THE ABSENTEE GARDENERS
By Kit Flynn and Lise Jenkins
It’s a dangerous world out there. In the past few weeks, Kit and I have both been injured — nothing life threatening, but ego bruising. I share this because we both know better.
We have written before about the importance of being safe in our gardens, but our recent experiences suggest it might be helpful to offer a refresher.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, outdoor-related emergency room visits spike in the spring. Before we head out to the garden, shovel in hand, I’d like to offer the following reminders.
First, warm up your muscles with gentle stretching before tackling heavy projects. The more pliable our muscles are, the easier it is to move without injury. Start with small movements and gradually work up to larger movements. Ten minutes of stretching before beginning work could prevent hours of discomfort later.
These days, I have a lot of clean-up projects to get ready for the growing season, and I want to tackle everything at once. A bit of planning, however, will reduce frustration and help avoid injury. Cycle through a variety of different tasks to avoid injuries resulting from repetitive motions.
Start with tasks that make your garden a safe place to work. Ensure walkways are clear, and have adequate room for tools and materials and for you to move around. Attempting to move heavy things in a tight space creates opportunities for injury. Walkways and uneven surfaces can be treacherous when wet, hardscapes can shift during winter freezes, and accumulated debris can conceal tripping hazards.
Next, make sure you select the right tool for the job as it will make your task easier and will reduce strain. Rusty or dull cutting tools require you to exert more force to accomplish your task. Improperly serviced power tools are harder to start and can result in shoulder injuries. Be sure to wear eye and hearing protection when using power tools.
Tool handles should fit comfortably in the palm of your hand where your grip strength is greatest, and their design should allow you to keep your wrist in a neutral position. As you gear up to garden, have power tools serviced, clean and sharpen hand tools, and oil wooden tool handles to reduce the risk of dry wood breaking or producing splinters.
Gloves are essential. Hand injuries are among the most common reasons gardeners are admitted to the Emergency Room. I have several different pairs — cotton gloves with rubberized fingers that keep my hands dry, heavy leather gloves for the tough jobs and gauntlet-style gloves that extend to the middle of my arm, protecting me when I’m pruning or reaching into thorny plants.
The most perfect pair of gloves won’t do you any good if you don’t have them on your hands. To increase my likelihood of putting on gloves, I keep a pair in my garden tote, in the garage and by the door leading to the garden. Slip on a pair, no matter how small the garden task. The old adage applies: An ounce of prevention is really worth more than a pound of cure.
Our gardens are wonderful places; a bit of caution can help us avoid injuries and keep us out gardening all season long.
Absent from their gardens, Kit and Lise enjoy roaming our region exploring the intersection of horticulture and suburban living. More on Instagram @AbsenteeGardener or email: email@example.com
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