Tips and Tricks for Pain-Free Gardening
by Niki Jabbour
by Niki Jabbour


Niki Jabbour is an Ornamental Horticulturist and a writer from Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Fertilized by sea breezes, her gardens are comprised of a colourful mixture of perennials, annuals, herbs and flowering shrubs, with a few patches of clover and chickweed thrown in for good measure.

A member of the Garden Writers Association Niki is also the weekly gardening columnist for the Halifax Daily News and the Chester Clipper.

May 20, 2007

Gardening is North America’s number one outdoor leisure activity and according to the Canadian Physiotherapy Association (CPA), gardening can easily lead to unnecessary muscle strain and injury.

Gardening is an exercise that uses all of the major muscle groups and although it does offer an excellent workout, it also focuses on uncomfortable positions. These positions include kneeling, crouching, bending, lifting and reaching. Therefore, it is very important to take certain precautions prior to spending a day puttering in the garden.

The CPA advises a quick warm-up before picking up your trowel by walking briskly around the block and doing a few stretches. When stretching, focus on the wrists, neck, shoulders, back and legs, holding each stretch for about 10 to 15 seconds.

Another easy way to remain pain-free when gardening is to use tools and equipment that are designed to reduce strain and work. New trends in garden tools include the use of lightweight materials, better hand grips and fiberglass handles on long handled tools.

Over the course of a day, a gardener can spend hours on their knees sowing seeds, pulling weeds and planting perennials. Eliminate the stiffness that can result from extended kneeling by cushioning and protecting the knees with a kneeling pad.

The Lee Valley catalogue boasts several products designed to keep knees clean and free from pain, but the cream of the crop is the Folding Kneeler Stool and Tool Holder (Lee Valley $55.00). This unique piece of equipment combines a waterproof pad on a sturdy steel frame with all your seeds and tools close at hand. When you need to take a break from kneeling, just flip it over and it becomes a handy stool.

The crouch is another position that gardeners know all too well and the Rolling Seat with Tool Tray (Lee Valley $76.50) is designed to offer comfort when picking vegetables, sowing seeds and pulling weeds. It boasts a swiveling seat mounted on a rolling base that moves on large ten-inch pneumatic tires. The tool tray keeps supplies well organized and within easy reach.

The Hound Dog Series of garden products includes the Weed Hound, Bulb Hound, Edge Hound and Turf Hound. Their long-handled design allows them to be used from a standing position, eliminating back and knee strain, while the comfortable grips are easy on the hands.

The Weed Hound (Halifax Seed, approx $29.99) is a durable tool with an easy foot step and unique plunger that makes quick work of deep rooted weeds, including the dreaded dandelion.

Lifting a heavy watering can up to hanging baskets, planters and windowboxes can put unnecessary strain on your back and neck. With a Dramm Rain Wand (Halifax Seed $21.99), irrigating is no sweat. Attach the Rain Wand, which features a 30-inch handle, foam grip and a fingertip shut-off valve to a hose, turn on the tap and water with little effort.

Ergonomics are a big trend in tools and the Ergonomic Hand Tool Set (Lee Valley $42.50) is both durable and comfortable. The cleverly designed handles are larger in diameter than normal and are crafted in a way that allows the strongest arm muscles do the work. The set includes a Garden Trowel, Bulb Trowel and Cultivator.

Many gardeners enjoy the art of container gardening, especially using natural clay or concrete pots, but they can be awkward and difficult to move and arrange. In recent years, many companies have been offering containers crafted from lighter materials to offer a product that weighs less, yet is still natural looking.

Finally, and in my opinion most importantly, after a long day of working in the garden, ease away aches and pains with a selection of soothing bath salts, scrubs, soaks, soaps and lotions.

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