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Archives for July 8, 2016

Digging in the healing garden

Alison Gowans

The Gazette

Jen Kardos has personal experience with the benefits of gardening. When she had postpartum health problems after her third child was born, working outside helped her recover.

“The gardening environment is especially soothing,” she said. “I spent a lot of time in the garden, and it was very restorative. In a lot of countries, physicians prescribe gardening before anti-depressants.”

Now Kardos, 43, of Iowa City, is studying to be a horticultural therapist, and as co-director of Iowa City non-profit Backyard Abundance is leading classes on the power of gardens for healing.

During a recent class, attendees helped plant a demonstration healing garden at Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center in Hiawatha. The small circle garden features flowers and herbs spread around a wooden bench where visitors can sit for quiet contemplation. A nearby fountain trickles gently in the background.

In the middle of the circle, a small alter area holds a statue of St. Francis of Assisi, the Catholic patron saint of ecology. Prairiewoods is run by Franciscan nuns, and the healing garden is part of the center’s reaction to Pope Francis’s 2015 eco-encyclical, “Laudato Si,” which calls on believers to address environmental concerns.

Emelia Sautter, 35, of Cedar Rapids, is eco-spirituality coordinator at Prairiewoods.

“The eco-encyclical is right in line with our mission,” she said. “We’re always looking at ways to deepen relationships with the earth. We want people to have a relationship with the land and the plants when they come out here.”

The space was previously an herb garden — it’s close to the kitchen. Herbs still grow there as part of the garden’s design. Accessible to the kitchen and to visitors, but in a quiet, tucked-away space. It will have a privacy screen of red currant bushes.

“We think of the whole of Prairiewoods, 70 acres, as a healing space, but we wanted to make a space where people can say, ‘Oh, I can do this at my house,’” Sautter said.

They used permaculture principals, which emphasize plantings that work together as part of a wider system. Strawberry plants will provide ground cover, while fragrant herbs like lavender attract bees and other beneficial insects while helping keep pests at bay. Beneficial herbs like camomile, rosemary, mint, thyme, yarrow, nasturtium and basil share space with butterfly-friendly plants like milkweed and echinacea.

There is no hard and fast set of rules to design a healing garden, Kardos said. She recommends choosing plants that you feel a connection to. That could mean things that bring back childhood memories or evoke certain recipes. They could be herbs for tea or cooking, or flowers for their aroma. For those new to gardening or who aren’t sure if digging in the dirt is for them, Kardos recommends starting small, with a few herbs in pots.

“The biggest thing is, you’re planting things that have a real appeal and attraction to you,” she said. “It’s a space where there are plants that bring you joy.”

Gardening has been shown to reduce anxiety and lower blood pressure, and beneficial microbes in soil can be helpful as well, she said. The idea of a healing garden and of horticultural therapy as a whole is to blend the physical benefits of working in the garden with mental and spiritual benefits. Horticultural therapists can work in health care settings, be part of wellness programs and provide vocational training, among other things.

The classes have explored the concept and design of healing gardens, and the final class, coming up Wednesday, will dig deeper into how the relationship between the gardener and the plants benefits the person and the earth. Attendees do not need to have taken the first two classes to participate.

Kardos is also helping lead monthly “Gardening with Spirit” sessions through Backyard Abundance.

Kardos started gardening as a child — she has photos of her grandfather helping her plant her first garden.

“It’s always been a passion or a hobby. I love the smells and the textures of the plants,” she said. “I love bringing my kids in the garden and letting them eat food right off the plants.”

If you go

What: Digging Deeper in the Healing Garden: Gardens and plans as a portal to spirit

When: 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday

Where: Prairiewoods Franciscan Spirituality Center, 120 E. Boyson Rd., Hiawatha

Cost: $20

Registration required: (319) 395-6700,

What: Gardening with Spirit

When: 6:30 to 8 p.m. Aug. 3, Oct. 5 and Nov. 11

Where: Locations to be announced

Cost: $5 to $35; one-time fee covers all 2016 events

Registration: (319) 325-6810,

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Flag debates, Unicorn Way and some great landscaping

Horn of plenty: Did you know that there’s a Unicorn Way in Clifton? No, it’s not between Loch Ness Court and Big Foot Road and there isn’t a pot-of-gold at the end of it. It’s actually off of Lexington Avenue between Russell and Center streets. Dreams do come true.

