Gardening is a real joy for many. Achieving a beautiful luscious green lawn, harvesting a successful vegetable crop, or being able to admire flourishing flowers and healthy hedges brings a sense of real pride – especially when you consider the hours of dedicated hard work it has taken to achieve.
However, gardening does present some potential injury risks. Records show that around 300,000 individuals in the UK attended A&E after having an accident in the garden in 2004 - and 87,000 were injured whilst gardening.
Following some basic tips and preventative measures, you can minimise the risk of injury whilst gardening and be free to enjoy your piece of paradise!
Preparing and staying comfortable
Many gardening tasks like weeding and planting can involve long periods of crouching in awkward positions on your hands and knees, bending down repeatedly and carrying out lots of small repetitive actions. This can cause a lot of discomfort and can even result in injury, unless you take appropriate steps to prevent it.
Warm up before beginning any gardening work. Do some basic stretches, and take regular breaks, consuming plenty of water.
Avoid constant repetitive work over long periods and adjust your position regularly. If you're uncomfortable, change your position to a more comfortable one.
Lift loads correctly – If you must lift something, remember to bend your knees and keep your back straight. Use a wheelbarrow to move loads if possible or request help from a family member or friend.
The right tool for the job
Use tools with long handles, extensions or telescopic arms so you don't have to bend down so often or over-reach up too far.
Keep small tools in a holster attached to your belt so you don't have to bend down repeatedly to pick them up.
Use hoses or sprinklers to water your garden so you don't have to carry a heavy watering can. If you must use a watering can, only fill it up half way.
Wear the correct Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to avoid a serious injury when working in the garden. This is particularly important when operating machinery such as mowers, strimmers, chainsaws and hedge-trimmers. PPE can include steel-toe caped boots, goggles, ear-defenders, gloves etc.
Best gardening practices for avoiding injury
Kneel on a kneeling pad rather than standing and bending forward at the waist to reach the ground whilst planting or weeding etc.
Plant slow growing shrubs as these are easier to maintain than annuals and herbaceous perennials
Grow plants in containers, as these are easier to reach. Many vegetables such as lettuce, potatoes and courgettes will grow successfully in pots.
Try to prevent weeds from growing as much as possible to avoid the need to bend down and deal with them so often. (See our blog on Preventing Lawn Weeds.)
You may feel stiff and a little sore after you've finished a spot of gardening. To help combat this pain you should:
- Go for a short walk to increase blood flow
- Complete some basic stretches, breathing deeply and drinking some water
- Apply ice to any particularly sore areas to help with pain relief
- Have a rest and relax. Sit down, a cup of tea and a couple of biscuits... sit back and admire your work!
Spread the workload
Remember to spread the gardening work out over a couple of days or weekends. Don't rush it and try to get it all done in one day. This is to benefit your health and prevent injury - but remember, gardening is supposed to be a leisurely, enjoyable activity, not a mad panic to get it done as quickly as possible! Your garden will also benefit from you taking your time – best results come from working on the garden little but often, rather than blitzing it in one go.