APM Blog

Friday, 17 November 2017 10:21

Tackle Pain and Up your Garden Game

Gardening is a great form of exercise, working multiple muscle groups as well as burning calories. It makes sense, then, that just like any other exercise or sport, there should be some rules to keep you – and your garden – in fighting form.

Before and After

Warmups and cool downs aren’t just for runners. Take the time to loosen up your body with some quick stretches and a brisk walk before digging in. And make sure to take frequent time-outs, with plenty of water, says Melinda Myers, an expert horticulturalist who works with Advanced Pain Management to provide tips on seasonal gardening and safety. Afterward, cool down with a few more stretches, and ice any sore areas.

Switch it Up

Whether it’s practicing tennis or watering hydrangeas, doing the same thing for extended periods of time can result in injury. Switch up your activities, and your position, to avoid stiffness and work a range of muscle groups. “I may go from weeding down on my knees to digging with a shovel or raking,” says Myers. “I often take a break from these more strenuous activities to water, so I’m moving and stretching my legs.”

There’s No ‘I’ in Garden

Share the load with a gardening round-robin, suggests Myers. Not only will it decrease your own load, but it’s a great way to catch up with friends – and boost your gardening know-how. “With busy schedules,” she says, “I find it’s a great way to take on overwhelming tasks, like spring cleanup and winter pruning, and enlist help, but make it fun.”

Learn More

For more tips on getting a leg up on gardening pain, visit Melinda Myers at the We Energies Energy Park stage during the Wisconsin State Fair Aug. 6-16, where she will be presenting “The Livable Landscape” at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. daily. And don't forget to download your free Gardening Toolkit.

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Published in Gardening
Thursday, 02 November 2017 12:37

Re-Tool your Garden Arsenal to Ease Aches

Gardeners are no strangers to aches and pains. The constant bending, kneeling and twisting can take its toll on even the toughest among us. But there’s an easy way to guard against garden injury, and it starts in the toolshed.

Focus on the Padding

Kneeling

Padding isn’t just for contact sports; it’s an important element of any gardener’s toolbox. To reduce knee pain and injury, turn to a padded kneeler or knee pad when weeding and planting. And tools need padding, too. Gardening expert Melinda Myers says she uses pruners, saws and trowels with a cushioned, ergonomic grip to lessen hand pain, cramping and fatigue.

Brace Yourself

There are a variety of braces available, including back, wrist and knee, which can help support your body when you bend and twist. Braces, which are especially effective for dealing with chronic pain, carpal tunnel and osteoarthritis, among other conditions, can reduce pain and help prevent further injury, while assisting in recovery and improving mobility. Myers, who suffered from knee pain, used a knee brace to stabilize and reduce pain, and currently uses a foot /ankle brace to reduce pain while standing for long periods or walking on uneven ground.

Lighten the Load

Heavy lifting in the garden — from rocks and fertilizer to water and hoses — is a common cause of injury. Consider using a wheelbarrow, wagon or garden cart to haul the heavy stuff, saving your back and knees from the strain. When loading in your gardening gear, though, remember to start from a kneeling or squatting position, with your back straight, and lift with your legs while holding the object close to your body.

Published in Melinda Myers
Thursday, 02 November 2017 12:16

Step up Your Health with a Raised Garden

The frequent bending, kneeling, stooping and reaching that are required  to create and maintain a beautiful garden can often leave your body with aches and pains, pulls andstrains. Raising your garden off the ground can be an easy – and visually appealing – solution, saving your body from unnecessary strain while adding a pop to your plants.

Bale Out

A straw bale garden is an interesting alternative to the traditional raised garden bed. Although it takes a bit more preparation work than a normal garden (12 days of conditioning and daily watering), there are many perks, says Melinda Myers, an expert horticulturalist who works with Advanced Pain Management to provide tips on seasonal gardening and safety. Not only does it raise the garden to a better working height, but it doesn’t require large amounts of soil and the straw bales serve as the container and planting mix. To get the best results, says Myers, “Plant annual vegetables, condition the bales in early spring and plant them in spring for a summer or fall harvest.” So save those fall decorative straw bales and convert them into a productive garden next spring.

