gardeningDon’t Throw in the Trowel: Tips for Years of Happy Gardening!

As the weather starts warming up, the trees begin budding and the bulbs start poking their greenery through the much warmer earth, there’s a natural urge to come out of hibernation and for many of us to start getting our hands dirty. While gardening can be a great form of exercise and stress relief—it can even improve your cardiovascular health—all of the lifting, bending and kneeling can also be pretty taxing on your body.

But don’t throw in the trowel just yet! Here are some tips to keep digging in the dirt for as long as you want to:

  • Protect those joints. When you loosen up your joints and muscles before you put them to work, you’ll help prevent injury … and feel better when you get out of bed tomorrow. If you decide to carry heavy items such as bags of topsoil across the yard, lift with your legs, not your back, and keep items close to your body. (Better yet, use a wheelbarrow or your grandchildren’s strong backs.) If you’re kneeling or squatting (even sitting) to plant or weed, change positions often and take plenty of breaks.
  • Contain your garden. Pots or raised beds keep you from having to bend, squat and kneel to do your planting and maintaining. By adjusting the height of your garden, you can even sit on a stool or chair to garden. Container gardens also minimize the amount of ground you have to cover and keep you from over-exerting yourself.
  • Use joint-friendly tools. Many manufacturers have specially modified gardening tools for aging joints, including handle designs to reduce hand stress, long handles or extensions that allow you to stand, rather than stoop, and pads to cushion your knees. If you have trouble gripping, you can buy a specially designed tool, but an easy, less expensive fix can be to wrap the handle in pipe insulation foam. In a May post, we’ll get more into special tools you’ll want to check out.
  • Watering hazardous to your health? A large watering can full of water can be a load to carry and some hoses can also be an effort on shoulders and wrists to pull across a large yard. Buy flexible, expandable hoses and lighter weight water dispensers or fill up your can a little at a time. You can keep the weight down to virtually nothing by squeezing a saturated sponge over small plants for a quick drink!

Have any other great gardening tips?  Share your tips in comments!