Taking Care of Your Body

This Summer has been one of the busiest in recent years here at Surfing Hydrangea.  Contractor sales have been higher than ever and retail business is also strong.  For me, it’s been strange to not be at the nursery, in the thick of things, during the busiest part of the year.

As many of you know, I have been out of commission since the beginning of June.  I started back to work the second week of August after two months off.  What seemed to be just another sore back this spring, shifted into extremely painful sciatica issues in late may.  Apparently I badly herniated one of the disks in my lower back and ended up having back surgery in June.

It really gets one thinking about how our physical bodies are connected to our livelihood in the green industry.  For me, seasons of spring pruning, garden maintenance and fall clean-ups really did a number on my body.  Add a few years of nursery work, wrenching heavy boxwood up out of the chips and moving large containerized plants all over the yard and VOILA! Stuck on the floor, laying on my side with a pillow between my knees for two months when I could have been selling plants!

I’m a shining example of what NOT to do.  I seldom paid any attention to how I lifted things.  I worked hard, and not very smart.  My body has paid the price.  Please, please please, take care of yourself out there!

  • Avoid twisting when lifting heavy objects like buckets of mulch.  When possible, use a wheel barrow instead.
  • Try to bend at the knees and use your legs to lift, instead of bending at the waist and rounding your back.

  • Avoid bending for long periods.  If the shell driveway needs to be weeded, put the whole crew on it for half an hour instead of sending out one person to work on it for four hours.
  • Break up monotonous tasks that involve bending with other work that allows you to straighten your back.  i.e. Alternate cleaning the day lilies with deadheading the tall butterfly bush.
  • Landscaping is hard work, and often a little frantic.  It’s so important to move steadily forward, but avoid running around the job site.  The likelihood of tripping on an errant rake is much higher if you aren’t paying attention to your feet.
  • Strain caused by repetitive motions is cumulative. Try to limit repetitive motions if possible, or break them up.  i.e We know that gardeners have to bend over to cut down ornamental grasses in the fall.  But, do we need to send out a crew to cut down all the grasses in the customer list for an entire week?  Consider breaking it up so that crew members can recover from the strain, while continuing to work on other tasks, like fall pruning or fencing.
Those of us who are out there, year after year, really love our jobs!  Pay attention to how you use your body.  If you are mindful, you can garden as long as you want.  But trust me, if you aren’t mindful, there is a distinct possibility that your body won’t let you.
-Brad MacDonald