Step by StepLadder_Garden-1

Placing plants on the rungs of a ladder is a creative way to add visual appeal and raise plants off the ground. If you plan to place your ladder outside, use pots of fall favorites like pansies or mums.

But don’t forget to secure the pots to the ladder and the ladder to the ground so they don’t blow over, reminds Myers. You can also bring your ladder indoors and use flowering plants like anthuriums and peace lilies, which look beautiful staggered on a ladder and can be maintained without excessive stooping or kneeling.

“This would also be a fun way to change things seasonally,” says Myers, who suggests switching to festive plants like poinsettias around the holidays.

Take a Seat

“Any chair, stool, support or repurposed item would make a great decorative addition to the garden,” says Myers. Such items add both vertical interest and accessibility. Add a pop of coordinating color with mums, bright light Swiss chard, snapdragons or dianthus. Or try planting a leaky birdbath. “Greens like lettuce and spinach would look nice, fit the space and thrive in cooler fall temps,” suggests Myers.

Garden, Garden on the Wall

Shoe_Caddy-1

Green walls are another option for upright gardeners. “These are basically containers gone vertical,” says Myers. Not only are they a very trendy option right now, she says, but they are also something you can build yourself.

For those who aren’t handy, a cloth over-the-door shoe caddy can work just as well – and provide an individual spot for a variety of indoor plants and herbs. Just be sure to protect the floor or any furnishing located below the caddy from dripping water.

Grab Some Padding

For the sections of your garden that are still at ground-level, don’t fret; there are still ways to reduce pain during prolonged periods of planting, weeding or harvesting. To reduce knee pain and injury, for instance, look into purchasing a padded kneeler or knee pads. And when dealing with back pain, consider using a back brace, which can provide back and abdominal support when your muscles are overactive and you experience muscle spasms, or when your muscles are weak and don’t provided the needed support. Knee and wrist braces are also an option.

Learn More

For more expert gardening advice from Myers – along with tips on how to stay safe and avoid pain in the garden – download your free Gardening Toolkit

Published in Melinda Myers
Thursday, 02 November 2017 11:57

Pain-Fighting Fall Planting Tips

Grab your shovel, knee pads and trowel and start planting your way to a beautiful landscape.

Most gardeners are used to adding a few (or a few hundred) bulbs to their gardens in fall. But fall is also a great time to add trees, shrubs and perennials to your yard. The soil is warm and the air cooler, so the plants are less stressed and establish more quickly. And many of these plants are on sale, extending your planting budget.

Fall Bulb PlantingAvoid pain this fall when planting bulbs.

Plant hardy bulbs now for a welcome burst of color next spring. Tulips, daffodils and hyacinths are a few favorites. But don’t overlook lesser-used bulbs like squills, winter aconites and snowdrops. These early bloomers are some of the first to greet you in spring, and the animals tend to leave them be.

Set the bulbs at a depth of two to three times their height. Next, cover them with soil and sprinkle a low-nitrogen, slow-release fertilizer over the soil to promote rooting without stimulating the kind of fall growth that is subject to winter kill. Water them thoroughly and as needed until the ground freezes.

Minimize Pain during Planting

It’s easy to take care of your knees and back when planting spring bulbs. Use a kneepad or kneeler to protect your knees and hold your back as straight as possible when reaching down to plant. If you experience back pain stemming from lumbar instability, a herniated disc, degenerative disc disease or just general muscle weakness, a back brace can help you maintain the proper posture – and help you avoid more pain in the future. Similarly, a wrist brace can help combat carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis and arthritis to help you plant more easily.

Use a trowel with a cushioned grip or a long-handled bulb planter that allows you to dig the planting holes with minimal bending and kneeling. If you must bend over, remember that bending the knees and hips while tightening your abs is much safer than bending at the back. But always try to avoid bending for long periods of time.

Safely Plant Perennials, Trees and Shrubs

Fall is also a good time to plant perennials, trees and shrubs. Select plants suited to the growing conditions and be sure to give them plenty of room to reach their mature size.

