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  • Writer's pictureJulia Watson

Don't Let the Weather Hurt Your Back

orange poppies
Rain on our Iceland poppies

We’re very spoiled here in California. We have sunshine and warmth earlier than many parts of the country, and more days to garden than most regions. In San Jose, where I garden, we have no rain in summer, no sweltering heat, no snow in winter. So when strange weather hits – I’m talking about this year – it’s hard for us to understand.

This year everything in my garden is a month behind its usual time for growing and flowering. I need to plant seedlings for summer in one of our cut flower beds, but the early crop of ranunculus that’s there now hasn’t flowered yet. In other places, it’s time to add new plants or seeds but the ground is too wet to work in. Weeds are popping up everywhere, but at least those can be pulled up easily when the ground is wet.

All of this means I can hurt myself easily if I’m not careful – and so can you. You can get frustrated after being stuck indoors, then you run out on the first dry day and work for hours, bending and straining and trying to make up for lost time. When you’re twenty-two it’s not so much of a problem, but most of us fanatic gardeners are older than that, and we can end up with an aching back or injuries. I speak from experience, so I’m gonna give you some good advice.

· Do some warmup stretches before a work session in the garden.

· Stay standing when possible, to save your knees.

· Buy a stand-up hoe for weeding and learn to use it correctly.

· Buy a cushioned mat or knee pads when you must be on the ground.

· Take breaks often.

· Learn some exercises to strengthen your core, legs and arms so the joints and tendons take less strain.

· Keep your back straight, lift with your legs, not your knees.

Clockwise from upper left: Don at work in early spring (back straight!); Keep a garden chair handy to take a break; Tulip bouquets in 2023; Sweet peas and daffodils from 2022

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