- Author: Paula Pashby
According to AARP, “an hour of gardening can reduce stress, boost bone density, and burn up to 300 calories, but if not done right, all of the bending, squatting, raking and lifting can compromise muscles and joints.” AARP The Magazine, July/August 2010: Linda Melone.
This statement made me think about how well I am prepared for lasting a day of gardening without the regrets of next-day soreness. Usually, I am pretty conscientious about my gardening ergonomics and selection of tools but I am always reminded by the many times that I went out and prepared for only a simple chore that turned into a hundred more. You know, like going out to quickly pull a few weeds, then snip a quick few branches, and it uncontrollably twirls into a full-blown gardening day that oftentimes turns into days recovering from sore muscles, low energy, and sunburn.
While on one of my recent marathons of again overdoing it in the garden, I did some research to remind myself of best gardening methods to prevent injuries and the stretching techniques I used when I was more of a runner but discovered that there is much more to learn. Here are a few tips I learned from my recent stint on the Internet with this subject:
Selection of Tools
- Use the right tools for the right job. I know it is tough to know the differences sometimes, but don't just grab the closest shovel, like a transplanting shovel, when you actually need a digging shovel.
- Clean and sharp tools work much better than dull, dirty tools.
- Gloves! Try to wear them (even if you love getting your hands into the soil) to avoid getting cuts, chapping and cracking. Also, it can't hurt to get tetanus shot every 10 years. The gloves with sticky surface or gripper dots might come in handy when using tools and picking up a dime.
- Garden kneeler set, knee pads, or a rolling cart to sit on prevent knee injuries.
- Long-handed tools – rakes, shovels, stand-up weed pullers, and hoes extend your reach and reduce back pain.
- Ear equipment is useful when you have prolonged use of noisy power tools.
- Eye protection…you know, that branch that just about poked your eye out?
- Look for lightweight tools that are easy to handle.
- Extendible tools decrease bending and are great for folks using wheelchairs: search on product maker's websites like Fiskars, Corno, Gripworks, Disability Work Tools.
- There are now a number of affordable electric hand pruners on the market that can help during an arthritic or sore muscle episode.
- Use tape, foam padding, or bicycle grips to improve grip and handle length on tools.
- For those of us who have “donated” tools to many gardens, paint them bright colors so you have a better chance of finding them!
Stretching Exercises and Posture
- Stretching and warming up is really important – treat this gardening activity just as you would like you were going out for a jog. Go for a quick walk around the block and do some stretches to get the body and muscles warmed up and running. Jumping right into gardening tasks before warming up can cause a lot of stress and injuries. AARP (https://www.aarp.org/health/fitness/info-10-2010/More-Raking-Less-Aching.html) has some great exercises to help stretch and strengthen muscles for gardening tasks.
- When bending, the main muscles used are the abdominals, back, and legs. To reduce straining, tighten leg muscles while bending forward and keep knees slightly bent.
- Raking mainly uses core, shoulder and arms – keep the rake close to your body and use quick, short motions.
- When you push a wheelbarrow, you use a lot of muscles: the main muscles used are quadriceps, hamstrings, chest, shoulders, and arms! Make sure to load the wheelbarrow with the weight you can handle without straining. Use leg muscles, not your back, to lift the wheelbarrow and then use arm muscles to move forward. A 4-wheeled gardening cart is more stable than the usual wheelbarrow that needs balancing while on the move.
- Need to do a lot of squatting? For squatting you will be using the glutes, quadriceps, and hamstrings. Glute injury can also be very disabling and hard to stretch and/or heal. To minimize strain and injury, keep torso upright, lower yourself until your rear end almost touches the ground, and try to keep weight on your heels.
- Keep your back straight when possible to avoid back pain.
- Do not twist your back when performing a task – try to use the rest of your body.
- Tighten your abdominals to get your core working at its best.
- Keep movements flowing – do not stop abruptly.
- Use splints and supports as necessary and recommended by a physical therapist or physician.
- If items are too heavy, wait to get some help. The short wait for help is a better alternative to months out of commission.
