Gardening – Plant ’n’ rake without the ache

planting red flower
image © Katarzyna Bialasiewicz

Gardening is a great way to stay active, grow food, and have fun in the sun. But many Canadians sustain injuries that can be easily prevented with a little know-how.

Warm up

Before you begin any physical activity, warming up is a key factor in preventing injury. Take a walk, even on the spot. Ten to 15 minutes should do it. Don’t forget to lift your knees and gently swing your arms.

Stretch before you start

To plant and rake without the ache, do each of these stretches five times. Don’t bounce, jerk or strain. Stretches should be gentle and should not cause pain.

Your wrists

  • Hold one arm out in front of you, palm down.
  • Bend your wrist until the fingers point to the ground.
  • Use your opposite hand to hold this position.
  • Place your hands in “prayer” position and press palms together.
  • Keep your arm straight and place your palm in the “stop” position.
  • Use your opposite hand to hold this position.

Your sides

  • Extend your right arm over your head.
  • Bend to the left from the waist.
  • Hold for 15 seconds; repeat on other side.

Your arms and shoulders

  • Hug yourself snugly.
  • Slowly rotate at the waist as far as is comfortable to the left, then to the right.

Your shoulders

  • Let your arms hang loose.
  • Rotate your shoulders forward. Then rotate back.

Your back

  • In a seated position, bend forward from the hips, keeping your head down.
  • Reach for the ground.

Your thighs

  • Face a wall or tree and support yourself against it with one arm.
  • Bend your right knee and grasp your ankle or pant leg with your left hand.
  • Hold for 15 seconds; repeat on other side.

Your hamstrings

  • Stand and reach your hands to the sky.
  • Then bend at the waist and reach toward your toes.
  • Hold for 15 seconds.

The right moves

Kneel to lighten the load on your back; don’t bend to plant. Use kneepads or a kneeling mat to reduce the strain while you plant and weed. Keep your back straight and take breaks frequently. Change body position often. Alternate between light and heavy chores. Drink lots of water. Most importantly, loosen up before you start out.


Heavy. Light. Heavy. Light. That’s the right way to handle those chores.

Change hands

Take the strain off by changing the position of your hands.

Check your position

And change it often. Kneel, then stand. Or simply sit and relax for a while.

Rake right

Ease the strain on your back by putting one leg in front, the other behind. Switch legs and hands from time to time.

Lift right

Keep your back straight and always bend your knees. To lift something heavy, position yourself close to the object. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart, head up, with your feet and body pointing in the same direction. Carry the load close to your body. Do not lift heavy objects above your waist and avoid heavy lifting immediately after prolonged bending or kneeling.


Dig deeper…

Gardening tips by Joseph E. Fasciani

  • Weeds can get on any gardener’s last nerve, but they are easily dealt with. To make your own weed killing spray, combine the following: a gallon of white vinegar, a cup of table salt and a tablespoon of liquid dish soap. Shake until all the ingredients are mixed, pour into a spray bottle and use as needed.
  • Use old coffee grounds and crushed egg shells; not only do they provide nutrients for your plants, but they also help keep unwanted pests away. Slugs, squirrels and rabbits don’t like coffee or crushed eggshells, which means your plants will be able to grow more easily.
  • Bore 1/4” holes into a plastic 2L bottle to create an efficient and cheap way to irrigate your plants. When the bottle is buried so that the holes are in the roots zone, it provides trickle irrigation on demand and you can place the water by hose directly into the bottle. If aiming the hose stream even under low pressure is difficult, use a cheap plastic funnel in the bottle’s neck.
  • When you’re tending to plants in your garden, the last things you want to deal with are mosquitoes and aphids, but preventing them is pretty easy. Take sliced peels of any citrus fruit and scatter them around your garden. In time, they will also become nutrients for the same plants.
  • Use plastic forks to keep unwanted visitors away. To deter rabbits, rats and squirrels from your brand-new blooms, stick plastic forks, fork-side up, into the ground between all of your plants. This will protect your plants and let them grow in peace.
  • Use clear plastic egg cartons as a miniature greenhouse when starting seeds.

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