Home & Garden: Darrell Blackwelder: Tips to make gardening less strenuous

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 25, 2018

After a few days’ work in the yard, many of us have one thing in common; we’re sore and can’t function normally for two or three days. My wife and I laid on the sofa in sheer agony just hours after our recent spring lawn cleanup.

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.

Take time to 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.

Be sure to take frequent breaks. During hot and humid weather, it’s important to take breaks.  Work early mornings or late in the afternoon, avoiding the heat of the day.

Use labor-saving devices. Ergonomically correct tools are great for those with a touch of arthritis. Knee pads work wonders for the knee caps, reducing strain from tasks that require constant bending. Padded handled tools with large grips reduce strain of extended gripping. Use soft leather gloves to reduce incidence of blisters.

Maintain tools for maximum ease. Gardening tools should be sharp and in good shape. One 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; 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 and reapply after swimming, toweling dry, or perspiring. Use sunscreen even on hazy or overcast days.

Protect against insect pests. Mosquitoes can make outdoor gardening miserable, especially in late evening. Check yourself regularly for ticks. Use recommended insect repellents when warranted.

Consult your doctor. Sore muscles and aches may be quelled with over-the-counter pain relievers, but you may want to make sure if the pain is persistent. Gardening requires constant physical exertion. Physical exertion coupled with extreme temperatures could spell trouble. Talk to your physician to make sure you’re OK for gardening exercise

Have a realistic plan. Do not try to achieve impossible goals. Save the herculean tasks for times when you have ample help or are in good shape.

Darrell Blackwelder is the retired county extension director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.