Occupational Hazard

Wrist CastI am going to keep this post short, because my right wrist is in a cast, and I am right handed. Yes, I badly sprained my wrist gardening! The doc thinks I mildly sprained it sometime last spring while digging and then last week raking leaves I picked up a pile of leaves on the rake and went to turn the rake over to dump the leaves into the compost pile and viola! intense pain shot through my wrist, which then proceeded to swell, indicating I had re-sprained it badly. The moral of this story is to those in the world who secretly or not so secretly think gardening is a low-impact, injury-less past time I  – and the others who have since told me they too sprained their wrists raking leaves – am proof that gardening is not for the faint of heart, or the weak of wrists. Thank goodness this happened at the very end of the gardening season, because I am cast bound for a month. (The silver lining is someone else is cleaning up the rest of the leaves.) Warning: you all be careful out there in the garden! And write me and tell the tales of your gardening related injuries.


28 thoughts on “Occupational Hazard

  1. So sorry – not sure I have sustained bodily injury though I have fallen due to clumsiness I think. Hope you are feeling better 7 hope to see you soon hopefully sans sprain! xox, P


  2. Gardening is definitely not a low impact sport. I agree with you that it has an unfortunate reputation for being a Martha Stewart like endeavor. Have you noticed soil doesn’t even stick to that lady? I think she’s made of Teflon or something. I like what DH Lawrence says, “You’ll never succeed in idealizing hard work. Before you can dig mother earth you’ve got to take off your ideal jacket. The harder a man works, at brute labor, the thinner becomes his idealism, the darker his mind.”

    That stinks about the cast and the pain of the injury! Chronic strain injuries are the worst! But I gotta say, at least your nails still look great 😉

    My worst garden injury was when I stabbed myself in the head with the sharp end of a pair of Felco 2’s. There was decent amount of blood and I looked like a character in that horror movie “Massachusetts Pruning Shear Massacre.” I was reaching underneath a Rhodie in a contorted position and wham! I somehow mistook my skull for dead wood. In my case it’s a relatively easy mistake to make.

    My advice as a professional gardener (who does not always practice these tips) is….

    -develop a strong core to ease strain on the back

    -alternate leg and hand positions so that you are not always using your dominant side

    -take breaks and do some yoga (bridge pose, cobra pose, or cat/cow yoga pose all seem to help the back)

    -use knee pads or a kneeler pad

    -lift with the legs

    -when bending down to weed under a rose bush be mindful of where your earlobes are

    -if you are working at a property where dog poo looms, walk carefully with each step as if you were walking in a mine field or else your nose will suffer the rest of the day

    -when grubbing out raspberries wear thick gloves (West County Gardener makes a great pair http://www.westcountygardener.com/rose/

    -develop hawk eyes for poison ivy and learn to distinguish it from Virginia Creeper and Boston Ivy and if you really need to pull it wear a hazmat suit and douse yourself in Technu

    -if you get poison ivy rash, ocean water works miracles

    -check yourself for ticks after every time you work. In the New England area its a major problem but one that can be prevented with good checking and bug spray.

    -stay hydrated

    and of course in the words of Baz Luhrmann
    -wear sunscreen! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MQlJ3vOp6nI

    Rest up and I hope you feel better soon!


    1. Lots of great advice, thanks Briana. I follow all of it, except the bit about raspberries (because I don’t have any raspberries). I look forward to seeing what Baz has to say about wearing sunscreen.


  3. My dermatologist has a real problem checking my forearms for pre-cancers, etc., because of all the bug bites, punctures, and scratches. Then there’s the reason my arms need checking — (gardening in the) sun damage.

    In Niger, I crossed paths with a little beetle that exudes an acid that causes a 3rd. degree burn (O.K., it was only a 1/4″ across, but it took months to heal). Here, in Rwanda, it seems that every place I want to put a plant is next to an ants’ nest (I dig and shove them in quick). There is also an insect here, like a large black ant, whose bite leaves a big lump for weeks — so attractive in the middle of the forehead.

    Feel better soon! (At least this didn’t happen in the spring.)


    1. OH Cindy! Your adventures of gardening in Africa are so exotic, one reason I love your blog. Thursday I will give thanks that I do not have to contend with too many poisonous bugs while gardening!!!


  4. I hope you have a good physical therapist. You’ll want to be back in gardening shape come spring time, which in New England, as we both know, is sometime in late May early June :-).


    1. SO far no need for physical therapy…just the cast, rest and anti-inflammatories for a month, so I should be ready for spring, which comes in March or April in New England (despite what Northern Californians think!!)


  5. Sorry to hear about your sprain. My worst gardening accident was a blow to my forehead when I fell forward down onto a granite boulder as a result of overestimating the strength of a wooden picket I was trying to push into the ground. The stick broke and I have a scar on my forehead as evidence of the indisputable law of gravity.


  6. Having indulged in an unmanageable garden I had to work out easier ways to garden and to question everything. I learnt lots of easier ways and notice whenever I suggest any people tend to say ‘I do it this way’ as if habit were enough justification.

    I don’t think it’s often necessary to rake leaves. Mowing them up is good, as is leaving the wind to move them to the beds for good mulch. But I think people like the exercise and the tidiness.

    So why do I go on pointing these things out? Only, perhaps, so that we can go on gardening into old age and increasing fragility.


    1. Anne, I would be interested to hear more of your methods for keeping us gardening into old age and fragility. It is definitely a goal of mine. I’ve planted too many Japanese maples and tree peonies. I want to nurture them, and have them nurture me, for many decades to come. The annual leaf collection “to-do” here in the US Northeast is something I debate every fall. I like leaf mulch. I would leave all the leaves in situ if I could…but there are so many deciduous trees that the amount of leaves can be such they would drown perennials. And so, up many, but not, all of them come, and into the compost bins, to wither and disintegrate until next spring when they will be put back on the perennials in a different physical form. I am all years for an easier method! Thanks for commenting.


      1. Is it possible to mow the leaves up like I suggested?

        Where they fall on grass I do this at some point in the autumn/winter and this shreds them up and collects them. Then I put them straight on to the beds as mulch, from the mower collecting bag. If this is problematic, do tell me. Maybe there’s a work around.

        They blow off hard surfaces on to beds by themselves if left – but I gather this is not an option in the USA? (we have fences and hedges to stop spreading to neighbours…)

        I wrote about other labour saving in my book ‘The Bad Tempered Gardener’. I think rebelliousness against unwanted work is a great help in working out new ways to do things. See also http://veddw.com/general/just-cut-it-down/


      2. I have read (and responded) to your post “just cut it down”. I have in years past mowed leaves in situ as mulch, but as my garden matures and the perennials, which I keep up, uncut, through the winter, mature it is more labor intensive. The crux of the topic here is the amount of labor necessary to NOT pay someone to come and take the leaves away, and the cost of that labor. When it was my labor alone, I was happy to do it. Now that the garden has matured, as have I, the fall chores which I will only permit myself to do are time consuming enough that I can not, or will not, rake all the leaves. I really must get my hands on a copy of The Bad Tempered Gardener and read it.


      3. It is hard to envisage other people’s difficulties in their very different gardens. As this garden has matured along with me I’ve found that the beds are easier to maintain because the perennials and grasses are bigger and thicker and so are self mulching when cut down. And that there are less spaces between plants so less weeds. And leaves – well, we’ve been there..

        But I do have an enormous list of things needing doing, from a drainage channel to repainting the gate. I am still scared of our old age unless we can continue to afford help. To which end, we open the garden and will need to always do that. And do some kind of paid work indoors…

        Good luck with yours. Xxx


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