Gardening Safely

By: Julie Barnes

It's now summertime, summertime. Longer daylight hours mean more time to garden. This month, I want to share informative advice from The American Gardener, July/August 2015, Volume 94, Number 4 Issue, "Staying Safe in the Garden" by Kris Wetherbee, p.36-39. He obtained his info from a doctor and a number of gardening veterans to make us safe gardeners with a little preparation, planning, prudence, and a hefty dose of common sense.

PRUNING INJURIES-One wrong cut with pruning shears can cause serious injury if you are not paying attention to the task at hand. Always use the right tool, for instance, don't try to cut large branches with pruning shears when a pruning saw is necessitated.

LADDER ACCIDENTS-From time to time gardeners may need to use a ladder. Follow the manufacturer's precautions and keep safety in mind: place the ladder on a flat, stable surface, face the ladder when climbing or descending; never use the very top of the ladder as a step; and have someone at the bottom to make sure that the ladder does not slip.

CUTS, SCRAPES, BUMPS AND BRUISES- Wear the proper gloves, especially when working around thorny plants or jagged rocks. Be aware of where your gardening tools are when you are working. A rake left with the tines facing upward can be quite YEOW if stepped upon and the handle thumps you in the face. Rakes should be left with the tines facing downward on the ground or else turned back to face what they are leaning up against when upward. The bacterium that cause tetanus, Clostridium tetani, is found in soil, mulch, and animal manure and can enter the body even through a small cut. Bandaging preexisting wounds, wearing gloves, and washing hands are common sense measures.

BITES AND STINGS-A wide range of biting or stinging insects from mosquitos to caterpillars can cause intense itching, swelling, and sometimes welts. Don't swat at stinging or biting insects, or wear bright colors, perfumes or scented products that can attract them. Stay away from ground dwelling bees' nests such as yellow jackets. Apply bug repellants if needed.

RASHES AND ALLERGIC REACTIONS-Plant-induced rashes range from mild itching, swelling, to something far more serious. In 50 percent adults, poison ivy, oak, and sumac containing the resinous sap uroshiol causes the most allergic reactions. Immediately wash the affected area with a grease-cutting dishwashing soap under cool water as hot water will spread the rash by opening up your skin's pores. Clean anything else that has come in contact with you and the plant, including clothing, shoes, or tools.

REPETITIVE AND OVERUSE INJURIES- Repetitive movements such as raking, digging, pruning and weeding can put undue strain on specific muscles leading to inflammation, tenderness and joint pain. A short warm up or walk followed by stretching exercises can significantly reduce injury. Ergonomically designed tools with cushioned handles can minimize strain and fatigue. Know your limits! Take frequent breaks and rotate tasks every 30-60 minutes. Switch sides when using a shovel, rake, or other tool so that you don't use one muscle group over and over again. Avoid the gardening marathon.

KNEE KNOCKERS AND BACK BREAKERS-Prepatellar bursitis is often seen as a gardening injury from spending too much time in the kneeling position. A soft foam pad or cushioned kneepads will help reduce knee pressure for garden tasks that involve kneeling as will taking breaks to stand up and walk around every 30 minutes or so. Overuse, repetitive motion, and lifting incorrectly can also lead to back pain and strain. So, the key is to maintain good posture: keep the spine straight; bend with your knees not the waist, and apply your leg muscles when hoisting something up. Use a wheelbarrow or garden cart to move bags of garden soil, manure, or other heavy objects.

SUN SENSE- In the summer heat, gardening and sweating go hand and hand. OSHA recommends drinking at least one pint of water every hour. Work early in the morning or in the evenings and take regular breaks in the shade.