Tips for Staying Safe in the Garden


With summer in full swing, many of us have returned to the garden. There are many health benefits to gardening, however, there are also inherent risks. Whether you are growing beautiful flowers or vegetables, there are steps you can take to protect your hands and keep them healthy.

While it may feel good to get your hands dirty digging in the dirt and pruning your plants, there are inherent risks. Microbes and fungi live in the soil. Even a small cut on your hands can serve as an entry for these to enter your body possibly causing an infection. Wearing gloves while gardening can help to prevent this.
Postural awareness and body mechanics are also important to consider while gardening. Use your larger muscles including your core for lifting larger garden items such as bags of potting soil and heavy planters. Keep the item close to your body and lift with your legs. Avoid lifting, twisting, and throwing heavy or wet materials. Remember to turn your whole body before emptying the contents. If you have a history of back pain or other injury, spread your gardening tasks out over the course of a week to prevent overuse. A stool or even a chair in the garden may ease the stress on your knees. If you kneel while gardening, consider using a kneeling pad. Raised beds can also limit the need for excessive bending and reaching for those with mobility problems.
There are a variety of garden tools to choose from for all your gardening needs. You can find these at your local garden center or with a quick online search. To protect the smaller joints in your hands, use tools with padded thicker handles. You can even DIY and add some foam or tape to the handles of the tools you already have on hand. Avoid bending your wrist in any direction for prolonged periods to avoid wrist and forearm injuries. Arm support cuffs, tools with ergonomically angled handles, extension rods and grabbers are just a few examples of adapted garden tools available. Sustained grip and repetitive movements can cause pain and injury so remember to take breaks! It’s a good idea to treat gardening as a sport and warm up before beginning. Stretching before and after will help to prevent soreness.

The health benefits of gardening are endless. U.S. News & World report recently published an article reporting a few of them (Deborah L. Benzil,MD,FACS,FAANS-May 13,2022). They included boosting your immune system, building stronger bones (osteoporosis prevention), keeping your mind sharp, and improving your mood and your mental health. So, what are you waiting for? Get out there and get your Vitamin D, get in the dirt, and enjoy the fruits of your labor!