When working in the garden, putting stress on your back is an all too common occurrence.
Yet by adhering to one cardinal rule, garden back strain can be completely avoided. Always keep your back straight. If you can remember never to bend at the waist, no matter what garden task is at hand, your back will be safe.
What this means, in fact, is that planting of seeds, ground covers and annual flowers, as well as vegetable and strawberry harvesting and all weed pulling, should be done on your knees. Otherwise, back strain is inevitable. Knee pads are part of every serious gardener’s wardrobe.
Hoeing, raking and shoveling should also be done with a straight back. What this means is that whatever is being hoed, raked or shoveled should be close to the trunk of your body. When you stretch out to rake leaves or put your shovel into a pile of mulch that is more than a few inches away from your center of gravity, you are putting stress on your back. When you put your shovel into the ground to dig a hole, you should be in an uncompromisingly vertical position; your foot should go straight down on the back of the shovel blade.
Always lift with a straight back. If the object to be moved is heavy, ask for assistance. Before lifting, bring the object as close as possible to your body and tighten your stomach muscles without holding your breath. Lift with your legs.
When putting objects or shoveling into a wheelbarrow, avoiding bending down. Squat and bend your knees but not your back. Put the wheelbarrow as close as possible to whatever is being lifted or shoveled into it. Distribute loads evenly in the wheelbarrow bed.
When pushing a wheelbarrow or lawn mower, do so with a straight back and arms close to your sides.
WHAT’S NEW: This is the time of year when lists of new plants for the new year are readily available.
When it comes to plants, the fascination for miniaturization will probably never end. The main reason for this is that there are more and more people and less and less room to grow plants. In addition, there is a general feeling that small plants require less maintenance than large ones, although this is not necessarily the case.
Dwarf alstroemerias are slowly becoming available and these will definitely be hot sellers. The new alstroemerias (Peruvian lilies) are long-blooming and have a compact growth habit, being no more than 12-18 inches tall and ideal for both entry beds and containers. There are also mini-cyclamens, encountered primarily as potted gift plants, but already making their way into the garden bed. Miniature, ground cover and shrub roses that grow not more than a few feet tall gain in popularity from year to year.
Plants with multicolor leaves are also appearing with greater frequency. Take Amaranthus Tricolor Splendens, an annual with lance-shaped foliage in red, gold and green. This tough bedding plant grows easily from seed to a height of nearly 2 feet. It is not put off by poor soil conditions. In fact, its colors are most pronounced where soil fertility is slow. Then there is Abelia grandiflora Gold Dust, a fountain-like shrub with gold variegated foliage in the spring, which becomes flushed with pink as the weather warms. Not to mention Euphorbia tirucalii Sticks of Fire, a succulent plant with pencil-like leaves that are colored in green, orange, and crimson. Sticks of Fire is on display in the botanical garden at the Getty Museum.
TIP OF THE WEEK: Be on the lookout for a new hybrid coleus that deters cats and dogs. The deterrence comes from the foliage, which dogs and cats can smell from six feet away. The plants thus form a natural scent barrier if positioned along the edges of flower beds. Even so, only by rubbing the foliage between their fingers can humans detect this potent scent.
Photo credit: ‘Playingwithbrushes’ / Foter.com / CC BY