Protect your body and avoid damaging your newly purchased trees and shrubs with proper transport, planting and care. Ask for help unloading, moving and planting bulky and heavy plants. You’ll find an extra set of hands makes these heavy jobs go faster with less stress on your body. Together, squat to grab the object and hold it close to your bodies as you lift. As you move, avoid twisting your body and take small steps. Squat again to set it down, keeping your back straight and your core tight.

You can also utilize tools and equipment to help lighten the load. For instance, a wheelbarrow or even just an old snow saucer with a towing rope can help you easily move plants from your vehicle to the planting hole.

Fall Planting Tips

Plant trees so the root flare (the place where the roots curve away from the trunk) is even with the soil surface. Dig a hole the same depth as the rootball and about two to five times as wide. When digging the hole, use a long-handled shovel to move manageable amounts of soil, and be sure to lift with your legs and avoid twisting your body. Roughen the sides of the hole and backfill it with the existing soil. Water the tree thoroughly and spread a 2- to 3-inch layer of mulch over the soil surface, keeping it away from the tree trunk.

Follow a similar planting procedure for perennials and shrubs. Plant these so the crown (the place where stems meet the roots) is even with the soil surface. And be sure to keep the mulch away from the stems.

Adding a few new additions to the landscape now will give you more time for spring gardening tasks, including a few early season plantings in your flower and vegetable gardens. And doing it safely will reduce your risk pain in the future.

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Published in Melinda Myers

Toward the end of September and beginning of October, a plethora of crops are ready to harvest. Tomatoes, peppers, melons and squash, including pumpkins, continue to ripen and will fill our harvest baskets until the first killing frost, says gardening expert Melinda Myers. “And, even with cooler temperatures,” she says, “mid-summer plantings of cool crops like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale will mature. Their flavor actually improves after a light frost.” Even late plantings of things like greens, radishes, turnips and beets continue to grow and can be harvested as they mature throughout the fall season.

But before you head out to the garden to start gathering your harvest haul, make sure you know the best way to pick your plants in order to avoid doing damage – to both the plants themselves and to your body.

Grab the Right Tools

“Too often we head to the garden for a few minutes,” says Myers, “and an hour and a half later we are still out there, often without the equipment that protects our bodies.” Don’t fall into that trap. Without the right tools, you run the risk of hurting yourself and damaging your plants to the point where they will no longer keep producing

Consider investing in a sharp knife or garden scissors, which can make harvesting easier and do less damage than picking. For fruit trees, physical therapist Courtney Wack suggests using an apple picker to minimize repetitive hand motions.

When shopping for tools, “buy tools with wider handles, or bulk them up yourself with foam or a washcloth and some tape,” Wack suggests. This, along with stretching out your hands and wrists, can reduce the risk of hand pain later, especially for those suffering from arthritis.

And to reduce the risk of knee pain during prolonged periods of kneeling, a padded knee pad combined with a proper stance can go a long way. With the kneeler in position, drop down onto one knee and keep one foot one the ground to give your back more stability.

Carry Carefully

When it comes to transporting your haul to the house, make sure to do so carefully; fruits and vegetables can easily sustain damage en route, and so can you. “Stack veggies in a shallow basket or crate to minimize bruising,” says Myers. And empty the basket often, both to prevent bruising and because carrying too much weight in front of you can increase the strain on your back.

For greens like lettuce (on which you harvest the outer leaves when they reach 4 to 6 inches) and chard (8 to 10 inches), take a bucket of water into the garden and place the greens into it to keep them fresh.

To haul your harvest back indoors, squat to grab your basket of produce, tightening your core muscles, then lift with your legs. Don’t forget to keep the basket or crate close to you as you walk and avoid twisting at the waist. Or consider looking for a basket or bag you can wear on your back and use both straps to disperse the weight more evenly.

Protecting Perennials

Perennial plants like raspberries, strawberries and fruit trees, along with spring-harvested perennials like asparagus and rhubarb, require their own kind of care to protect them throughout the winter. “Do not fertilize them now,” warns Myers, since “fertilization stimulates late-season growth that can be killed in winter.” After a frost, she advises, remove any diseased or insect-infected leaves, but do not compost. Instead, contact your city for ideas on how to dispose of this type of material.

