed knees.

As I watch my husband go through physical therapy learning to walk again, it reminds me that we need to take care of our bodies and decrease the stress when and where we can. Gardens can be well tended without injury and stress to the caretaker.

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