Gardening Matters with K.C. Fahy-Harvick

Tips, Tools & Techniques

Tools and Techniques for Gardening Longevity

In the Finger Lakes area, we have a limited amount of time to get our gardens ready for summer enjoyment.  The long winter months find us spending a lot of time inside, then as soon as Spring breaks in April, we start the mad dash to Memorial Day.  Hurrying to get all of our garden chores done, trying to plant our annual plants after the elusive last-frost date, and attempting to get a leg-up on the weeds all because summer seems too short to enjoy our outdoor spaces.  Time constraints and physical stresses combine in the Spring for the perfect recipe for pain and injury.

Certainly gardening is really good for our health, in fact,  it is considered to be one of the healthiest activities because gardeners use every muscle in their bodies as they walk, lift, reach, bend, kneel, squat, lunge, and climb.  Since most of us garden on the weekends or after work, the label ‘weekend warrior’ comes to mind and it is catchy, but we may lose the battle if we overdo, suffer from aches, pains, or possibly do serious damage to our body.   Such injuries are more likely if you already have things like arthritis, bursitis, or one of the many issues our bodies suffer from as we age.  In my case, my brain thinks I’m still in my 30’s, while my body gives me sharp reminders of my true age and ability.

There are many good rules of thumb to use when creating  gardens;  such as soil preparation, plant selection, and after care. These rules are very helpful to gardeners young and old, but for someone just starting out it can be a game changer to start out on the right foot.   Now that I have been gardening professionally long enough to wear out two hip joints, the importance of gardening ergonomics has come to light.  Knowing what to do is important enough, but knowing how to do it without hurting yourself is even more vital to your gardening longevity.

These tools and techniques will help veteran gardeners continue to enjoy their activities, while showing new gardeners how to work comfortably from the start.  As these ideas bring more efficiency and physical comfort to your garden work, they will create more time for the actual enjoyment of your outdoor space.  Preventing injuries and wear and tear to joints will help make gardening an enjoyable life-long activity. After all, it’s not just about the passion for flowers and fresh air, gardening is about enhancing the health of body, mind, AND spirit!

BACKS - Standing up to the challenge

1) DIAMOND HOE - The secrets to this tool are the length of the handle and the sharpness of the diamond-shaped head.  This tool allows you to stand up straight while weeding, cutting off the weeds at the soil level, then gently picking them up.

2)  FOLDING RAKE -  This rake can be wide or narrow so it gets into small spaces, and is gentle enough to rake around plants and shrubs without you bending over.  It eliminates the need for a hand tool and getting up and down.

3)  BORDER SPADES - Having a spade with a smaller digging head and a shorter handle (39”) gives you a distinct advantage when working in an existing garden.  It makes digging, dividing, and planting much easier, and the short handle with the end grip allows you to put your body into it for more force without strain.  

4)  BUCKETS TRUGS  -  These buckets are not expensive and they help to carry debris and supplies at a healthy level up closer to your waist.  Carrying weight closer to your waist level takes a lot of pressure off your back.

5)  TWO-WHEELED BARROW - This wheel cart will save you from yourself!  It is very easy to wheel without balancing issues, even with 200 lbs. in it, unlike a wheel barrow that is very hard on your shoulders and back.  

KNEES AND ELBOWS - Down to earth positions

1)  STRAP-ON KNEE PADS  - Unlike kneeling pads, these stay with you.  They have saved my knees from a lot of pain.

2)  PERENNIAL SPADE - This is a short-handled, sharp tool that will dig, plant, weed, and divide all while you are down on your knees.  This tool will prevent having to get up and down while doing all of these tasks.  The handle shape helps to give you more force without strain.

2)  PERENNIAL SPADE - This is a short-handled, sharp tool that will dig, plant, weed, and divide all while you are down on your knees.  This tool will prevent having to get up and down while doing all of these tasks.  The handle shape helps to give you more force without strain.


1)  GLOVES - Nitrile gloves do not wear out and are thin enough to feel what you’re doing while weeding and planting.   The  rubbery textured Mudglove helps to grip things like bags of mulch and tools, so it helps to reduce the strain toyour hands and back when carrying heavy items or using tools.  I use both types.

2)  ROTATING HANDLE PRUNERS  -  The Felco #7 Pruner has a rotating handle.  It was designed for professionals, but I find it helps reduce the arthritis pain in my fingers.  Once you get used to it, you will love it.  I recommend Felcos because they work easily, sharply, and last forever.  Using a dull or awkward pruner increases the strain on your hand and wrist joints.

3)  HAWS WATERING CAN - This may seem like a minor thing, but when you think about how much you use your watering can throughout the summer, it almost becomes a repetitive motion issue.  This watering can is ergonomically designed to relieve the strain on your wrist and elbow, and is worth every penny.

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K.C. Fahy-Harvick
240 Sylvan Road
Rochester, NY 14618

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