Pole position: There has been some controversy over flags being flown at city hall recently. The latest debate about the LGBT flag display. I am OK with most of the flags — or just the U.S. and New Jersey flags being flown. But I am darn glad I don’t have to make those types of decisions. It seems like a Pandora’s Box for sure.

Toll call: A reader pointed out in a recent email that the signs at Exit 155 off the Garden State Parkway north have been changed. As you exit into Clifton a sign offers you a choice of going to Passaic or Paterson. Before reaching the exit the sign (leading to Hazel Street) reads “Passaic.” The readers’ relatives from out of town blew by the exit because they were hesitant about going to Passaic or Paterson. The south bound sign at Exit 154 still says Clifton.

A bank with a view: I am amazed on how good the landscape of Clifton Savings Bank, Van Houten Avenue looks. It seems they have one hardworking individual who is always meticulously maintaining the bank’s site.

Safety first and last: In the wake of the Orlando shooting, I would really like to see “soft targets” like movie theaters, concert halls and other public venues step up their security. I know it would “alter the way we live” a bit, and mean longer lines and more inconvenience — but I am absolutely fine with that.

Brighton charm: It’s hard not to hear all the clamor about the school annex on Brighton Road. You hear it all — should the board of education sell off the building, close it, etc.? How about creating the curriculum specific high schools that were discussed a few years ago? That would help decrease student numbers/ crowded hallways at the high school as well.

A ticky-tack foul: A house in my neighborhood has had a small pile of rotted wood near its curb for at least a year. Even worse, it has rusty nails sticking out of the wood. I am not sure what is more disconcerting — that the owner has left it there for that long or that the town has not cleaned it up.

Send all ideas, comments, etc. to cliftonjournal@north, with ClifNotes in the subject line.

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Rain Bird Marks Smart Irrigation Month with Charitable Landscape Renovation Partnership


In celebration of Smart Irrigation Month, Rain Bird Corporation is unveiling the CLC Landscape Renovation Project, a charitable partnership that showcases irrigation products and smart watering practices from 25 Ways to Save, an initiative Rain Bird launched in 2015. Working alongside a coalition of partners and volunteers, a community church and preschool have been transformed into a model of water-efficiency and sustainable landscaping that will bring natural beauty and tremendous water savings to the community for years to come.

“Community Lutheran Church (CLC) and Saddleback Children’s Center in Rancho Santa Margarita, CA had a 30-year-old landscape and outdated irrigation system that was using an average of 1.2 million gallons of water annually,” said Alex Nathanson, Rain Bird’s corporate marketing brand manager. “With California’s recent severe drought, their water bills were continuing to climb, the landscape was suffering and runoff was damaging the parking lot and other hardscape.”

In September of 2015, CLC turned to Santa Margarita Water District for help. A free commercial landscape irrigation survey provided by the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California revealed broken sprinkler heads, leaks, high water pressure and generally poor sprinkler coverage throughout the property. An outdated control system and the lack of any weather-sensing or rain shut-off devices further contributed to the irrigation system’s overall inefficiency. Furthermore, the landscape consisted primarily of turf with substantial thatch build-up, making it difficult for water to reach the underlying soil and roots.

“Rain Bird saw this as a great opportunity to help create a beautiful, sustainable, water-efficient landscape that could serve as a model for any home or business,” Nathanson said. “With more than 80 years of experience, the industry’s most complete line of irrigation products and our 25 Ways to Save initiative as a guide, we knew we could show people everywhere that it’s possible to use less water and still enjoy healthy, beautiful landscapes.”

