Tips for Spring Gardeners
After the dark and cold of Winter, the longer days and a bit of warmer weather make us think of getting the garden back in shape. Many of us have been inactive over the Winter months and we are tempted to try and do a fortnight’s work in a day when the weather improves. Gardening is great exercise but make sure you don’t come a cropper and put your back out. Here are some tips to help you avoid trouble this Spring:
1. Wear the right clothing: Spring Days can still be quite chilly so wrap up warm.
Make sure vests and shirts are tucked in - a bare bit at the bottom of your back can make the muscles cold and increase the chances of straining something.
It is a good idea to use a few layers, then take something off as your body warms up
Most heat is lost from your head so use a hat if it’s cold.
2. Warm up: Start with gentler jobs eg. light pruning or weeding then something a bit more vigorous eg. cutting grass and then the heavier jobs, like digging. Towards the end of a session in the garden it is good to do the same in reverse so your body gradually eases down.
3. Rotate Jobs: Swap from one job to another rather than keeping on until you are exhausted. For example do a bit of weeding – then some grass cutting – then some hedge trimming - then some digging but rather than doing each job till you have finished leave half of it for the next cycle and repeat (weeding, grass-cutting, hedge trimming, digging again). This pattern usually means that you will be able to get more done in a session because you don’t go on until you are fatigued with each task.
4. Tools: There are many tools on the market. Find the ones that suit you best. Think about:
Long handled tools (spades, forks, hoes, long-handled loppers). You don’t have to bend so much with long handled tools
Use the most appropriate lawnmower for your lawn. A larger more powerful mower for a bigger lawn. Smaller lighter mowers for smaller lawns.
Electric mowers and hedge trimmers can be just the job for small gardens but for larger gardens you may need to think about petrol tools.
5. Use knee pads: If you have to do a lot of kneeling knee pads are a great idea. Also it helps to alternate between kneeling on both knees, kneeling on one knee and crouching.
6. Use decent boots or wellies: Keep your feet warm and dry with good boots or wellies. An extra pair of socks can be helpful too.
7. Gloves: There are many different styles of gardening gloves available. Use ones which you find comfortable and are suitable for the job you are doing. Heavier ones for heavy jobs, lighter ones for delicate jobs.
8. Keep blades sharp: The job is always easier if you use sharp tools. So before you begin get your secateurs and your lawn-mower blades sharpened. Sharper tools = less effort. Even your hoe works better if it has a sharp blade.
9. Be careful with bending: Bending from the waist for long periods tends to put extra strain on the lower back. So keep straightening up or use other positions (kneeling or crouching).
10. Take a break: Sit back, have a cuppa or a glass of something, and admire your handiwork.
And if you do come a cropper in the garden and hurt your back or strain your muscles, ask your GP or osteopath for advice.