Best practices for safe gardening
Spring is on the way! No doubt, many of you are eagerly waiting the first few sunny days to prepare your flowerbeds and gardens. However, gardening is not a risk-free activity. Here are eight tips to help you garden without injury.
1. Tidy up your tools
A tidy shed is ideal. Place the tools within arm’s reach and ensure heavy loads are easily accessible. This way, you won’t have to contort yourself to reach the pruning shears hanging behind the winter tires or the bags of fertilizer lodged under the workbench.
2. Warm up to prepare your body
Before starting, take at least five minutes to warm up your muscles for physical effort and thus reduce the risk of injury. Walk in place, perform a few half-squats, and rotate your shoulders, wrists, head and back for a few minutes.
3. Adopt good postures
When planting or weeding, avoid rounding your back. Kneel as much as possible to keep your back straight and use pads or a cushion to reduce pressure on your knees. Also, avoid twisting your back when shoveling or spreading fertilizer.
4. Avoid over reaching
Rather than weeding at arm’s length, create paths for easy access to every corner of the garden. And why not be trendy and opt for flowerpots on a table or raised garden boxes?
5. Properly handle loads
When lifting planters or bags of soil, bend your knees rather than your back and keep the load close to your body. It is also advisable to balance loads when moving, as you would when carrying two buckets of water. To expend less effort when carrying heavy loads, use equipment such as a trolley or wheelbarrow and bear in mind that it is always preferable to push rather than pull. Finally, if the load seems too heavy, always ask for help!
6. Use the right tools
Choose lightweight ergonomic tools (shovels, spades, trowels, garden hoses, etc.) to protect your joints and tools with a telescopic handle (hedge shears, weeder, etc.) to avoid stretching or bending.
7. Take your time
As with any physical activity, you should take frequent breaks. You can accomplish this by changing positions, stretching or alternating between easy and difficult tasks. It is also preferable to split tasks across several days rather than working for many consecutive hours. In all cases, taking the time to stretch especially your back, neck, shoulders and thighs is highly recommended.
8. Have fun!
Gardening should be a pleasure, not a chore. Enjoying the sun will be equally good for your body as well as your spirit!
You are now ready to start your gardening season safely. However, if pain appears and persists, or if you have additional questions, feel free to contact an occupational therapists at our clinics!
Written by Vanessa Daoust, occupational therapist.