“We in Rancho Santa Margarita are committed to water conservation and the City commends Community Lutheran Church and its partners in the CLC Landscape Renovation Project for their efforts to make our community more water-wise,” said the Honorable Tony Beall, Mayor of Rancho Santa Margarita.

Peter Mowery, design director with C2 Collaborative Landscape Design, developed a detailed, professional landscape plan. Mountain States Wholesale Nursery and Apollo Wood Products stepped up with donations and discounts on beautiful native plants, trees and a mountain of mulch. A-G Sod Farms helped provide new water-efficient sod for the functional turf areas. Contractor George Alonzo and his crew at Advanced Patio Landscape provided the project labor, taking advantage of the powerful tractor loader backhoe from Compact Power Equipment Rental to remove old plants and shrubs, dig holes for new trees, transport materials and improve the site grading. Within a few weeks, a beautiful, water-efficient landscape full of native plants and colorful flowers began to emerge.

Rain Bird donated all of the water-saving irrigation products needed to transform the old sprinkler system. XFD dripline and QF dripline header were used to convert much of the site to water saving drip. Rain Bird 1800 Spray to Drip Retrofit Kits were used throughout the property to quickly create a connection point for drip tubing, especially on difficult areas like parking lot medians. The addition of a PRS Dial pressure regulator and Quick Check basket filter made it possible to adapt an existing Rain Bird 1.5” brass valve to control a new drip zone. A new state-of-the-art smart control system was created by replacing the two outdated controllers with a single Rain Bird ESP-LXME modular controller, WR2 wireless rain sensor and IQ v3.0 central control. By incorporating a PESB master valve and FS150B flow sensor, the system can accurately track water use and send automatic alerts if any leaks or breaks occur. Rain Bird’s RWS root watering systems are helping new trees flourish, and VB Series valve boxes are keeping the valves protected.

“While much of the old turf was replaced with native plants, trees and mulch, the church members and preschool kids still needed grassy areas for events and playtime,” Nathanson said. “The plan incorporated three sections of new water-efficient sod, complete with intelligent irrigation: Rain Bird’s 5000 Plus PRS pressure regulating rotors are watering the large back patio area; 1800SAMP45 pressure regulating sprays with high efficiency R-VAN rotary nozzles are irrigating the front hill; and XFS subsurface drip emitter tubing is keeping the play area green, cool and healthy for the kids.”

Throughout Smart Irrigation Month, Rain Bird will be sharing photos, tips and ideas from the CLC Landscape Renovation Project on social media (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.) The project will continue to provide value beyond the month of July, as the water district and other project partners use the site to educate others on how to improve their landscapes, discover beautiful new plant species and use far less water. Visit to learn more about the unique challenges of the project, the valuable contributions of the partners and watch the story unfold from concept to completion.

“We definitely want everyone to hear the story behind the CLC project, but we also encourage anyone who’s interested in reducing their outdoor water use to visit our 25 Ways website,” Nathanson said. “There, they’ll find lots of water-saving tips for residential properties, commercial sites, golf courses and farms. Water is one of our planet’s more precious resources and it is important for all of us to use water more intelligently.”

From intelligent control systems, drip irrigation and recycled water solutions to innovative pumps, filters, valves, rotors, sprays and nozzles, Rain Bird products make it possible for homes, farms, businesses, parks and golf courses to conserve more water. Employees throughout the Rain Bird organization are committed to The Intelligent Use of Water™, teaching irrigation professionals how to design and install more efficient systems and educating consumers worldwide about responsible outdoor water use.

Based in Azusa, Calif., Rain Bird Corporation is the world’s leading manufacturer and provider of irrigation products and services. Since its beginnings in 1933, Rain Bird has offered the industry’s broadest range of irrigation products for farms, golf courses, sports arenas, commercial developments and homes in more than 130 countries around the globe. Rain Bird has been awarded more than 450 patents, including the first in 1935 for the impact sprinkler. Rain Bird and The Intelligent Use of Water™ are about using water wisely. Its commitment extends beyond products to education, training and services for the industry and the community. Rain Bird maintains state-of-the-art manufacturing assembly facilities in the United States, China and Mexico.