For protection from animals, consider erecting a fence around your fruit trees and bushes or use a repellent labeled for use on edibles. Scaring the animal away through the use of visual or auditory scare devices is also an option, although it’s not as effective in urban areas. In suburban and rural areas, noise-makers and motion-activated water sprayers may be useful. Or try visual items like reflective tape or predator statues to keep critters at bay. For the best results, use a combination of tactics, monitor them throughout the year and make adjustments as needed.

Pace Yourself

Although it’s tempting, don’t try to harvest all of your plants in one day. Spread it out over multiple days to reduce the risk of overworking yourself and your muscles. If you do pull a long harvesting shift, though, make sure to take frequent breaks, walking around and stretching every 20-30 minutes.

You can also try to enlist the help of a friend – both to share in the work and take home some of the produce. Having a partner means being able to switch between strenuous tasks, like carrying or picking produce, and easier ones, or even allow you time to rest. Besides, says Myers, “most gardeners plant more than they can use.” You’ll be grateful for both the extra help in the garden and the fact that they take some of your bountiful harvest off your hands.

Weed Out The Pain Toolkit Download

Published in Melinda Myers

As we trade in our warm-weather clothes for boots, scarves and winter coats, it’s also time to bundle up our landscapes for the winter. Use this checklist to help you prepare your garden for the cold weather ahead, and to avoid injury in the process.

Cold-Weather Checklist

  • Water your plants thoroughly before the ground freezes. This is especially important for evergreens, new plantings and any stressed plants.

  • Drain and store your hoses, watering wands and other watering devices in a shed or garage once your plants are set for the winter. You’ll extend their life and make them easier to locate next spring.

  • Clean, organize and store shovels, rakes and other tools so they’ll be ready to use and easy to find as soon as next year’s gardening season begins.

  • Empty terra cotta, glazed and other pots, which are subject to cracking when the soil freezes and expands. Store your pots out of harm’s way until next spring.

  • Move fertilizers and pesticides to a secure location, safe from pets and children. Store granules and powders in a dry spot and liquids in a frost-free place so they’ll be effective for many seasons to come.

  • Wear gloves to protect your hands and keep them warm. Without proper protection, cold weather tends to make arthritic joints more painful. And, in addition to warmth, gloves provide compression, which can result in a degree of joint pain relief.

  • Safely store unplanted perennials, trees and shrubs for winter. Dig a trench in a vacant part of your garden, sink your pots in the trench and cover them with soil. But remember to select a long-handled digging tool that allows you to stand up straight. Short-handled tools can force you to bend down, increasing your chance of muscle strain. Take small scoops with the shovel, avoiding large loads, which are more likely to cause back injury. And when depositing the dirt, try to pivot your body rather than twisting it. Another option for your plants is to group them in a sheltered location and cover them with woodchips or surround them with bales of straw or bags of potting mix. The added insulation protects the roots and increases their chance of survival.

  • Move any remaining plants and container gardens into an unheated garage. Set them on a wooden board and surround them with packing peanuts or bags of potting mix for extra insulation. Water the pots any time the soil is thawed and dry.

  • Share the load and save your back. Asking for help when lifting and transporting larger pots, tools and garden art can make the job go faster and ease the strain on your back.

  • Use a PotLifter or similar device that makes wrangling and moving heavy or bulky items easier. You can also put an old sled, wagon or garden cart to use to help move items from the garden into storage.

  • When picking up heavy items, make sure to start from a squatting or kneeling position. Bending at the waist to pick things up can aggravate your back muscles. Once you’ve grabbed the object, keep your core tight and your back straight and lift upward with your knees. Keep heavy items close to your body as you walk and try not to twist or turn from the waist, which can cause back strain. Consider using a back brace to provide support and stabilization for your muscles.
  • Create windbreaks or loosely wrap broadleaf and newly planted evergreens with burlap or landscape fabric. This helps prevent browning caused by winter winds and the sun. If you’re staking the fabric into the ground, though, make sure to use leverage to your advantage; a longer-handled hammer or sledge will mean greater force applied to the stake with less effort on your part. But be careful. This high-impact, repetitive motion can be harmful for those with neck pain or shoulder pain. If you’re experiencing pain, don’t be afraid to ask for help.

