In Bloom

Gardening is perfectly safe - or is it?
by Patrick Hirtle

Properly storing your gardening tools and pruning implements can help to keep them in fine working order while, at the same time, saving you from unnecessary medical expenses.
 When you think about dangerous pastimes you could participate in during the summer months, chances are your mind turns to activities such as whitewater rafting, rock climbing, Leprechaun hunting or even competitive dodgeball.

 But the reality is that even something as simple as working at home in your backyard garden can be a major detriment to your physical well-being if you don't take care of yourself.

The so-called 'death hobby'?

 Gardening has plenty of great benefits.

 Getting outside in the fresh air and doing lots of bending, crouching, lifting and moving is good for your body.

 It's the kind of activity that can be enjoyed by those in their younger years with full range of their physical assets or those who are aging and facing life with increasingly limited mobility.

 But there are hazards that you need to be aware of, and they range from very basic, environmental things that you are exposed to in your garden, to the implements that you may employ in keeping your yard pristine and presentable.

The sun: harbinger of doom

 It's the ultimate conundrum - without the sun, your plants will not thrive and bloom, but because of the sun, you could be put in danger.

 With the high ultraviolet (UV) indices common in the summertime, being out in the sun for an extended period of time without adequate protection is, at best, a dangerous flirtation with disaster.

 And it's simple to protect yourself.

 The application (and subsequent reapplication) of sunscreen with a sun-protection factor of at least 30 - if not greater - will keep you from turning red under the glare.

 You can also look into UV-resistant clothing. The newer fabrics that are available today are often lightweight, bright, fashionable and designed to keep you looking like the sexy gardener you are, all while keeping you safe from the sun's damaging rays.

B'Lyme, matey

 Just as clothing covering all your limbs and appendages can protect you from the sun, it can also save you from other elements of nature.

 There are the common pests of summertime - blackflies and mosquitos, for instance - which would love to get a taste of you.

 Other bad boys of nature, including ticks, can do the same, exposing you to potentially devastating health issues, such as Lyme disease.

 All this can be completely avoided by simply covering up.

Afternoon delight?

 So, after you've done your stretching to limber up and prepare your body for all the movement associated with gardening, you head to your shed.

 You plan on pulling out your shears to do some trimming of the grapevine in the back yard.

 Only half paying attention - because you're talking over your shoulder to your neighbour about the price of petunias in Portugal - you reach into the storage area in your shed and - GAH!

 It turns out that you hadn't properly stored your shears and you're now on your way to the hospital - a perfectly good afternoon for gardening lost.

 All this could've been avoided by ensuring a few simple things.

 First, that your shears were stored safely, with the blades tightly closed and pointed in a downward direction.

 Second, you could even go one step further by purchasing special protective cases, which not only keep you from accidentally shearing yourself, but can also help protect your blades from the elements, giving them longer life.

The mow problems you've got

 Keeping your implements of mass gardening safely stored and intelligently employed is important and the same thing applies when it comes to your lawn care.

 After an hour or more of pushing a mower around a yard, a lot of people get careless when the mower clogs - they don't think twice about reaching down to try to clear the grassy clog, not even thinking about the ramifications of a motor-powered blade suddenly reactivating.

Summer time

 All this, of course, is not to frighten you or deter you from gardening and yard work this warm season.

 It is just a simple reminder that some preparation and understanding the task you're undertaking can go a long way to ensuring that you stay healthy and can continue gardening for the foreseeable future.

posted on 06/01/10