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Ideas sought for First Street improvements

Representatives from the Community Redevelopment Authority and Business Improvement District are working to bring the same kind of attention and TLC to First Street that other areas of downtown have seen over the years.

Randy Chick, executive director of the CRA and BID, as well as CRA board member Roger Coffman and BID board member Roy DeMars, facilitated a pair of meetings Wednesday at the Chamber Development Center with downtown business owners to talk about trees and landscaping on First Street. 

“Obviously, it has not had a lot of attention over the years,” Chick said  of First Street during the afternoon meeting. “Second Street and Third Street have had quite a lot of improvements. What might First Street look like in the coming years?”

The idea is to introduce more greenery and shade along First Street to make the area more attractive to visitors.

The first parking lot project was completed toward the end of 2015 in what is called Lot 1, the parking lot at First Street and Lexington Avenue.

The work included more than 300 feet of landscaping, creating a greenery barrier along the BNSF railway; removing railroad spurs and repairing the parking lot.

The BID spent about $15,000 on improving the first lot. The city also provided in-kind support for the project, donating equipment and manpower.

The three representatives are appreciative of all the contributions from various city departments on the parking lot improvements.  

Lot 2, just west of Murphy’s Wagon Wheel, will cost a little more than $60,000 to complete. Chick said of that amount, about $58,000 was from a Community Development Block Grant based on the city’s downtown revitalization plan from 2014. 

For public facilities, there was $62,000 available within the $462,000 grant — $350,000 CDBG funds and $112,000 CRA funds — that could be used on the parking lots. The BID board has talked about contributing $15,000 to $20,000 to the parking lot improvements.

Chick said he plans to apply again for that CDBG, to help pay for improvements to Lot 4, behind the Eagles Club and Blue Moon Coffee Co.

“Obviously, you have to have a plan in place before you do that and build some sort of consensus to make sure we’re not disrupting any businesses in the area with the plans,” Chick said.   

He said funding for future parking lot improvements would come from the city and Hastings Utilities budgets, existing BID dollars and grants such as Community Development Block Grants 

“We’ve been looking under every rug for money,” Coffman said.

Chick, DeMars and Coffman walked meeting attendees through a slide show of photos depicting benches, shaded patios and wall art in downtowns such as New York City; Omaha; Denver; Fort Collins, Colorado; and St. Louis as inspiration for what might be possible along First Street.

“I get around to different towns, you look at some places that have really done a great job in making an atmosphere where a pedestrian feels like they can sit down or they can check out a business,” Coffman said. 

While improvements to First Street parking lots have been something DeMars and Coffman have wanted to address for years, it wasn’t until Lance Lang came on board last year as the city planner that the project got legs. 

The next step is presenting preliminary designs from Lang about where trees would be planted along First Street.

“What this is really about is seeking assistance, seeking input from downtown business owners or managers, the people who work there — we don’t care where the ideas come from,” DeMars said. “We just need input.”

For more information on the project contact Chick at 

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15th annual garden tour this weekend

Click photo to enlarge

WESTMINSTER GT;GT; The art of landscaping will be highlighted for a 15th year to support the efforts of Westminster Cares.

The public is invited to attend the Garden Tour on Saturday and Sunday, July 9 and 10, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., to witness gardens of internationally known designers Gordon and Mary Hayward and Julie Moir Messervy, as well as the gardens of Vanessa and David Stern.

“There’s a natural draw of people in New England who are gardeners and want to learn from these landscapers of things to do in their own garden,” said President of Westminster Cares Connie Sanderson. “We expect 300 or more people will come throughout the weekend from New England and New York as there were a little more than 300 people who came last year.”

Westminster Cares is a volunteer-based organization that works with seniors and disabled adults in town to help them remain healthy and independent in the community. Volunteers deliver meals, visit those who want company and provide rides to the grocery store or appointments. Its goal is that people can remain in their home and live independently even if they are home bound seniors.