- Raised beds – great for those with back, knee or neck problems. Try to make the raised beds 28-30” high, with easy access to the center so you can tend to the plants, and water from any angle without putting pressure on your back.
- Garden with pots, window boxes, and raised containers.
- Use retractable hanging baskets to easily pull up and down.
- Try to keep paths smooth for less tripping hazards and making it easier to pull wheelbarrow or cart.
- Install soaker hoses instead of dragging a hose around. (The plants usually like less watering, more deep soaking).
- Plant perennials instead of annuals for less digging out and replacement of plants.
- Adding organic material to the soil makes digging much easier!
- Along with using the right tools for weeding, you can be proactive and minimize weeding by putting down a layer of newspaper and then covering with mulch or weed mats.
- In warmer months, garden in earlier or later hours to avoid heat stress.
- Use sun protection – hat, sunscreen, UV protective clothing.
- Pace yourself! Change your tasks every 15-20 minutes to protect muscles and joints – do some raking, change to digging, and then move on to some weeding, etc. every 15-20 minutes.
- Stay hydrated. Drink a lot of water.
- To keep cool, use a towel or bandana around the neck, soaked in cold water.
- Work on a full stomach.
- Listen to your body and take breaks when necessary.
I hope these tips help prevent painful muscles and joints after a day of fun gardening – planned or unplanned!
- Agriculture And Natural Resources Environmental Health and Safety, http://ucce.ucdavis.edu/files/filelibrary/5810/43146.pdf
- Arthritis Foundation: Make Gardening Easier With These Helpful Garden Tools - Wednesday, May 6, 2015
- 2020 Foothills Sports Medicine Physical Therapy: Gardening on Earth Day? You'll Want to Read This First
- AARP The Magazine, July/August 2010: Linda Melone
- HGTV: Accessible Gardening Techniques By:Jeff Stafford 1/2020
- Author: JoAnn Brown
Technology has become a part of our everyday lives. There are some fun and helpful tools available that can help with finding a plant ID. They include several Plant ID apps for your smartphone or smart device. These apps can be helpful if you are out in nature or just walking around your neighborhood and come across a plant or a tree that you would like to know its name. Although these apps cannot accurately ID every plant, every time, they can ID many thousands of different types of plants and trees. Over time their accuracy will improve. Some of these apps use artificial intelligence and some use people to determine the type of plant. Most of the apps also offer other features related to plants, such as watering schedules and fact sheets.
The two apps I have been currently using are PlantSnap and iNaturalist. You can find them on the Apple App Store and Google Play.
PlantSnap - Works on all devices - Free (Shows ads and limits to10 ID's a day)
I have been using the PlantSnap app to help me identify succulents, which are frequently not labeled or mislabeled. From my personal experience, this app has been accurate half of the time. This app is very easy to use. This app guides you through the process and gives you tips. It also puts the photos you use in a separate folder in your photo app.
iNaturalist - Works on all devices - Free
This app is a little harder to use and is very different from all of the other ID apps. It is a collaboration between the California Academy of Sciences and National Geographic. It is a unique way to interact with others about your observations in nature. You can record your observations and then share them with others and talk about your findings. You can also get IDs on the plants that you observe, help create useful data, and become a citizen scientist.
Using the Apps
To begin using your app you need to take a photo of a plant or tree. Taking a correct photo, for an ID, is an important part of the process. You can take a photo through the app or use a photo that you have already taken and chosen it within the app. Here are some tips for taking an effective photo that will make it easier to identify your plant. Take a close-up photo instead of a full plant photo. If possible, include leaves, flowers, and fruit in the image area. Make sure your photo is in focus and not blurry. Consider the lighting to make sure that your photo is not too dark. For example, see the photos of the same plant below. The first set of photos shows a full-plant photo and the result of the ID from the app. The app, PlantSnap, was not able to identify this plant correctly. The next set of photos contains a close-up of the same plant and the same app came back with the correct plant name.
These tools will not replace any of the tools you currently use to identify plants. They can be helpful and fun to use when you do not have your traditional resources handy.
