Gardening without Pain

What a man needs in gardening is a cast-iron back, with a hinge in it. ~Charles Dudley Warner

Spring is here! Many of us are getting back into the garden after a winter of ,…shall I say hibernation??  Since our backs don’t have hinges, we need to take a few precautions, before getting into the strenuous jobs in the garden. Whether it’s simply wearing gloves and protective eyewear or strengthening and stretching muscles, a few tips will hopefully help you protect yourself from garden gremlins.

Keeping fit and warming up
Yoga is a great way of exercising and strengthening your muscles and preventing injury when gardening. “Just few simple poses, says Carolyn Masuda, a yoga teacher in Fullerton, CA, “will tone the legs, stomach, back, the whole body.”

She stoops to conquer
Cheryl, of Oakhurst is sadder but wiser, after a month-long bout with back strain and is determined not to let it happen again. She believes it was from digging, a common cause of injury in the garden, and now calls her new rose area the ‘Garden of Pain’!

She now stoops using her legs instead of her back when digging and also makes a conscious effect to dig with her right foot instead of the left, she says, which helps her back. To lift rocks, like many of us do here in the foothills, she uses a dolly, and then rolls it to where she needs the rocks to go.

*See this entertaining, and informative video, courtesy of The Horse Tail Trails Team, for ways to dig without hurting your back!

Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it. ~Author Unknown

Raking, without aching
The best rakes are wide
Wear a sturdy pair of gloves when you rake
Keep your back straight and don’t stoop
Rake when wind is calm and when the leaves are dry

One ‘back challenged’ gardener, Marcie, uses a small tarp, about four feet by six feet. On the short end, she ties a rope through the grommets so after raking leaves onto the tarp, she can drag the tarp to the compost pile, instead of bending down. What a neat idea!

Another great video from Irene at The Horse Tail Trails Team.

In poison oak areas, keep your feet
One sad gardener, who shall remain nameless, was clipping the poison oak whips growing up around her oak trees and sat on the damp ground to make the job easier. She discovered to her dismay that the nastiness of poison oak can soak through clothing and ended up with an awfully uncomfortable rash.

One tip for preventing contact with poison oak is to apply any oil-based lotion to your arms, wrists and ankles, which prevents any further poison oak oil from reaching the skin. Logical, no?

On Facebook, I asked the question, “Any gardening injuries?” and Clare from Curbstone Valley Farm says:
“I gave myself a black eye. I lost my footing on a slope due to our soft loose soils, and went head first down the slope. I landed on the edge of a shovel blade, which gave me a beaut of a black eye, and a small cut near my eyelid. I felt like such a clutz! Gardening on steep slopes can be challenging to say the least!”

My friend Cheryl did the classic…stepped on hoe and it wacked her in the head.

Tracy offered this, “My Mom got bitten on the finger by a spider when she didn’t shake her garden gloves out before putting them on.”

Amanda says, “No injury stories but I’ve been spooked a time or two….the last time was when I found a foot sticking out from behind a piece of wood….turned out to be an opossum that fell & got himself stuck between the board & brick wall.

Baby Northern Pacific Rattlesnake Crotalus oreganus oreganus

Baby Northern Pacific Rattlesnake, Crotalus oreganus oreganus

I think stress can be injurious, Amanda! I know there are snakes on my property and I try not to let it worry me, believing that they hear me coming, way before I see them. However, the grandkiddies reported seeing this baby rattlesnake on the retaining wall, (the sprig of rosemary shows how small it was, about the size of a Ritz cracker) outside our front door.

Snakus rubberus, so I stay aware

Snakus rubberus, set out on my sidewalks so I stay aware. Works!



I paled I’m sure as I had just been up and down that bank weeding and planting.

Last Fall, I saw two, one 4 foot long gopher snake, which startled me, but I left him alone to do his work., and a tiny, but surprising long garter snake on the patio. I put out these rubber snakes to remind me that I’m not alone out here. (My friends hate these!)

One last tip:

Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Purpurea'

Euphorbia amygdaloides 'Purpurea' Beware of its sap!

When clipping and pruning any plant with white, milky sap (Euphorbia, especially), assume that it is an irritant and wear eye protection, avoiding any contact with your skin. There is an alarming story behind this tip which involves two visits to a hospital!

Euphorbia myrsinites Myrtle spurge

Euphorbia myrsinites, Myrtle spurge has irritating sap to some.

Again, I won’t say who, but will add that during that particular weekend, our unfortunate guests awoke to an empty house because we’d left in the middle of the night to go to emergency. They had to lock the door behind them when they left.


So, get back into the garden and stay safe.  be sure to post your new garden projects at Flea Market Gardening on Facebook.  ~~ Sue

Categories: Gardening, Spring gardening | Tags: , , , , | 10 Comments

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10 thoughts on “Gardening without Pain

  1. Boy howdie! I would add (and I may write a post about this) that hard working muscles can become sore in the most lingering way if depleted of minerals. Hydrating with a good “sports drink”, (preferably home made) or sweet tea (high in potassium) is important. I have made the mistake of relying on good old water alone and found myself sore day after day.

    • Thanks for the heads up on the type of drinks that help! Thanks Sue for you informative article. I have already uncovered two snakes. They were small but I hate snakes!!!

    • Pege

      The sports drink info is helpful. I’m not an “athlete” by any stretch of the imagination. Hadn’t realized that might apply to gardening :) I’ve only started using them and I think I see a difference after a hot time in the old yard :) Thank you.

  2. The appropriate choice of footwear is important. I was rearranging some worm composting bins made from those plastic storage-type containers. Unfortunately, my choice of footwear that day was a pair of flip-flops. The bottom of the bin caught on the top of my foot and ripped the big toe nail nearly off. Once I had stopped writhing in pain I had to take the nail the rest of the way off since it was standing up at a 90 degree angle. Needless to say I have never worn flip-flops to do ANY type of gardening since then. Did you know it takes an entire year to grow back a toe nail? Lesson (painfully) learned.

  3. My memorable gardening accident was one February when we were having an abnormally warm spell here in NY, I decided to start cleaning out the dead stalks from my garden. I grabbed one stalk when suddenly, the petiole punctured my thumb. It felt like it went down to my bone and broke off somewhere inside.

    I tried all weekend (because of course, emergencies only happen on the weekend), to get the splinter out, to no avail. I couldn’t even see it, although I certainly could feel it. My thumb knew it was there because it swelled up like crazy. On Monday, I went to the doctor, who thought I had actually gotten the splinter out earlier and sent me back home. I returned to him a couple of days later, when things had only gotten worse. Long story short, I eventually had my thumb operated on by a plastic surgeon to remove the splinter, which was indeed by the bone.

    Needless to say, I learned to wear gardening gloves and urge my garden friends to wear them, also.

    • Yikes, Beth! I always wear gloves now when cutting down Black eyed Susan stalks. They have those teeny tiny hair like sticker that you can feel but not grasp with tweezers. Who knew gardening was so dangerous? ~~ Sue

  4. Judy

    Thank you for the info on the spurge..I have been wondering why my hands were getting blisters on them..I will make sure I have my gloves on from now on….mystery solved……

  5. Pingback: Marie’s Rust Garden « Flea Market Gardening

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