The Garden Tour is Westminster Cares’ largest fundraiser of the year, raising $8,000 last year and hoping to bring in a little more this weekend.

This year there are a few new additions such as Messervy, a distinguished lecturer and the author of eight books on landscape design. She has lectured at venues such as the Smithsonian Institution, the National Geographic Society and the Getty Museum, and she studied landscape design in Kyoto, Japan, first as a Henry Luce Scholar, and then as a Japan Foundation Fellow.

Saturday and Sunday are self-guided tours, and admission for is $15 for one day, $25 for two. Discounted tickets can be purchased online at westminstercares.orgt. Group discounts for six or more are also available and the event is held rain or shine. Day of event tickets, lunch and refreshments will be available at the Westminster Institute on Route 5 or at the Hayward Garden, and Morning Star Perennials will hold a plant sale at the Hayward Garden during the event.

Sanderson said these gardens are “stunningly beautiful,” and she gave a special mention to Gordon and Mary Hayward’s home at 508 McKinnon Road, which is where the tour began 15 years ago.

“In the Hayward’s garden there are many beautiful features with garden rooms and many acres,” said Sanderson. “When you enter you realize you’ve stepped in to a magical world as you walk a path with locust tree trunks, then into garden room spaces, everything is designed beautifully.”

She further notes there are peaceful sitting areas, herb gardens, perennial gardens and a section devoted to shrubs and bushes. The Haywards will again welcome the public to view their gardens. For further details about the Haywards, visit

“Each section you find yourself in is unique to some aspect of landscape design,” Sanderson added about the Haywards.

In addition to the Haywards and Messervy, Cyndy Fine of Genius Loci will lead a walking tour and talk through her garden on “Creating Biodiversity in Your Gardens,” and there will be a tour of the oldest organic farm in Vermont – High Meadows Farm – with Howard Lisa Prussack, which is a new addition to this year’s event as well.

Westminster artist David Stern has donated an original watercolor of Twin Falls in North Westminster to Westminster Cares, which accepted silent auction bids on the painting throughout June with final bids accepted during the Garden Tour.

In addition, there will be a raffle and tickets can be purchased for a chance to win prizes, including a garden trellis, a wooden outdoor bench, and a one-night stay at the Grafton Inn with breakfast and dinner at the Phelps Barn included.

“There are other garden tours and they are wonderful, but I think the longevity of it and uniqueness and draw from all over New England sets us apart,” said Sanderson. “Plus it’s a beautiful way to spend the weekend and we appreciate all the attendance.”

The event sponsors include Durand Toyota/Ford, Chroma, Silver Forest of VT, Mascoma Savings Bank, C S Wholesale Grocers, Vermont Country Store, BurtCo, Inc. Savings Bank of Walpole, Brattleboro Ford/Subaru, and People’s United Bank.

For more information on the tour, visit E-mail Westminster Cares at or call 802-722-3607.

Maddi Shaw can be reached at 802-254-2311 ext 275

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Rhubarb stalks can be harvested when leaves unfold





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Turlock residents have access to free water … highly treated water

Home gardeners have a new source of water – the highly treated effluent from the city sewage plant.

Turlock is offering the recycled water for free for residential users in and around the city, as long as they bring approved containers to the plant. Commercial users can get it for $1.89 per 1,000 gallons.

The water is not safe to drink, but it can go on vegetable gardens and other landscaping, said Larry Gilley, utilities division manager for the city.

“I think a lot of people are comfortable with it nowadays,” he said. The nearest such programs are in Fresno County and the Bay Area, he said.

Users of the service, dubbed H2O to Go, must first take an online course on the state rules for transporting and using recycled water. Once approved, they can use one of five nozzles near the plant entrance on weekdays.

Gilley noted that water weighs 8.3 pounds per gallon, so users should take care not to overburden their vehicles. The limit is 300 gallons per visit for residential use. Commercial users can put it in tanker trucks.

The program involves a “minute” part of the 6 million to 10 million gallons of wastewater treated each day, Gilley said. The city already uses some of it for parks and street medians. The water also cools a Turlock Irrigation District power plant fueled by natural gas.

