Tag Archives: gardening

Landscape courses with Meredyth Hilton

Landscape courses with Meredyth Hilton

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Landscape courses with Meredyth Hilton

Meredyth Hilton knows gardens – she’s green and gifted! Plus, she’s an excellent teacher. Hilton’s five-week course will get you zinging into spring with a garden design you prepare yourself and ready to turn into reality.

“Our students learn the basics of garden design and plant placement,” said Hilton, a master gardener. “They bring the dimensions of their property and step by step come up with a scale drawing of their garden design that they can prepare and plant themselves or hire someone to do for them.”

The two hour classes are fun, and enable students to explore their personal design style and their likes and don’t likes in terms of use of space and particular plants. Hilton, of Hilton Design Department, is also is an owner of Artistic Gardens, an award-winning company with hundreds of stunning gardens to its credit throughout the GTA. Her teaching expertise includes stints at Centennial College, too.

And every sessions ends with a selection of hors d’oeuvres with wine!

Design Department is a design space and store in midtown Toronto that offers curated items including repurposed and refocused elements to enhance living space, as well as workshops and design classes. Combining new and old, the store offers unique decorative objects such as vintage prints, antique vases and custom-made cushions, as well as a selection of tropical plants and terrariums.

Classes will begin on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019 – $450.


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Engage in the art of growing

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Engage in the art of growing

More than ever, Canadians are making an attempt to shop at local farms and food markets. You only have to turn on the television and check out some of the celebrity chef programs to get a sense of the growing interest in food preparation. Growing fruits and veggies is at an all-time high.

Community gardens

These are gardens that are supported by a whole community of people. The harvest is shared with everyone who made a contribution of effort. Often a central kitchen is provided for the use by the same community. The growing interest in community gardens tells us that there is a large contingency of people who are looking for better quality produce from their own backyard.

Allotment gardens

These small areas of real estate are planted and nurtured by individuals, and are often supported by municipal government. They are great places to visit with like minded people, even if you do not have an allotment. Without a great deal of effort, you’ll witness a wide variety of garden designs and plant selections, as well as differing methods of growing and maintaining gardens.

Public gardeners have the added benefit of being able to ask questions, and observe practices and techniques that have proven to be helpful to other gardeners. Recipes are shared – not just for dinner, but also for soil preparation, and disease and insect treatment. Check out our website for growing the best tomatoes on the block.

Farmers’ markets

Real food guru, Michael Pollan, weighs in from his book, In Defense of Food. “It is hard to eat badly from the farmers’ market or from your garden. The number of farmers’ markets has more than doubled in the last 10 years, making it one of the fastest-growing segments of the food marketplace. Buying as much as you can from the farmers’ market, or directly from the farm when that’s an option, is a simple act with a host of profound consequences for your health, as well as for the health of the food chain you’ve now joined.”

Time well spent

The expenditure of time is often viewed in negative terms when it comes to food. In other cultures, it represents a good part of the day – growing, shopping and preparing for the main meal.

As we settle into hibernation during the winter season, it’s a perfect time to think about our food culture. Swap recipes, exchange growing tips, and break bread with a host of family and friends on these long, dark evenings.

Now is also the time to start planning your vegetable garden, and to order seeds. This is the beginning of a year-long process of sowing, growing, nurturing and harvesting. More than 30 per cent of Canadians will engage in this satisfying past time. There’s nothing like seeing, and tasting, the fruits of your labour.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author and broadcaster. The New Canadian Garden is published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter @MarkCullen4. MarkCullen.com

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Protecting insects the next big thing in gardening

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Protecting insects the next big thing in gardening

In Mark’s most recent book, The New Canadian Garden, he made the rather bold prediction that backyard hotels for insects and native bee habitats will be as common in Canada in 20 years as bird feeders are now. Say, what?

The idea of attracting ‘beneficials’ to your yard and garden is an idea that caught on in Great Britain a generation ago. Here, we are only beginning to wake up to the merit of it. Truth is, this can be a lot of fun, and kids love it too.

Take this novel idea for a Christmas present, as an example.

Last year, Mark made eight insect hotels for friends and family. Some seemed genuinely pleased to contribute towards a healthier level of biodiversity in their community, while others gave a look of utter astonishment, as to say, “Okay, now what do I do with THIS?”

What is it?

There are no rules for building insect hotels. Here are some general guidelines that will help get you on your way:

ROT AND DECAY ARE YOUR FRIENDS

Forget everything that you ever learned about hygiene and cleanliness…you are striving to create the perfect environment for overwintering insects through complete imperfection. This requires some grubbing around in your yard. Rotten wood (but not too rotten), pine cones, shredded newspaper, straw and the mature seed heads of most any perennial work just fine.

