Connecticut Garden Journal: Adaptive Gardening

While treating a sore shoulder, I remember everything I should do to keep my body in shape for gardening season. It’s so easy this time of year to overdo it. There are flowers to plant, shrubs to dig and move, compost and mulch to spread, and bags of fertilizer to carry. I think I keep myself pretty well through the winter, but gardening tasks work a whole different muscle group.

So, let’s stop for a moment and go over some ways to make gardening easier on our body. First, take the time to warm up in the morning. Ten minutes of stretching and yoga movement will relax the joints and muscles, making them less likely to pull on them when gardening. Also start with less physical tasks such as planting, transplanting and raking.

When performing heavier tasks, such as digging and carrying, be aware of your alignment. Hold the bags of mulch and fertilizer close to your body as you walk to engage the core muscles. Use long-handled shovels for digging, bend your knees, and twist your waist. It is better to engage large muscle groups rather than using only the arms and shoulders for digging and lifting. Consider getting adaptive tools like rakes and ergonomic shovels. These have padded handles that are easier on your hands and some are designed to keep your back straight as you dig and rake.

Consider building raised beds for vegetables and flowers to reduce back pain. As you bend over, support your knees with floor pads and look for adaptive hand tools that reduce stress on your wrists and arms.

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About Nathalie Shelton

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