Find your regimen to be fit for gardening over the long haul
Natural Gardener columnist Valerie Easton says it takes more than fitness to stay safe in the garden. Here are a few tools and products to help you with the chores.
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Valerie Easton writes in her blog about gardens and the people who make them.
MY ENTIRE fitness motivation, such as it is, comes from wanting to be strong and flexible enough to work long hours in the garden. I never did like to run or go to the gym.
One dog or another has always demanded a long, brisk walk a couple of times a day, so that helps with aerobics. I started practicing yoga almost 40 years ago and have never stopped. Regular downward dogs, twists and planks are why I can still hoist big bags of soil and haven't hurt my back (much) over the many seasons of heavy garden work.
I could hire some of this stuff done, but I also know there's always going to be a big pot I can just picture in a different place, an overhanging branch pruneable only by a precarious stretch, and one big transplanting hole or another to be dug. Yoga helps with balance, as well as building muscles and fortitude. It's supposed to cultivate restraint as well, but maybe that takes more than 40 years of practice.
I've slowly come to realize it takes more than fitness to stay safe in the garden. I'm not much interested in tools and trappings. It's always been about plants for me. But it pays to work smart. Here are a few tools and products I've been using, or would love to use, to keep gardening fun and myself in one piece:
• While this first item isn't exactly essential, nothing eases your mind like having your phone close by when you're expecting a call. And work goes more quickly with a favorite playlist in your ears. A lightweight, indestructible case for your iPhone or iPod, Droid or Blackberry may be your most frequently reached-for garden accessory. The i1015 case from Pelican Products has a built-in cable manager to keep earphones and cords clean and organized, and in case of an errant sprinkler or trowel blade it's waterproof and crushproof (www.pelican.com).
• Getting down to practicalities is what the CobraHead Steel Fingernail is all about, vanquishing weeds with a flick of its evil-looking curved blade. This easily wielded tool can cultivate, scalp, edge, dig, furrow, transplant, dethatch and harvest. It makes quick work of weeding my gravel driveway and working around pavers. The handle is made of recycled plastic, so it's lightweight and feels good in the hand. The CobraHead is available in garden centers and at www.cobrahead.com. For an equally efficient weeder made locally, check out the wooden-handled shrew at www.progardenertools.com.
• If you garden in raised beds, Gardener's Supply Co. (www.gardeners.com) has come up with good-looking, ready-made ones. One type comes in a couple of sizes, and is made of rot-proof cedar with aluminum edges and plenty of holes in the bottom for good drainage. No kneeling or bending required.
• Then there's the cleverly designed "Vegtrug." A single 71-inch-long trug (made of fir) holds 380 quarts of soil with sufficient depth to grow lots of vegetables in a small space; tomatoes thrive in the center; the shallow edges work well for lettuces and herbs. There are even made-to-fit cold frames and covers to protect crops from insects. Also from Gardner's Supply Co.
And if nothing else, you can always turn to the garden-smart strategies I've relied on over the years: To ease cleanup, spread a tarp on the ground before you set to work, keep your clippers and shovel sharp, and take frequent tea breaks.
Valerie Easton is a Seattle freelance writer and author of "petal & twig." Check out her blog at www.valeaston.com.