DUFF MATERIAL

Under evergreens you will find small branches, decay and needles. Grab a few handfuls of this stuff as it has value to insects looking for a winter home. Come spring, some insects make love in your hotel and next thing you know there are little bugs running around your yard looking for a meal. This is a cyclical thing and it is all good.

CHICKEN WIRE OR HARDWARE CLOTH

Every hotel requires security measures. The big risk for insects that sequester in your new insect hotel are foraging birds. As much as we love songbirds, they are not at the bottom of the food chain. Rather, they are aggressive foragers and many of them love munching on insects. By sealing the duff material behind a layer of chicken wire or hardware cloth, you are providing security for the little creatures, where they can live and breed without something with a beak sticking it where it does not belong.

DRAINAGE

You need to provide protection for the material that you put in your insect hotel. A roof overhead is a good idea and some drainage holes drilled in the base of the unit.

MASON BEES

Always provide some tubes for mason bees to lay their eggs. They will do this a couple of times during the gardening season and often late in fall, where they overwinter until spring when they hatch and produce flying progenies. You can use bamboo for this purpose, but make sure to smooth out the edges of the material at the entrance to the shoot. Or buy pre-made cardboard mason-bee tubes that are the precise length, calliper and smoothness for the bees to lay their eggs.

Watch the video

We will make you a bet: that you are the first person on your block to build an insect hotel in your yard. Neighbours and friends will think that you are nuts. And in a generation, you will be hailed as a visionary.

Mark Cullen is a Member of the Order of Canada. He reaches over 2 million Canadians with his gardening/environment messages every week. Receive his free monthly newsletter at www.markcullen.com. Ben Cullen is a professional gardener with a keen interest in food gardening and the environment. You can follow both Mark and Ben on twitter (@ MarkCullen4), facebook (facebook.com/MarkCullenGardening/) and instagram (instagram.com/markcullengardening/).

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Video: Mark Cullen – How to Plant in Containers

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Video: Mark Cullen – How to Plant in Containers

Tips for container gardening

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Garden Expert: Gardening Does A 180

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Garden Expert: Gardening Does A 180

Current trends embrace nature for a more eco-conscious world

Not long ago, the typical image of a Canadian garden consisted of a broad sweep of impatiens across the front of the house, a solid mass of unbroken colour that knocked your eyes out. This, framing a manicured, weed-free lawn, trimmed neat and clean.

Back in the day, as recently as 20 years ago, there was a lot of ‘snipping’ going on. And control. Mother Nature was to be tamed, not partnered with. My father was a leader of this pack. Why else, at the age of 14, did he send me out to prune a juniper into the shape of a chicken?

Dad was having fun, of course, and I do not mean to make fun of him.

Things have changed significantly in the Canadian garden in recent years and it is worth noting some of these changes.

Here’s how:

1 BRING ON THE INSECTS. Take tent caterpillars for instance. My Dad would cut a larvae-laden limb out of a crab-apple tree and burn the colony to get rid of it. I am sure this gave him much satisfaction.

A few years ago, I decided to just leave the tent caterpillars alone in my row of 25 crabapples. I observed that many of the trees in the native forest along Hwy 400, between Toronto and North Bay, provide habitat to caterpillars and no one takes them out or burns them. And now I realize that they serve a useful purpose in the natural scheme of things. They are food for many foraging birds including insectivores, many of which are in decline. They need all of the help we can give them, so why not ignore the tent caterpillars and let nature take its course? I decided to do this and it took two years for the birds to discover that I was no longer removing them from tree limbs before they did the job for me. Voilà! Less work for me, better for the birds.

We do not kill insects to the same extent that we once did. Native insects (vs. imported, invasive ones like the Emerald Ash Borer) are part of the natural web. Apart from our general distaste for wasps in our soft drinks and ants in our patio, we are gradually learning to live and let live.

2 KILLING WEEDS. Just a few years ago we pulled milkweed from our gardens. It is a ‘weed,’ after all it is in the name, right? Now we pay good money for milkweed seeds to provide habitat and food for migratory monarch butterflies.

3 ROT AND DECAY ARE OUR FRIENDS. Remember when we blew our fallen leaves into piles and stuffed them into brown paper bags, dragged them to the curb for the municipality to haul them away? In the spring, we drove to a depot to pick up ‘free’ compost or worse, some municipalities offered the compost for sale back to the taxpayers who gave them the raw material in the first place. Back in the day we really weren’t too smart. Now we rake (not blow) the leaves off the lawn and on to the garden.

