Work Smarter, Not Harder—aka Brains Before Brawn

Don’t let a sign of spring be your aching back. Working in our gardens uses our bodies in various ways: bending, stooping, lifting, pushing, pulling, and kneeling. Although good exercise,
these activities can be overdone. The result? Sprains and strains and overuse injuries take away all the fun of working in the yard and garden. But, by understanding some ways our
bodies function, we can enjoy gardening AND protect ourselves from pain. Below are a few tips.

Pre-plan: Gather your tools and plan the most efficient way to complete your tasks to avoid repetitive trips to the garden shed to retrieve items. Think of your body positions: Hinge from  the hips instead of bending from the waist, rotate from the hips instead of the waist when using a rake or broom, sit or kneel rather than bend for longer periods. When choosing to sit to weed or clean out beds this spring, position a chair or kneeling bench nearby to make it easier to safely get up again. Dragging heavy items on a slippery tarp is more efficient than  carrying.

Don’t carry, push, or pull more than you can handle. If you are jerking the load, are unable to hold proper posture, or are staggering, you need to lessen the load. Most injuries occur when we get over fatigued. Use a wheelbarrow, wagon, or hand cart/dolly to help carry materials. Push and pull with the power coming from your legs and hips, not the waist and back.

Prevent hand, shoulder, and neck strain by pruning with the proper, sharpened tools. Hand pruners for stems and small branches, loppers for medium branches and a hand saw or mini chain saw for branches too large to easily cut with the loppers. Sometimes we try to “lop” a branch more appropriately cut with a saw.

Above all…. know your limits! Work a while, rest a while, then back to work. Nothing better than enjoying a nice glass of cold mint tea while sitting in your garden admiring the beauty of  your surroundings.

--Erin O’Neill, Secrest Master Gardener Volunteer