Mind your back! As many of us know, it’s very easy to overdo it in the garden and hurt your back.

A set of wheels certainly helps in moving things around. Something to think about over the next few weeks? You might be able to pick up a bargain in the sales.

Good lifting technique makes all the difference in avoiding injury. Read our lifting guidelines below and try to keep yourself fit over the winter period. There’s not much gardening going on in most gardens at present and unless you’re keeping fit in other ways, some of your gardening fitness will be seeping away. It will take time to get back to fighting fitness in the spring and that’s when injury often strikes.

Use wheels in the garden to move heavy items

Whatever set of wheels you choose, follow these guidelines:

  • Put your trolley or barrow as close as possible to the heavy item to make loading easier.
  • Wear gloves to give yourself a good grip.
  • Use a bungee cord to keep the heavy item in place when it's on the trolley.
  • Don’t overload your trolley or barrow; make more trips with lighter loads.

A sack truck is invaluable. It has a metal base, two small wheels and long handles to waist height or higher. Slip the base under your plant pot or bag of compost, tilt it back and wheel it to where you need it.

your back

Sack truck, possibly once owned by the Post Office. © Phil Parker and reused under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Bigger trolleys with a flat base are ideal for bigger items.

A pot trolley or plant caddy to house your plant pot makes light work of moving it around from season to season.

Use your wheelbarrow to move plants and other loads around the garden.

your back

Wheelbarrow, Friday Street Allotments, Minchinhampton, Gloucestershire. © Helena Downton and reused under https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

Lift correctly to protect your back

Try to avoid lifting heavy weights on your own by getting help or using a trolley or barrow. If you must lift heavy items, try to avoid injury by following these guidelines.

  1. Warm up first with some stretching exercises and/or a short walk to loosen your joints. In the cold, wear enough layers to keep your muscles warm, or it might be an idea to wait until later in the day when it’s warmer.
  2. Plan ahead. Clear the way from where the heavy item is now to where it will be.
  3. Make a wide, solid base of support. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart to distribute your body weight evenly.
  4. Bend your knees rather than bending over from the waist. This gets you ready to lift using your leg muscles (stronger than your back muscles) and avoids putting significant pressure on your back.
  5. Keep your back straight by looking slightly upwards and in front of you.
  6. Tighten your stomach muscles. This protects your back as you lift.
  7. Start to lift slowly, generating force with your leg muscles. Avoid quick, jerky movements.
  8. Bring the item as close to your body as possible. This minimises the effort needed to lift or carry it.
  9. Take short steps. Once again, don’t hurry.
  10. If you have to change direction, use your feet not your spine. Don’t lift and twist at the same time.

summer containers. your back

I plan to keep my fitness up over the winter so I’m ready for a busy spring in the garden, and I’ll also be looking for a robust sack truck or trolley in the New Year.