Over the spring months, those leaves disappear as foraging worms pull them into the soil to convert them into nitrogen-rich earthworm castings. Better for your garden, less work, saves the municipality money. Oh, some of us still do it the old-fashioned way. Okay, this one is a work in progress.

4 WILDLIFE HABITAT. With over 800 species of native Canadian bees, we are indeed blessed with a host of natural pollinators, many of which are in decline. Many are more effective at pollination than honeybees, which are a European import.

Now we provide habitat for our dear wildlife: mason bee houses, insect hotels, toad homes, water features that breed frogs, toads, salamanders, dragon flies and newts.

We are getting much better at this but have a way to go. I predict that we will have as many insect-enhancing devices in our backyards in 20 years as we have bird feeders now. Stay tuned.

I recently asked a friend, who is a father to a 15-year-old boy, what he thought the world will look like a generation from now. He looked at me with a worried frown, “I hate to think.”

And yet, all of the aforementioned changes in our thinking with respect to the Canadian garden are a result of young people speaking up in defence of a new, greener, cleaner world.

And sometimes they don’t speak up.

They just do it.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, member of the Order of Canada, author and broadcaster. Get his free monthly newsletter at markcullen.com. Look for his new best seller, The New Canadian Garden published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and Facebook. markcullen.com

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BIG STYLE, SMALL SPACES: Think Inside the Box

BIG STYLE, SMALL SPACES: Think Inside the Box

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BIG STYLE, SMALL SPACES: Think Inside the Box

by Lisa Rogers

Container gardening on balconies and patios can create outdoor magic

After a long, cold winter, we’re all itching to get outside, head to our little backyard oasis and raise our faces to the sun.

Just because you live in a condo or a townhome, doesn’t mean you can’t have a lush beautiful garden. And just because you live in a house nothing says that your leafy oasis has to be on the ground.

Anyone can have a gorgeous garden right on the deck or balcony with a little pre-planning, some fundamental principles and great looking containers.

ASSESS YOUR SPACE

Figure out how much room there is and the type of exposure – higher floors on a condo create different planting zones because they are more exposed to harsh sun and wind. Check with the nursery to see which plants are hardiest under whatever conditions you have.

Calculate the amount of sun – and whether it’s morning or afternoon sun – to determine the type of plants. If there’s a lot of shade, you’ll be checking out impatiens, periwinkle, hostas and hydrangeas, while geraniums, salvia, coneflowers and peonies are sun worshipers. To create pockets of shade, try planter boxes along the railing, letting the ivy trail and providing cover for plants below.

CREATE A GARDEN PLAN

You want to enjoy the garden not just outside but from every vantage point inside as well, so figure out the views to coordinate colours and feel. Alternately, maybe your clean-lined modern interior would benefit from a riot of colour to draw the eye outside.

Keep proportion and ratio in mind; vary the heights of plants by mixing tall plants like palms or tropical trees with shorter bushes. Tall plants also create privacy from neighbours, as do trellises, but check with your condo board to see if you’re allowed to build. Add a couple of comfy chairs and a small table and you’ve created an oasis.

Decide on a colour scheme – not only simple and elegant, it will restrain you from buying every plant in the store. Choose two or three plants and repeat them. It saves money in the long run and creates a unified look that is calming and easier to care for.

CONTAINERS

They come in such a variety of sizes and they’ll help with the varied heights. Buy in durable lightweight materials that look like wood or stone as they’re easier to move around. And so easy – no mulch, weeding or digging.

If you like a clean look, choose identical containers that complement simple plant colours such as glossy green leaves and white blooms. If it’s a cottagey effect you’re after, use anything. An old metal wash bucket for growing herbs, wire egg baskets for hanging planters for those coral geraniums and pink begonias. Add in lime green or silvery foliage.

You can also use perennials in your containers. Although they don’t spread quite like annuals and, if you’re in a condo, you’re not likely to overwinter them.

PLANTING

Place the tallest plant in the centre of the pot and lower the heights as you move outward. For example, a tall tree or bush like hibiscus or Mandevilla, surrounded by shorter transition plants and at the edge add trailers. Spend money on plants that spread – impatiens, portulacas, various ivy like periwinkle and pachysandra – but leave enough room in the pot for them to grow otherwise they’ll die off after a month.

Bring out your indoor plants – they flourish outdoors in the summer as long as you keep an eye on sun exposure, which can burn them. Rubber plants, schefflera and Christmas cactus are ideal for the outside.

