Gardening – En Guarde!
April 2, 2021

It is more than wonderful to see so many beautiful spring flowers everywhere with daffodil heads proudly trumpeting in the breeze and catch the sweet scents from the hedgerows as the cherry plum blossom bursts forth. Our spirits lift as the warmth of the sun returns and a big hello to spring!

With the start of British Summer Time and much welcomed longer days ahead, gardens are noticeably sprouting back to life. So too, comes the desire to tend, cut back and sort out the winter detritus, making way for new growth. Whatever the size of your garden or outside space, love it! You can brighten up a windowsill with flowers and herbs or if you have a larger space, make it an outdoor room; one to enjoy a cup of tea in, an al fresco lunch and much missed BBQs with others. My own garden is a small decked area but over the years, I’ve packed it with plants in pots making it a garden room to enjoy and entertain in. It really is possible to make it into a mini oasis. Last October, I was delighted to be offered an allotment having been on the waiting list, and I had so much fun in the autumn and winter starting preparations for this year’s growing season. It’s a new project for me, as I’ve never had one before and I love it! I still have so much to do but it’s all about taking small steps and having only a little to-do list with each visit.

Gardening and growing your own fruit and vegetables, is so very rewarding, relaxing and good for the soul, allowing us to reconnect with nature and boost our Vitamin D levels. A few words of caution though when gardening, please mind your back! It’s so very easy to hurt your back, shoulder and neck muscles or even damage discs. Try to remember to keep a straight back when gardening; avoid bending over for too long, lifting heavy items and maintain a good posture.

Avoid doing long hours of gardening all in one go. Schedule jobs and set time limits. If a hedge needs cutting back or you need to do some digging, limit how long you do the same repetitive movements for. Ideally, take a short 2-5 minute rest every half hour and a tea break every hour. Setting time limits, rather than setting jobs to do will be more productive, keep your back happy and will help you enjoy gardening minimising injury.

Please avoid twisting, bending and pulling at the same time! These moves together put huge strain on your back, particularly the lower stabiliser muscles, especially if you combine lifting something heavy too. The QL muscles (quadratus lumborum) which sit in the lower back supporting either side of the spine, often over-contract during these moves. Unlike the stomach muscles, which become less eager to do their share of work as we ‘progress through life’ the back muscles are extremely keen to do more than their fair share of work so it’s important to look after them well. Whenever you use your back during manual handling, sitting for a long period, structured strength exercises, DIY or gardening, make sure you take time out to rest and stretch out your back.

Practising Pilates regularly really is a fantastic way of maintaining flexibility, keeping your muscles strong, improving efficiency of movement and the 34 matwork exercises, practised correctly and regularly balances the body and mind. Pilates strengthens core muscles, working the body from the inside to out.

So, enjoy and make the most of your outside space this spring and Easter but remember to take lots of tea breaks and avoid doing too much gardening in one day!