GARDENING : Lifting, Kneeling Can Put Health Out on a Limb


Don’t overdo it in your garden this spring, especially if you are a senior citizen or are approaching that stage of life.

The American Physical Therapy Assn. cautions that gardening can lead to injury or stiffness in the back, knees, hips and hands. This is especially a problem for the many gardeners who are 50 or older.

To reduce pain and injury, physical therapists suggest that you:

* Not sit in the same position for too long. This can create stress on the vertebrae.

* Kneel on a pad to protect your knees.

* When lifting rocks, tree limbs, bags of peat moss and other heavy objects, bend at the knees rather than at the waist; keep your back straight and lift slowly.


* Prepare yourself for gardening by doing some simple stretching and limbering exercises, such as five repetitions of the following: turning your head from side to side; slowly raising each knee as high as possible above your waist; gently rotating your upper body with your feet apart and hands on hips; clenching your hands into tight fists and releasing; and rotating your wrists in circle.

Double-Duty Trees

If you plan to plant trees this spring, consider double-purpose trees, such as shade and flowering; shade, flowering and fruiting; or shade and nut-producing.

Suggestions in the first group are dogwoods in red, pink or white, the beautiful magnolia, fringe trees, silver bells, redbuds, catalpas, flowering cherries, the empress tree, and non-fruiting crab apples.

Among varieties producing edible or ornamental fruit are apple, peach, pear, plum, cherry, quince, orange, lemon and tangelo. All have attractive blossoms. To these, add most of the crab apples, hawthorns and mountain ash.

Then there are nut trees--walnuts, pecans and heart nuts, which produce large, broad trees; butternuts, Chinese chestnuts, almonds and hickories. Others are jujubes, papaws and persimmons, which are really considered fruit trees, but are less spectacular.

One of my favorites in the back yard is the medium-sized mimosa, which produces pink, brush-like blooms in July.

All these trees are deciduous--that is, leaf-dropping--so they will offer shade in summer and let sun through in winter.

Plant early in spring. Dig a large hole, at least 50% wider and deeper than the roots spread out. Before planting, soak roots in water for several hours.

After planting, add some dried cow manure and--or a handful of soluble fertilizer to the removed soil and mix it thoroughly with a hoe. Then fill it back in around the tree roots, firming it with your feet when two-thirds full.

Fill the remainder of the hole with water. When the water has soaked in, finish filling the hole with soil and make a large ring around the plant to retain water. Set the tree at the same depth as it was in the nursery, or to the top of the root ball.

In dry country, mulch over the root area to help retain water.