When grouping containers, remember the 3-5-7 principle — grouping in threes or fives or sevens. If you’re attaching pots to the fence, position at eye level because if they’re placed on top of the rail, you’ll see only the bottom of the pot when sitting down.

And finally, do add some garden accents. There’s nothing like the sound of water burbling all summer so add a water feature. Add a fire pit while you’re at it — summer evenings can be chilly, though it’s also handy to have a basket of pashminas at the ready for wrapping around your shoulders.

Lisa Rogers is the exclusive interior designer for Dunpar Homes.

Lisa has shared her style and design expertise on popular television programs, such as Canadian Living TV, House & Home TV and The Shopping Channel.

Lisa is one of the most familiar faces on CityTV’s Cityline as a regular guest expert for fashion and image, health and wellness and interior design.


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In The Garden: Last Minute Gardening Must-Dos

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In The Garden: Last Minute Gardening Must-Dos

For those of you who thought you were done with your lawn and garden responsibilities for the year – think again. Here’s a last-minute check list.

Fertilize the lawn

This is the best time of year to apply the most important application of lawn food. Before it goes to sleep for the winter, your lawn will absorb the nutritional benefits of a fall feed. Nutrients and sugars are stored in its roots in anticipation of the long, cold winter ahead. Choose a fertilizer with a slow release nitrogen (which is the first number), and high potassium (the third number), like 12-0-18.

Wrap the cedars

Cedar trees that are close to the road, especially those that are located on the east side where they are susceptible to the salt spray carried in the westerly winds, are the most vulnerable. To prevent permanent damage from the salt, wrap them in a layer of burlap, and then wrap them a second time. The two layers protect them from drying out – especially those that feel the brunt of the winds from the west, and from the north.

Organic composting

Ideally, all the leaves have now fallen from your trees, and you’ve raked them off your lawn and on to your gardens. If you have a compost pile or bin, now is an excellent time to empty the contents of it on to your garden. Spread it with a rake and let it sit there over the winter. Come early spring, earthworms will pull the raw compost under the surface of the soil and convert it into nitrogen rich castings.

Protect fruit trees

Mice and bunnies can do quite a bit of damage by nibbling away at the bark of fruit trees that are less than six years old, especially if we get an average dump of snow this winter. Wrap each tree with a plastic spiral that extends about one metre up the trunk, from the ground. After the tree has aged for more than six years, the trunks of most trees become too tough for rodents to enjoy.

Refresh and renew

Protect rhododendrons and other wind sensitive evergreens, like taxus (yews) and boxwood, with one application of Wilt-Pruf – it helps to prevent the drying effects of the wind, as well as the low humidity that we experience during our Canadian winters. Hang on to the leftovers and apply Wilt- Pruf to your freshly cut Christmas Tree. It works better than any other preservative that I’m aware of.

Clean the bird feeders

While I don’t anticipate seeing any hummingbirds until mid spring, there still may be wasps around at this time of year. Therefore, make sure to bring in the hummingbird feeders, and clean them in warm, soapy water. All bird feeders should be cleaned to help reduce the risk of disease.

Now that you’ve battened down the gardening hatches for another year, you can sit back and enjoy the fruits of your labour.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author and broadcaster. Check out his new book The New Canadian Garden published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and on Facebook. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at MarkCullen.com

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In The Garden: Raided in a Bed

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In The Garden: Raided in a Bed

Tuck plants in for an extended season.

If you’re thinking of building a raised bed in your yard, urban gardener Tara Nolan has the answers to all of your questions. Nolan is an authority on this subject, and with all the changes in the business of gardening over the recent years, it’s great to have a comprehensive, go-to book on this very popular topic.

Early autumn is the perfect time of year to get handy and build a raised bed to plant in for this season, or in preparation for spring.

There are caveats to the raised bed phenomena. The roots of winterhardy plants are exposed to excess cold in the depth of winter. With this in mind, choose plants that are hardy in a planting zone one above your own. For example, plant winterhardy plants that are rated for Zone Five in a Zone Six Toronto garden.

Raised beds also tend to dry out more quickly than ground level beds. On the positive side, this can decrease the likelihood of over watering, which is at the root of 90 per cent of all plant problems. However, you do have to be vigilant about watering especially during hot, dry weather.

Tara Nolan is a Canadian writer. Her book is a comprehensive treatise on the subject, with a third of the book dedicated to DIY raised bed projects.

Raised Bed Revolution – Build It, Fill It, Plant ItGarden Anywhere is published by Cool Spring Press.

Why build a raised bed?

In her book, Raised Bed Revolution – Build It, Fill It, Plant It…Garden Anywhere, Nolan dedicates 12 pages of reasons as to why you might want might to build a raised bed for your veggies and ornamentals. Here are some of my favourites.

