Three ways to garden around pain

Finding ways to garden despite an injury.

“It’s not so hard to bend down; it’s getting back up again that’s the problem.”

You may have heard others who share my distress at back, hip and leg pain. If you suffer from these infirmities, I offer three suggestions to help you continue working in your garden.

The first is simple; go to your doctor. After x-rays and CT scans, maybe he’ll order an MRI, send the results to a surgeon and you’ll get some good news: you may have a piece of bone (a vertebra?) pushing against a nerve. Surgery should fix it, laparoscopic surgery. Day surgery. In and out, agile once more. It’s just a matter of the surgeon making a little hole and bringing in a tiny angle grinder and taking off the offending bit of bone.

A second suggestion is to buy a special shovel. The blade is shaped just like a gravel shovel, but it is shorter, narrower, and the handle is long. Mine is a GARANT 53” Botanica Round Point Long Handle Shovel. It’s just right for digging under a reluctant dandelion or clump of quack grass or a wild clover plant invading your asparagus bed. The long handle means that you don’t have to bend over. The small blade makes things easier to insert into the ground and the whole shovel is lightweight.

Small Persons

At this point you’re ahead of me, thinking, “but you still have to bend over to do something with the weeds you’ve loosened.” And here is where the third suggestion comes in: to make gardening possible, try to find a Small Person to help you.

The Small Person who helps me is in grade one. She crawls on her hands and knees and pulls out the dandelions after I loosen them with the shovel. “Ooh, look at how long the root is on that one!”And while we work, I continue with inveterate teaching: “Look, that’s a plantain. It has fibrous roots. And that grass has a very long rhizome.” Upon dragging a reluctant clover plant from the ground, “see the little white bumps on the roots? Those are rhizobia colonies – groups of bacteria that take some food from the plant and in turn bring nitrogen fertilizer into the plant. Isn’t that cooperation wonderful?” [I was tempted to introduce koinonia but resisted the urge.]

Once, after bringing Small Person and her brother home after they helped me in the yard and garden for a couple hours, I mentioned doing this bit of instruction to Small Person’s mother who replied, “Oh, I know all about the ‘little white bumps on clover roots that help the plant grow’.”

So there you have them: if I had to do without the shovel, somehow I’d manage. I wouldn’t like to live with the pain, so the surgeon ranks high on my list of favourite people. But if I had to choose, I’d rate Small Person the best for my total health.


  • Curt Gesch

    Curt Gesch and his wife lead the singing via Zoom for a combined service of small United Church congregations in central B.C. each Sunday morning. In the afternoon, they lead a Friends and Family Zoom worship from their home. If you'd like to join that service, please write Curt at moc.liamg@36hcsegc.

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One Comment

  1. Update on article: The surgery reduced the pain significantly, thanks to God working with medical professionals.

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