I think a lot of people are comfortable with it nowadays.

Larry Gilley, on using recycled water

Turlock plans to deliver a much larger amount of recycled water to farmers in the Del Puerto Water District, a drought-stressed area on the West Side. Modesto’s treatment plant is part of this project.

Both cities have upgraded their treatment of the wastewater from kitchens, bathrooms and laundries, in an effort to reduce pollution of the San Joaquin River.

The new Turlock service will provide a little relief to a city water system supplied by wells that can be stressed by drought. Even with the winter and spring rain, residents can do outdoor watering only two days a week.

“People like to feel that they are doing their part for the environment,” said Kevin Van Patten, an environmental compliance inspector assistant for the city.

Turlock already was using “biosolids” from the plant to make compost that also contains landscaping waste. It is available for free under the Nutrilock label.

John Holland: 209-578-2385

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Eliza Fournier Shares Midsummer Gardening Tips

The Chicago Botanic Garden’s Eliza Fournier shares a bushel of recommendations to keep your garden healthy in the summer heat.

Below are five easy gardening tips for midsummer.

Get Pests Under Control

Pictured clockwise from left are a cabbage moth, cabbage moth caterpillar and Japanese beetles.

Small white butterflies are actually cabbage moths whose caterpillars can decimate greens. Apply BT (bacillus thuringiensis) – an organic spray made from a natural spore that is toxic to the moths. Another solution: Beer in a tuna can will attract and drown the bugs.

Beware: Japanese beetles are starting to hatch. The best way to get rid of them is by handpicking them from plants. Early in the morning is the best time to remove them because these beetles are especially lethargic at that time.

Prune and Deadhead Flowers

To deadhead is to pinch or cut off a flower stem below the spent flower and just above the first set of leaves. Removing spent blossoms encourages more blooms and more vigorous roots and leaves.

Also, prune spring-blooming shrubs for size, and cut back overgrown perennials like catmint and sage.

Shower Your Garden, Lawn

Water your garden early each morning unless there has been a soaking rain. Conserve water by using soaker hoses instead of sprinklers.

Grass goes through a natural dormancy phase in the summer months. Mow and water only as necessary to grow the most resilient lawn. Leave it at least two inches high and water only when starting to brown at edges.

Tend to Your Tomatoes

Cut back “suckers”—the small shoots that grow out of the joint where a branch on the tomato plant meets the stem. Removing these results in a more abundant yield.

If left alone, these suckers will grow into branches and make the plant bushier and less fruitful.

Attract Butterflies to Your Garden

Bring on the butterflies with a midsummer planting.

Remember that butterflies frequent sunny, protected sites where nectar flowers abound. They avoid windy, exposed sites.

Some plants for attracting butterflies include yarrow (Achillea), butterfly weed (Asclepias), butterfly bush (Buddleja), red valerian, Centranthus), coneflower (Echinacea), globe thistle (Echinops), blanket flower (Gaillardia), gayfeather, (Liatris), beebalm (Monarda) and black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia).

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Related ‘Chicago Tonight’ stories

Local Entrepreneurs Aim for Zero Waste with Plant Chicago

July 6: On the South Side of Chicago some local entrepreneurs are repurposing an old meatpacking plant in an effort to create something very unusual – a way of doing business that creates no trash.

1st Summer Harvest Finds Organic Garden Thriving

June 28: We get a tasty sampling of the first harvest of our garden with organic gardener Jeanne Nolan.

Strategies for Container Gardening in Chicago

May 24: If you’re one of the many Chicagoans living in an apartment or condo with limited outdoor space, growing your own food can seem like a challenge – but, Jeanne Nolan says, anything you can grow in the ground can be grown in a container with just a few adjustments.

West Humboldt Park Farm Raises Fresh Fish, Greens in Once-Empty Lot

May 18: Inside a 12,000-square-foot greenhouse on the Northwest Side of Chicago, thousands of fish – and the waste they produce – are an essential part of an innovative growing method called aquaponics.

