With the start of the nice weather, we’re eager to get out in the garden and get our planting done. After a long winter cooped up inside we get excited to spend time outside in our gardens. But, without the proper techniques and getting your body ready for the work, many injuries and strains can happen. Gardening uses muscles that we don’t often use and after a season or so of them resting, getting right back into it without a proper warm up and stretching can cause strains or muscle soreness.

Getting active and working out several weeks prior to the start of gardening season, is the best way to eliminate the chance of injury. It is also important to begin stretching your back, legs, arms and even your hands and feet to prevent soreness. Simple stretches such as lying flat on the floor, bringing your knees up to your chest and holding them there with your arms. Hold for a minute, then relax and repeat. Also try standing up straight then slowly bending at the waist to touch your toes. Before each gardening session, you should get your body warmed up with 10 to 15 minutes of brisk walking or other activities that get your blood flowing.

Lifting and digging in the garden also needs to be done properly so you avoid injury. When lifting, keep your back straight, bend from your knees and use your legs not your back to lift. Bend your knees as you dig. Use your largest muscle, your legs, and make sure you alternate between a right-handed and left-handed stance.

To save some of the heavy lifting or save you from over working the back, choose the right tools that can help you in the garden. Wheelbarrows, weed pullers, garden claws, longer handled shovels and spades, and rakes. Using the proper tools will help you keep a straighter back and eliminate working in a hunched over position. Try to keep your time working in the garden to 30 minute sessions with rest periods so to not over do it on your muscles.

Working in your garden is also a great way to get in your daily exercise and staying fit. You can add resistance to your gardening moves in the form of light weights. Raking, weeding, digging and pruning are great forms of exercise while you are out in the garden. Even mowing the lawn is a great form of exercise as you are pushing the lawn mower (weighted object) and walking. Digging is a great way to use the major muscle groups in your core and legs. Even sitting and weeding includes stretching and bending which will improve flexibility.

Every good workout, a garden workout included, should finish with a cool down session and stretching. Be garden smart. Stretch, warm up, and use the right tools to get the work done in your garden so you can enjoy the fruits of your labor injury free.

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Grow Together

Community vegetable gardens are not necessarily a new concept, but they have recently become more popular as the economy continues to slump and with people becoming more conscious of food storage, preservation and consumption. In lower income places such as areas within New Mexico, as much as 16 percent of the state participates in community gardens to share food supplies and as a way to grow together culturally. To date, the most popular types of community vegetable gardens are those which are family and individually run, community run by churches and other organizations and farm stands. In fact, this concept is so popular that some states are involving imprisoned individuals in the process, having them volunteer at agencies or on plots of land to help sustain the production of the gardens.

How to Start a Community Garden

It is best for those who want to bring this concept to fruition to organize some sort of organization or committee because it can be a delicate and involved process. Before starting a communal project such as this, many things need to be considered and there is a lot of organization that needs to take place.

Some of the things to examine first are:

  • Does my location have a need for a community vegetable garden?
  • What type of garden will it be? Fruits, vegetables or flowers? Or a combination of all?
  • Who will benefit from the garden? Neighbors? Local homeless shelters? Children?
  • Where would a proper garden site be located?
  • Who will handle the administrative tasks such as money and seed ordering?


It is likely that wherever you choose for the location, there will be a land fee involved and you may need to secure a lease agreement. You will also want to inquire whether you will need to purchase any insurance on the property in case it is vandalized or Mother Nature destroys what is planted there.

The area that is chosen needs to be somewhere that gets a steady stream of sunlight so that the things that are planted can grow properly. Any area that doesn’t get at least 6 to 8 hours of unblocked sunlight per day should not be considered. Along those same lines, also consider the water supply. Does the area get much rainfall or is there a nearby supply of water so that it can be manually tended to daily? Also consider who will take on this responsibility.

You will also want to conduct some research on the area to make sure it hasn’t been or is not likely to be a contaminated area as this will affect how your crops grow and the edibility of your foods.

Taking Care of the Site

Once the location is chosen you will want to also assign a committee that will help with reading the site for plantation. This includes tasks such as cleaning the vicinity, pulling weeds if there are any, gathering any materials you will need and stocking the shed with materials.

Someone should also mark the individual plots and assign particular areas of which plots will be designated to which food types. The outer parameter should also be decorated with shrubs, flowers and bushes as it makes it more attractive and promotes new growth.


Organization once the community garden gets up and running is essential. You have to decide who will be in charge of the garden and to what extent. The best way to do this, particularly if the garden is large, is to assign specific plots to different members or families. This way no one person is overwhelmed and each plot is accounted for.

Also decide if there will be dues associated with the plots. Dues will help pay for damaged supplies like shovels and hoes, but will also keep an influx of monies to replenish supplies like seeds, chemicals if needed and other associated costs of having a garden.

It is also good to sort out basic rules and guidelines such as will the children within the communities be participating and if so, what will their responsibilities be? Some of the tools used in gardening are quite expensive so talk with the organization and decide whether everyone will be sharing tools or is everyone individually responsible for their own? The same goes for seedling supplies-does everyone purchase their own or will it be a group effort?

Decide if your organization will hold monthly or weekly meetings to discuss such things as strategies for vandalism, budgeting, dividing of responsibilities, profits and in general the well being and success of the community garden. Also place in writing what the regulations are should someone quit or abandon one of their plots; who will take over the plots and will there be additional fees or buy out charges should this happen.

Before setting up a garden it is a good idea to meet with local officials so that you are educated on all the bylaws and can learn about restrictions and insurance ahead of time so production isn’t put on hold if you run into a problem.

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