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Over the Garden Fence

Socially-distanced Garden Activities

Why not add garden work to your new, and temporary, routine as many of us “sit this thing out” at home? If we hold off getting the garden going just because things are different right now, catching up later will be tough. Besides, getting outdoors in our own yard and spending some time alone is still doing our part.

Start with the easy stuff like walking the yard. Even if you think it is small, take that walk. Take it in the opposite direction you normally would, and look at the yard from the perspective of how others see it. For example, look at your garden art and yard features. Do you see garden pieces in thoughtful places? Have you noticed that the gnomes and gazing balls have taken over, or perhaps it is the cement and plastic wildlife? What might visitors to the yard think and tactfully not say out loud?

Next up might be some walking and stretching moves. On that walk, you may spy one of those notorious plastic bags stuck in the shrub. With a firm and comfortable stance while bending at the waist, untangle and remove the plastic bag. Slowly return to the upright position and continue walking. Repeat this 10 times as you move through your yard, focusing on other bits of debris each time. Use that plastic bag to collect those other items. If your 15-minute work break is over, head back into house and deal with those emails, reports and computer-generated calls, all the while eager for the noon hour so you can get back out there for another set of reps.

Another gardening project is the solitary inspection of the non-powered and powered garden tools. While holding the shovel comfortably, slowly turn your head side-to-side looking for rust and if the edge needs to be sharpened (That’s another activity that avoids close personal contact). Relax your head and shoulders. Repeat these movements with other garden tools until you are feeling relaxed.

Powered equipment should be the last outdoor exercise performed, and only if you feel good after the walking, bending and stretching. Power equipment requires you to use other muscle groups that have not been actively used in some time. Changing the oil requires stooping and squatting to remove the drain plug. Other upper body movements and major muscle groups will be used as you remove, inspect and possibly replace air filters and spark plugs. The last – and it is critical that your muscle groups are well toned for this – is the “pulling of the cord.” Failure will mean intervention by a family member driving you to see a professional to help with your back, or to a small engine technician. In which case, you should be in the back seat on the passenger side keeping the appropriate distance from the driver.

(Written with a sense of levity while working from home for University of Illinois Extension)

About the author: Richard Hentschel’s expertise extends across several subject areas with specialties in lawn care, fruit tree production, woody ornamentals, and home and community gardening. During his 45-year career in horticulture and agriculture, Hentschel became a well-known and respected expert for commercial and homeowner audiences, industry organizations, and media. He retired from University of Illinois Extension in April 2022 with nearly 30 years of service as a Horticulture Specialist and Educator in northern Illinois.