- Author: Lowell Cooper
I have been doing my own gardening. I am, however, getting to the age when I can imagine not wanting to do it or actually not feeling/being able to do it. Pruning 75 roses, fertilizing, checking irrigation regularly, taking out the old and putting in the new. All these tasks seem quite manageable at this point. How to prepare for the inevitable is the question. And besides aging, sometimes it is good to be able to take time off these tasks which can get demanding.
Finding an able, willing and reliable helper is not easy. It takes a village to tend a garden. I have experienced several individuals that didn't work out. Some were just unreliable. Nothing is more frustrating than having an appointment and being stood up. Or having an appointment and having the person come whenever they want. As a former Psychologist, during the decades I worked I came to rely on regularity. I wouldn't have wanted patients to show up whenever they wanted and miss appointment times. Likewise, they wouldn't have wanted me to not show up when scheduled.
I have experienced potential helpers who were very busy and were always wanting to make last-minute reschedules. I found myself not liking surprises like calls canceling times on the spur of the moment or even during our supposed meeting time.
Sometimes I had myself to blame for not knowing Spanish or Japanese. I thought these fellows (and they were all men) were decent potential helpers, but it was difficult to communicate what I needed done and other details. A no-fault lack of connection which I couldn't bridge.
Then there were individuals who were just going into business and didn't have equipment of their own to bring. This could also be a person who had had his truck broken into or stolen and he was rebuilding. I felt bad about this situation, but what to do. I didn't see myself as a branch of the Small Business bureau. I should be more generous in my outlook but I have to admit I expected preparedness.
Then there were the prospects who felt like they were on loan from a botanical garden. They clearly knew a lot – probably more than I did – and prided themselves on telling me what to grow and how to grow them. Where to put the plants, how to fertilize them, how to prune, and how to cluster the plants. I am surely an amateur grower, but since I am paying the bill and living with the result, I want to respect my ignorance.
I have not yet had an outright personality conflict. That will no doubt come probably as I continue doing this search. I guess when it comes down to it I am realizing that this meshing is an interpersonal challenge. I can't imagine – or I don't want to think it is true – that I am the only person who runs into these issues. Patience and determination to finally get it right seems like the only choices. Staying young indefinitely is just not an option. Other ideas?
- Author: Michelle Davis
One of the cheeriest parts of spring, in my opinion, is the Johnny-Jump-Up. No, not the Irish drinking song, but the flower, known officially known as Viola tricolor or Viola cornuta. The white, yellow and purple pansy-like flower is an ancestor of the modern pansy. A hardy perennial it is often grown as an annual. If left for a second year, it will rebloom. While a native of the mountains of Spain and France, it has spread throughout Europe and parts of Asia as well as in North America. Thomas Jefferson planted it at his childhood home in Virginia. Further back, Shakespeare mentioned the flower in his plays Hamlet and The Taming of the Shrew. In Midsummer Night's Dream it was the source of the love potion. Ancient Greek mythology has it that the flower used to be white until it was struck by one of Cupid's arrows. Related to all of those stories, you can see why the flowers have so many other names: hearts ease, ladies' delight, tickle my fancy, heart's delight, wild pansy, Jump-Up-and-Kiss-Me. The flower was used to treat rheumatism, respiratory problems, epilepsy, eczema and even venereal disease. It was also considered a diuretic. It was employed as a yellow and as a green fabric dye.
Viola tricolor is spring through fall, a flowering perennial that will multiply and can reseed and naturalize if left through the winter. In the partial shade, it will bloom from early spring until the first frost. It can become a groundcover. I have planted them straight in the ground, but with our alkaline, clay soils, I have had more success with containers. Johnny-Jump-Ups like neutral to acidic soil. They attract butterflies. They are also edible. I have only eaten them candied on a slice of wedding cake. All I tasted was sugar. But they can be picked from the plant and eaten. They are said to have a minty taste. The taste and scent are strongest in the early morning.
A relative of the Viola tricolor is Viola pedunculata, AKA California golden violet, found in open woodlands, chaparrals and sage scrub along the California coast. I remember seeing this beauty while hiking in the Santa Monica Mountains at Paramount Ranch years ago. The flowers are a deep yellow, almost orange with a dark brown center and bright green, heart-shaped leaves.
- Author: Trisha E Rose