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Staying Safe in the Garden this Summer 

Catherine Pegram

When it’s not blazing hot, getting out in the garden can be a good way to relax and get some exercise.But it’s also a good way to get hurt, if you’re not careful. A local doctor and gardening expert say it’s easy to stay safe, with a just a few simple techniques.John Jemison with the UMaine Cooperative Extension Office in Orono loves digging up dirt, even if – at times – his body doesn’t. “I’ve been gardening all of my life and I have herniated discs and tendonitis, so I have to really think about what I’m doing in the garden. But I don’t want to give up gardening because it’s such a great activity.”Dr. Donald Krause says, “I see patients come in with tendonitis from having grabbed something too hard or repetitive motions when pulling at weeds.”Krause is a rheumatologist at Saint Joseph Hospital in Bangor. He says garden injuries are real and painful. But paying attention to the way you garden – like how you pick up a bucket of water – can help you from getting hurt.Jemison says “I try to get down and pick it up this way with my legs and not my back. That will help me, hopefully, reduce the strain on that back disc.”Jemison says the right tool for the right job is another way to help your garden and your body stay healthy.”If I go and shovel with this shovel and I’m digging up compost piles and doing this all day, I’m going to get a bit more strain on my elbows with this tool than I would with this tool.”Krause says adaptive tools can also help patients with more severe joint limitations. “Some of my patients have really low stools they sit on and garden by sitting and weeding, not on their hands and knees but by sitting.”Jemison says, “When we’re over 50 it’s a rare day that you don’t have something that kind of hurts or doesn’t feel quite good. So just think about it, honor that it’s there and then work around it or work with that injury and you can garden for a lifetime.”It’s also important to stay hydrated when you garden.Dr. Krause says that’s especially true if you’re older, because it’s easier to get overheated. So be sure to limit the amount of time you spend in the sun.