When Working Close to the Ground
- Bend from hips, not the waist.
- Keep the chin off the neck or chest.
- Keep the back straight.
- Work close to the body, the further away from the body the arms are, the rounder the back will be.
- Avoid twisting sideways: face you work area directly, for most people the muscles for lateral movements are weaker than those for forward movement.
- If kneeling hurts, use a cushion or knee pads. Consider trying a padded kneeler that doubles as a stool. Knee with one knee on the cushion and other bent at 90 degrees with the foot on the ground. Change position often.
- Avoid working close to the ground with raised planters or beds. The height of a bed should be 24 inches for wheelchair gardeners or 30 inches for someone who wants to stand and has difficulty bending and reaching. Telescoping tools can be helpful.
- Avoid wheel-barrows; a two-wheeled garden cart causes less strain.
- Try to push rather than pull.
- Lift with the legs, not the back.
- Know how much weight one can manage before lifting an object.
- Hold objects close to the body. Objects feel heaver when held further away from the body.
- Distribute loads over stronger joints or larger surface areas, for example use palms of the hands or forearms to carry, not the fingers.
- Consider using a child’s wagon for moving bags of soil or fertilizer around the garden.
Creating a Comfortable Work Environment
- Keep tools handy. Use a tool, belt, carpenter’s apron, fisherman’s’ or photographer’s vest, a shopping bag, or a cart to hold tools. Take only what is needed for the current task,
- Have convenient water sources to avoid carrying watering cans or hoses too far,
- Consider a hose caddy that lets the hose roll to the plants,
- Consider leaving soaker hose in place, and turn the water on as needed,
- If installing or using an irrigation system, avoid overhead sprinklers that lose water through evaporation. See Using Water Wisely in the Garden for more water and back saving ideas.
- Make garden paths wide and plant beds narrow. Wide paths allow movement if carts and wheelchairs. Narrow beds avoid back strain when weeding.
Next up in this series, Ergonomics for Gardeners, Part 4 will continue with creating a safe and comfortable work environment, including references for more information.