Homes

Keep safe in the garden

Gardening may seem a relatively benign pastime, but the odd threat still lurks amongst the greenery – if you’re not careful. Bending and twisting while lifting is a classic scenario for putting one’s back out. Slipping with the secateurs isn’t pleasant to think about and then there are those pesky rose thorns, which I once had to have surgically removed from a finger! But gardening is still an immensely enjoyable activity, good exercise and great for staving off the winter blues

WARo UP EXERCISES

As absurd as it sounds, warm-up exercises are actually a very good idea! Going right from the couch to intense gardening risks major muscle sprains. As a precaution, take an amble around the garden to survey what chores need to be done and formulate a work plan. Stretch as you go to gradually warm up your muscles. Don’t forget to stretch after your gardening session as well – this helps to lengthen and relax tired, overworked muscles, allowing you to function normally the next day!

USE A BUCKET

A bucket is very useful thing to keep handy in the garden, especially if you’re planning some intensive weeding in a small area. Sitting on an upturned bucket or low stool will help to ease the strain caused by long periods of bending and stretching. Always brace yourself by setting your feet slightly wider than your hips and place a cushion on top for extra comfort.

I find that simply squatting is quite comfy too – but it takes a bit of practice and you do need to be reasonably agile!

LoNG REACH

Look for long-handled tools, such as long-handled trowels and hand forks, which increase your reach without a lot of bending. My favourite is the longhandled Niwashi, a fantastic traditional Japanese gardening tool with a sharp, angled blade that slices through the soil with a pulling action. It’s great for weeding (especially around rose bushes), chopping weeds to dig them back in, turning over soil, mixing in compost and planting small plants.

SPRAY SENSE

When spraying chemicals, cover up fully with a mask, gloves, raincoat and waterproof leggings to protect both your airways and skin from toxic or allergenic sprays. Try to use spray on a still day and stay upwind of the droplets.

PRUNING & PRICKLES

Safety goggles or sunglasses are essential to protect your eyes from wood shavings when pruning overhead branches with a saw. They are also very useful in protecting eyes from sword-shaped leaves, which have often caught me unawares! If you get spiked by a thorn, remove the offender immediately and treat the area with an anti-bacterial ointment. If you can’t see anything, treat it anyway – you may have been nipped by a whitetail spider.

RAISE THE BAR

For those with bad backs or reduced mobility, raising garden beds will greatly improve your gardening abilities. Custom design raised beds according to your needs. Consider the most comfortable working height, whether you’ll be able to reach to the centre of the beds, width of surrounding pathways for easy access, and the option of a timber capping, which looks attractive and doubles as a seat.

LEGIoNNAIRES’ DISEASE

Legionella bacteria is a potentially harmful organism inhabiting soil, potting mixes and homemade compost. It may be inhaled through water vapour or dust and presents a risk mainly for smokers, drinkers and the elderly, as well as people with existing respiratory illnesses or weakened immune systems.

Take precautions by:

Lightly watering dry soil or potting mixes with a gentle spray.

Wearing gloves and a dust mask.

Reading warning labels on bagged soil mixes.

opening bags of soil products carefully and not inhaling them.

oaking sure potting sheds etc are well ventilated.

Washing hands thoroughly after gardening or handling soil products.

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