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Blackwelder: Don’t hurt yourself gardening

SALISBURY ó The planting frenzy is now upon us, with retail outlets bombarded with home gardeners anticipating a colorful summer and an abundance of vegetables.
After a few daysí of work in the garden, most have one thing in common ó we aren’t able to function normally for two or three days from over-exertion.
Being somewhat dormant for a relatively long winter causes unused muscles to become stiff and tight. Over-exertion and soreness take much of the pleasure out of spring gardening. Below are a few tips that may make gardening efforts less painful.
Stretch before strenuous work. Athletes stretch and warm up before entering their field of battle. Home gardeners should do likewise when battling weeds and planting.
Take frequent breaks, especially during hot and humid weather. Work early mornings or late in the afternoon, avoiding the heat of the day.
Use labor saving devices. Those with a touch of arthritis should use ergonomically correct tools. Knee pads work wonders for the knee caps, reducing strain from tasks that require constant bending. Padded-handle tools with large grips reduce strain of extended gripping. Use soft leather gloves to reduce incidence of blisters.
Use proper tools for the job. Tools should be sharp and in good shape. You may have to read instructions to learn how to properly use garden equipment.
Protect your skin. Wear a hat when working outdoors. Broad-brimmed hats reduce chance of melanoma (skin cancer) to the face and neck. Baseball caps offer minimal protection ó be sure to use sunscreens on the ears and neck. Sunscreens are beneficial in reducing harmful rays of the sun. Use sunscreen and lip balm with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher. Apply a generous amount of sunscreen (about a palmful) and reapply after swimming, toweling dry or perspiring. Use sunscreen even on hazy or overcast days.
Protect exposed areas from insect pests with repellents. Mosquitoes can make outdoor gardening miserable, especially in late evening. Check yourself regularly for ticks.
Sore muscles and aches may be quelled with over-the- counter pain relievers. Consult your family doctor if there is any doubt about which pain reliever to take.
Consult your doctor if you are unsure about your health. Gardening is hard labor requiring extreme physical exertion in some cases. Physical exertion coupled with extreme temperatures could spell trouble.
Have a realistic plan. Donít try to achieve impossible goals. Save the herculean tasks when you have ample help or are in good shape.
Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. Learn more about Cooperative Extension events and activities by calling 704-216-8970 or online at www.rowanextension.com
www.rowanmastergardener.com
rowan.ces.ncsu.edu

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