Column: Tips for gardening safety

The best time of the year is right around the corner as the weather continues to warm up in Sussex County.

While there are many activities that come with the warm weather, it’s important to consider that jumping into too much, too quickly, could come with pain and consequences. For example, sowing that backyard garden could lead to more time healing indoors on the couch rather than enjoying the splendid sunshine.

During Occupational Therapy Month in April, Beebe’s therapists made a special point to encourage everyone to plan ahead to avoid injury.

Here are some tips to avoid injuries this season when you are getting back into the garden:

• Joints can be susceptible

(1) Stretch before and after you start to work on your garden to warm up your muscles.

(2) Invest in ergonomic gardening tools, including a padded kneeling pad, built-up handles for garden tools and a raised garden bed. Use a wheeled wagon to transport items rather than carrying items.

(3) Use your big muscles in your body to do the lifting. Carry items close to your body and when lifting from the ground, bend your knees and push through your legs to lift the item.

(4) Instead of lifting a large bag of mulch, try to put the mulch into smaller loads so it’s easier on your body.

(5) It is easier on your body to sit while gardening so find a chair/stool that is suitable to your height that will allow you to reach your garden without hurting your back.

(6) Wear gardening gloves to protect your hands.

(7) Protect your skin by wearing a wide-brim hat, sunscreen and insect repellant.

• Conserve your energy

(8) Start with a smaller garden that’s easier to manage and conveniently located near a hose so that you don’t have to go too far to access water.

(9) Take breaks frequently. It is easy to lose track of time, so set a timer, if needed, to allow your body a chance to rest from the work that you are doing.

(10) Split up the work into sections instead of trying to complete a large project in one day. Allot yourself more days than anticipated to complete your project, so that you do not feel rushed. Do not try to do everything in one sitting.

(11) Try to avoid doing a repetitive motion for too long. Work your way around the garden rather than focusing on just one aspect.

(12) Drink a lot of water to keep hydrated.

(13) Try to avoid working in the garden during the heat of the day. Either work in the early morning or late afternoon/evening.

(14) Keep a phone near you in case of emergency.

(15) Relax at the end of the day. Enjoy a shower or bath and remember to stretch again.

Katie Merk, MS, OTR/L has been an occupational therapist with Beebe since 2016. She currently works in the outpatient Rehoboth location and in the inpatient setting at Beebe’s main campus in Lewes. For more information, call any Beebe Physical Rehabilitation Services facility, in Rehoboth at (302) 260-7346, in Millville at (302) 539-6404, and in Georgetown at (302) 217-3000


By Katie Merk, MS, OTR/L

Beebe Physical Rehabilitation Services