It started about fifteen years ago; I became religious about a 3pm quitting time. I had to do it because once the garden season came on, I was out like a shot to get as much done as possible in one day, working from sun up to sun down. This after spending months indoors. To say I was sore is an understatement. A full day of moving in ways that are not natural motion, truly more like advanced yoga postures, and in a repetitive way as well. It takes its toll. Plus, when I met Rob, we liked to have a cocktail on Saturdays around 5pm so in order to be dirt-free and coiffed, I had to quit the garden at 3 for primping.
All to the good. Since then, I’ve developed other habits that have helped me stay well while enjoying the garden. Here are some favorites, in no particular order:
1. Gloves. Always. In addition to protecting your hands, a snug-fitting glove helps you grip a tool better and thus avoiding blisters;
2. Hard-toed shoes. I wear short hiking boots in the garden. They are light-weight, breathable, water-repellent, and have great traction on wet lawns. Sometimes when driving about I see people working outdoors in flip-flops, bare feet, even bedroom slippers! I sigh and shake my head;
3. Sunscreen. Getting sunshine is important for health–about forty-five minutes per day is the recommended dose. However, more than that can bring on a color similar to the poppy featured on the top of the page. There are even work clothes made with sunscreen in the weave. Check out a company called Deluth Trading Company; they make clothes for garden girls;
4. Use the right tool for the job. Pointed shovels are for digging; scoop shovels are for moving mulch–and pitchfork. There is a company who make garden tools for girls–Green Heron Tools. I have one of their shovels and it really is great. I also have a stainless steel transplant shovel which is light and perfect for planting small things. Use a saw instead of clippers on wide stems and branches over an inch in diameter to save strain on your wrist and hands. Keep your tools clean and sharp for best use;
5. Keep on rolling along…as in use a cart whenever possible instead of lifting or dragging something heavy. Even though they are smaller than the usual refuse cans, the bins on wheels make the job a whole lot easier. I’m going to invest in some new ones this year myself;
6. Lots of water. For you and your plants! I like to keep my water bottle on the back stoop so when I get thirsty, I have to walk a bit to have some. This keeps me moving and gets me to change position;
7. Vary your techniques and positions. I’ve become a big fan of setting a timer for activities. If you set the timer for ten minutes of weeding, when the bell rings stand and go do some pruning. Or do some gentle stretching after each interval. This makes a big difference in your ability to work comfortably;
8. Insect repellent. I am a magnet for any mosquito in the neighborhood. There are many natural sprays on the market now and in addition, long sleeves and pants as much as you can stand. Plus the long sleeves and pants will keep you from getting scratched on thorny shrubs;
9. Stop for lunch. Something light like fruit or a salad is healthy and refreshing;
10. Rise slowly to a standing position to prevent dizzy spells. Which leads to letting someone know you are in the garden in case you need someone to check on you now and again.
Why does a garden designer care about all of this? Because a healthy garden and healthy gardener is a beautiful thing.