Gardening is a great hobby if done safely. It can provide both relaxation and exercise. Your garden might make your environment prettier or provide you with veggies and fruits for your meals. But you will want to follow these six tips to be sure that you are safe while working in your garden.
1. Get the best tools for gardening
Back and knee pain is the most common problem caused by gardening, so invest in a garden stool or knee pad to kneel on. If the handles of the tools you have are too short to use without stooping, you can get extensions to lengthen them. Or you can purchase new tools with longer handles with ergonomic easy grips on the ends.
The Arthritis Foundation asked accessibility experts to test various gardening products. The ones that work the best for persons with physical limitations are given their Ease of Use Commendation logo. Look for that symbol when shopping for gardening tools. Wear gloves to protect your hands and fingers. Any puncture or opening in the skin, no matter how tiny, offers a way for germs to get in and start an infection. Leather gloves will protect you from insect bites, thorns, and poison ivy.
2. Prepare the area where you will grow your garden
Remove all stones, debris, and unwanted plants from the area. You do not want any trip hazards for the gardener and the garden plants do not need competition.
Remember, a garden does not have to be at ground level. You can grow flowers and vegetables in container gardens or large pots, and herbs on the kitchen windowsill. You could make raised bed gardens which are great for gardeners who use wheelchairs and others who have trouble getting down to and up from ground level. It is even possible to garden in hanging baskets or on a vertical frame, if that works better for you.
3. Start small
Choose easy-to-grow plants that won’t need a lot of care. Try to limit the size of your garden to what you can care for in about a half hour, so you don’t expend more energy than you have available. Gardening is one hobby that is easy to make too big to handle!
4. Maintain good posture
Learn the proper technique for using a shovel. Use large muscle groups when possible since they are usually stronger. When lifting, bend your knees, grasp the object, hold it close to your body, and raise up using your leg muscles. Don’t bend over and lift through your back muscles. Get help with really heavy or awkward objects.
Twisting to shovel dirt or pull weeds can lead to problems with the spine and hips. Try to avoid twisting, and hinge straight forward from the hip joints (watch the video to find out what it means to “hinge”!).
5. Alternate activities and take rest breaks as needed
Keep your body safe while gardening. Avoid repetitive motion injuries by switching hands on tools and tasks.
Stretch before and after a gardening session. Stretching is a multi-purpose activity. It acts as a warm up for the muscles prior to a physical activity, a relaxation during the activity, and a cool down afterwards.
Pace yourself. Gardening can be done in short bursts rather than one long session.
Be sure to stay properly hydrated. It is generally recommended to drink a half liter or more of water each hour you work outdoors, but this amount will vary with temperature, activity level, and personal characteristics. Drink again when you are done gardening.
6. Keep your gardening tools clean and sharp
Wipe soil off tools and store them in a dry place to keep them from rusting. When the blades or edges of shovels, trowels and other digging tools get dull, sharpen them carefully or have them professionally sharpened. Sharp garden tools work better and will make your gardening less effortful. Take proper care of garden tools and they will help keep you safe while gardening.
Store garden chemicals like fertilizer and herbicides properly. Read the label and any warnings carefully before safely using these chemicals.
Here are some more tips and suggestions for safe gardening: