“I’ve doubled the size of my garden, which is a lot of work, but I love it. I mostly feel it in my back, particularly weeding. By the time I stand up, my back’s killing me. What would you suggest?”
Of course it’s easy to get caught up in something you love. Just be mindful of your body mechanics.
If at all possible, use a low stool so you work from a sitting position rather than kneeling. The angle will put less strain on your back.
Next, work as close to your body as possible. Pulling weeds at arm’s length puts your back in a vulnerable position.
The problem is that weeds are so tempting. You’re sitting, comfortably pulling up weeds next to you. But the next one’s a little farther away, and the next’s a little farther yet, until pretty soon you’re stretching as far as you can without moving your seat.
That stretch and pull puts lots of pressure on your lower back. You might not feel it the first time, but repeat for an hour and you can really hurt.
Rather than stretch and strain the small of your back, move your butt! Pick up your seat and plant yourself next to the weed. Keep your elbows close to your body. That will improve your biomechanics and help protect your back.
Also, take breaks and switch jobs. It’s way too easy to get caught up with weeding, remaining bent over until that last weed is gone. Two hours later you can’t straighten up. Instead, keep switching chores—maybe a little weeding, then a little shoveling, so you keep changing the muscles you use.
And between each chore, stretch. About to do something that will tax your muscles? Stretch first. Stretch, then Strength.
Of course, the better shape you’re in, the better you can garden without hurting yourself. Check out some of the earlier posts on core muscles. Your back will thank you.
And while you’re at it, here’s a link to Mike Nowak’s gardening post on keeping weeds out of your garden in the first place.