Save the Monarch Butterfly: Plant Milkweed

April 12: Their annual migration from North America to Mexico has been called “one of the most spectacular natural phenomena in the world,” but the monarch butterfly is not only in decline – it’s closer to extinction than previously thought, research shows.

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Hot tips for summer gardening in New Orleans


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Not Just Back Talk by Crick and Crack: Gardening Tips: Part II

Several years ago, my dear friend Anne Coulter shared a cartoon with me that showed a chiropractor gazing out his office window, remarking to his assistant standing next to him: “Ah, Spring, and another good crop of backaches…!” Anne always found things that were appropriate and funny to send to me!

Now “back” to work… On May 19th, my colleague (or for those of you that listen to Car Talk on NPR, my “esteemed” colleague!) mentioned some great tips for gardening safely, including lifting properly (with your legs, not your back), using mechanical aides (e.g. wheelbarrows), using a garden stool to sit on, taking breaks, and hydrating well.

In this column we would like to offer some other tips for make things better for you in the garden. Typically, the standard way people work in the garden is to kneel on both knees and bend over to dig, weed, plant, etc. The reason this is uncomfortable, even for short periods of time, is that it requires the steady use of back muscles, which after a time will build up lactic acid, making them sore. Changing positions periodically, as suggested previously, will help relax the muscles, letting fresh blood into them, thus bringing oxygen which helps get rid of the lactic acid.

However, there are some tricks to help avoid all this in the first place. One is to give up gardening completely, and go to the local farmers market … just kidding! (Though please, support our local farmers whenever you can!)

Tip #1: Use a long-handled spade to do the big stuff. Frequently many of us get down on our hands and knees to weed, and attack the little guys with a small gardening trowel and use our (relatively) small arm and hand muscles to do the work. Try using a large garden spade to do a “preemptive strike” at them, loosening the soil underneath the weeds. This allows you to use your large leg muscles, the gluteus, quadriceps and hamstings, which are infinitely stronger than your arm muscles, to do the majority of the hard work, while you just use your hands to do the picking. Plus, when you are using the spade, you are standing and not bending, obviating the use of the back muscles.

Tip #2: When you are kneeling, lean on one hand occasionally, or even frequently, to give your back muscles a rest. Try this: stand facing a chair, then put your right hand on the right side of your lower back, and bend over from the waist, placing your left hand on the chair to support your weight. Now stay bent over, but lift up your left hand. You should immediately feel the muscles under your right hand “go to work”, and tighten. Then return your left hand to the chair, and feel the muscles “let go”, and stop working. This happens because when we lean on our hand, we have now made a tripod with our two feet and our one hand, creating a secure base. The back muscles are no longer being called on, so they can let go.

The same thing happens if you are kneeling. Just place one hand out in front, even as a fist (easier on the wrist), and lean on it; your back muscles will relax and rest.

Tip #3: Instead of kneeling on both knees, try putting one leg out to the side, say your left, making a tripod with the left foot out, the right knee and the right ankle, which is flat on the ground. This allows you to get low to the work at hand, without bending over.

Tip #4: Use long-handled gardening tools when possible; it eliminates the need to bend as much.

Tip #5: When kneeling, ALWAYS use a knee pad; it will save your knees, and help prevent bursitis in the front of the knee (the dreaded “housemaid’s knee”). Don’t have a fancy garden pad? A bath towel folded in quarters will do!

We hope this helps with your experience getting down in the dirt, and happy gardening!

Questions about this column topic, or any other? Email us at

Yours in Health,

Crick and Crack

Dr. Thomas Turek grew up in New Jersey and attended Rutgers University and New York Chiropractic College. He has practiced in St. Johnsbury for 35 years, and lives in Waterford with his wife Dorothy. Dr. Travis Howard grew up in Rantoul, Ill. He was a medic in the Air Force for eight years. He attended University of Maryland European Division, Illinois State University, and Logan College of Chiropractic. He lives with his wife and three sons in Littleton, N.H. To submit a question for the column, email

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