Laid Up

“Hello there. It’s been a while. Not much. How ’bout you?” (England Dan tune)

Seriously, we don’t realize just how integrated our back musculature and spinal column is to our lives until it doesn’t work right. And if you are a large scale gardener, it can be downright devastating to “gettin’ ‘er done”–especially during harvest season. All that bending,squatting and lifting is *right out* for now. Luckily, my youngest son, Niels,  has come to stay with me during September and has taken on all the tasks that a back disabled person should not do.

He has picked tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, beans and okra, brought in grapes and pears. Assisted with canning and freezing. Vacuumed, walked dogs, helped with dinner making.  Since I can’t stand upright for more than 20 minutes without back stress (increasing muscle tightness), his being here has been a life saver and I have seen a steady decrease in back spasms and associated pains because of him standing in.  So, Dr. prescribed Naproxen, time and Niels are my meds for now.

When discomfited, I search the Internet for answers. How does a gardener cope with back issues? One needs to distinguish between advice for chronic and acute back problems, of course. There’s plenty of advice on prevention, but not too much that I want to hear about what to do when in the throes of discomfort.

Here is what I learned :

1.Gardening is exercise. Warm up with gentle stretches.

2. Use safe postures for lifting! Don’t use your back muscles–use your thighs and butt! Keep  STRAIGHT from the neck to the end of the back. Bend your knees and hinge at the hip.

3. Take breaks.

4. Segment your garden to-do’s into time segments–not task completions.

5. Scale back.

6. Go low maintenance.

7. Generous mulch is your friend.

8. Arrange your outdoor space for Vertical Gardening–when standing is the most comfortable

9. Use a potting bench or similar “furniture” to plant while standing

10. Use more (lightweight) containers in your plans.

11. Go for raised beds and planting tables

12. Use specialized tools–especially long handled tools.

13. Golf caddy with wheels can be used to tote tools

14. Heavy duty padded kneelers can be of use if you are able to get up and down OK

15. Garden carts are more balanced than wheelbarrows since they have 2 wheels rather than 1.

16. Scooters with baskets may be of use

17. Wagon dolly can help lift.

18. Get help from family, friends or hire assistance.