  • Protect fruit trees and newly planted trees and shrubs from hungry wildlife. Surround the plants with a 4-foot-high cylinder of hardware cloth to keep rabbits at bay. Sink the wire cloth 4 to 6 inches into the ground to prevent voles from feeding on the trunk.

  • If you prefer, apply repellents before the animals start feeding and reapply as needed and recommended on the label. Once they start dining on your landscape, it’s harder to keep animals away.

  • Once the ground freezes, cover tender perennials and bulbs, or those that were planted late in the fall, with evergreen branches or straw. This keeps the ground frozen, preventing frost heaving and early sprouting.

Future Payoff

These pain-fighting tips should pay off right away, with less soreness (and fewer injuries). And your gardeThese gardening tips can help you prepare your garden for winter and avoid pain in the process.ning efforts will definitely pay off next spring. You’ll spend less time and money replacing winter-damaged plants, tools and containers. Plus you’ll have easy access to the equipment and supplies you need to get an earlier start in the garden.

Weed Out The Pain Toolkit Download

Published in Melinda Myers
Wednesday, 01 November 2017 01:19

A Healthy Harvest – For You and Your Plants

Harvest is a wonderful time, but for gardeners it can often be a (literal) pain in the neck – and back and knees. But, with a few easy changes, you can protect yourself – and your plants.

Get Into Position

Harvesting vegetables requires a lot of physical exertion. Carrots and most root crops, for instance, are first dug with a fork and then picked up by hand, either when bending or kneeling.

To reduce the risk of injury, avoid kneeling on both knees and keep one foot on the ground to give your back more stability, while making sure to change positions frequently. If possible, bending should be avoided. When it’s absolutely necessary, bend at the knees and hips and tighten your abs. Or bend at the hips and extend one leg back, keeping your back straight. And take frequent breaks, walking around every 20-30 minutes.

Gardening expert Melinda Myers suggests that next year instead of planting bush beans, which require a lot of bending and searching to find all the ripe beans, consider the taller and easier to pick pole beans. And to do less damage to your plants and ensure that they continue to grow and develop, use a sharp knife and scissors during harvesting.

Perfect Pumpkins

Pumpkin picking requires precision. “Pumpkins are harvested when the rind is firm and glossy, the fruit is full-size and the portion touching the ground turns from cream to orange,” says Myers. Don’t lift it by the stem, since it may break. Instead, squat with your feet shoulder-width apart, bend at the hips and knees and pick up from the base, lifting gradually.  

Pick Your Posture

When it comes to fruit trees, use a ladder or secure step stool to avoid looking up for long periods. Work at waist level whenever possible, looking and reaching in front of you rather than above you. When picking fruit, gently twist it instead of pulling it off. And don’t forget to harvest your plants regularly, says Myers, so there’s less to harvest at one time – and so your plants keep producing.

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Published in Healthy Living
Tuesday, 31 October 2017 18:25

5 Ways to Extend the Growing Season

Don’t let cooler temperatures and the impending winter season stop you from gardening. Take advantage of every nice day and use these five strategies to keep gardening and enjoying your landscape.

5_ways_to_extend_growing.small

  1. Add a splash of color to your fall garden with the help of cool-season annuals. Plant pansies, sweet alyssum, ornamental cabbage and kale in the garden or containers for a colorful finale to the season. Planting in containers – especially when they’re placed on stools or ladders at waist level – is an easy way to avoid excessive bending and kneeling, which can aggravate back and knee pain.

    You can also double your gardening pleasure by growing cool wave and other winter hardy pansies. These will brighten your fall garden, survive winter and add color to your spring garden as the bulbs begin peeking through the soil. Be sure to use a padded kneeler or knee pad when planting, and avoid kneeling on both knees whenever possible. Your knees will thank you at the end of the day.

  2. Take advantage of fall plant sales and add a few trees, shrubs and perennials to your landscape. The soil is warm and the air is cool, making it less stressful for you and the plants. Once your plants are in the ground, make sure to water them thoroughly and whenever the top few inches of soil are slightly moist but still crumble in your hand.

    And hydrate yourself, as well. Even though it’s cooler out, have a water bottle nearby; being dehydrated can lead to fatigue, muscle weakness and even dizziness. To further help your body, reduce the strain on your muscles by using the proper tools when digging and planting. To avoid hand pain, for instance, look for tools with padded handles or take a DIY approach, bulking up the handles on your existing tools with a washcloth and tape.

  3. Tarp.smallProtect flowers and vegetables from frosty nights. The first few fall frosts are often followed by warm, sunny weather during which you can enjoy the beautiful flowers and produce from your garden. Floating row covers sold as ReeMay, Harvest Guard and Garden Fabric allow air, light and water through while protecting plants down to 24 degrees. This means you can leave your plants covered, day and night, as long as needed.
     
  4. Bring a few annuals indoors. You can move potted plants into a sunny window or start new plants from cuttings. I prefer the latter, since you can wash off any unwanted pests and the resulting smaller plants take up less window space. First, start by taking 4- to 6-inch cuttings from your favorite annuals such as coleus, geranium or annual vinca. Then root the cuttings in moist vermiculite or a well-drained potting mix. Once rooted, move them to a small container filled with potting mix. Just like outside, you can easily reduce pain by placing indoor potted plants on a waist-height table, stool or ladder, or by employing a homemade or store-bought wall garden.

    You can grow your new plant in either a sunny window or under artificial lights. Be sure to water it thoroughly and often enough to keep the soil slightly moist. With proper care and enough light, you will be enjoying a few flowers over the winter.
     
  5. Harvest and preserve some herbs for added flavor in your winter meals. Use garden scissors or pruners when harvesting them. Rinse the herbs, remove any damaged or dried leaves, bundle, and hang upside down to dry. A warm, dry, airy place out of direct sunlight works best. Store dried herbs in airtight containers in a cool, dark location. For pain-fighting properties, consider drying some mint. It’s a great ingredient to add to your tea in fall and winter, and can reduce inflammation and relieve general aches and pains.

    As you garden your way through fall, you’ll not only improve the beauty of your landscape, but also your emotional and physical wellbeing. Enjoy!

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Tuesday, 26 September 2017 18:37

The Health Perks of Being a Gardener

Some of the benefits of gardening are readily observable, like the pride of growing something beautiful or the refreshing feeling of spending time outdoors. But gardening actually offers a multitude of benefits that can improve your health and peace of mind, and even reduce your pain.

Endorphin Rush

All that raking, digging and weeding not only helps you burn calories, it can also release a flood of endorphins. The endorphins, in turn, trigger a positive feeling in the body — a “gardener’s high” — and have been shown to help reduce pain sensations.

Time to Relax

Meditation doesn’t have to mean sitting on the floor cross-legged. It could also be in the garden, with your hands in the soil, surrounded by sunlight. For gardening expert Melinda Myers, “The rhythm of some garden tasks like weeding and planting … redirects your thoughts to the action and away from your stresses and worries.” Meditation has been shown to effectively reduce feelings of stress, release tension in the muscles and, like exercise, help release endorphins to combat pain.

Grow a Balanced Diet

The USDA recommends eating roughly 2 cups of both fruit and vegetables daily. Your garden can help you get there. Lettuce, arugula and microgreens can be grown indoors during fall and winter in a sunny window, says Myers. And short-season plants like radishes, greens and beets can be grown in containers outdoors in fall and moved inside on frosty nights.  

Stop and Smell the Basil

Gardens are also a wonderful place for aromatherapy. Basil, for instance, can energize and uplift, and, as an essential oil, help reduce inflammation. Other good plants include lavender, which relaxes and balances the body, chamomile, which relieves stress and anxiety, and thyme, which helps fight fatigue. 

Learn More

For more healthy tips, along with Myers’ tricks on how to grow beautiful gardens, download your free Gardening Toolkit .

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Published in Aromatherapy

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