  • Season extension
  • Start earlier, harvest later. The soil in a raised bed warms up quicker come spring. If you have a glassedin structure around a raised bed, or use white Reemay cloth, you can extend the season for several weeks.
  • Control soil quality
  • People frequently ask me what they should do with clay soil. They’re never happy when I advise them to dig out 30 to 40 centimetres of the clay soil and replace it with 50 to 60 centimetres of new triple mix. When you build a raised bed in your yard, you don’t have to dig down and remove the soil. Fill the raised bed with the best quality, weed-free soil that you can get your hands on.
  • Accessibility
  • At Wind Reach Farm (a centre designed to meet the needs of individuals with a variety of disabilities in Ashburn, Ontario), I saw some of the most practical, and handsome, raised bed gardens for wheelchair gardeners. If this is a consideration, be sure to design a wheelchair garden with a wraparound feature for the plants on the left, and a shelf for shallow rooted plants on the right, so that the gardener can belly up to the garden with their legs safely nested underneath.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author and broadcaster. Check out his new book The New Canadian Garden published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and on Facebook. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at MarkCullen.com

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In The Garden: Stay-Cool Gardening

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In The Garden: Stay-Cool Gardening

Whether you follow the farmers’ almanac, the pundits of global warming, or listen to the long range forecast, this summer is bound to be a hot one. So, the burning question is, “How do you enjoy a great-looking garden in the heat?”

You can train plants to expect water only when the soil around their roots dries to three to five centimetres below the surface of the soil. Of course the amount will vary from plant to plant, but the point is that if you water your garden a little bit at a time, the roots stay up near the surface of the soil and wait for you to stand at the end of your hose each evening. It may be water therapy for you, but its bad training for your plants. This rule is equally true for perennials, annuals, veggies, and even the shrubs and trees on your property – not to mention your lawn.

Plants that are watered infrequently, and deeply, will send down roots in search of moisture.

Plants that are watered infrequently, and deeply, will send down roots in search of moisture as the temperature rises, and the timing between summer rainfalls stretches from days into weeks.

THE LAWN

Don’t water your lawn at all in a drought situation. Save yourself the time, expense and the resources that are required to cut your lawn when its actively growing. Yes, it will become brown and dormant, but it will not die. Dormant is the equivalent of sleeping.

Come mid-August your lawn will wake up as days get shorter, evening temperatures fall and the morning dew increases. This is the reason why every sod grower in the province (and there are many) sow their seeds for the next crop between the middle of August and the end of September.

THIRSTY TREES

Trees need water too – more so when you think back to the weeks of below normal rain fall that we experienced last summer. Apply water to the root zone of both young and mature trees by placing a hose at the base of the tree with just a trickle of water coming out. Leave it there for three to four hours.

If you have trees on your property that were planted within the last three years, watering them is critical at this time of year. A mature, 20-metre-high maple tree transpires more than 500 litres of water on a hot day, so its important to get water down to its roots. The tree that grows on the boulevard also needs water. Even though it may be owned by the municipality, consider it your responsibility and give it healthy drink.

THE MIRACLE OF MULCH

A six- to eight-centimetre layer of finely ground cedar or pine bark insulates the soil from the drying effects of the sun and the wind. This layer of mulch can reduce the need for water by up to 70 per cent, and is one of the best monetary, and timesaving, investments that you can make for your garden.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author and broadcaster. Check out his new book The New Canadian Garden published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and on Facebook. Sign up for his free monthly newsletter at MarkCullen.com

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Tips for taking control of body pain

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Tips for taking control of body pain

By News Canada

As much as we’d like to steer clear of long-lasting muscle, joint, back and arthritis pain, we may be unable to dodge these symptoms as time marches on.

So why does this happen? With age, muscle fibres shrink and weaken, which can contribute to fatigue and limit physical activity. At the same time, joints may stiffen and lose flexibility, resulting in pain, inflammation and, in some cases, arthritis.

Long-lasting body pain may be more common as we get older, but it shouldn’t stop us from enjoying life and accomplishing all we want to. Research has found that a combination of treatment methods, including physiotherapy, massage therapy and medications, show the best results when managing body pain.

“When we leave our 30s and enter our 40s and 50s, pain can become a regular part of life. Some of my patients complain that they have to rely on taking multiple doses of pain relievers in a day to cope,” says Dr. Jeff Habert. “Advil 12 Hour offers an option where just one pill keeps working for up to 12 hours.”

If you’re looking for an additional way to help get some relief, try applying icepacks to reduce inflammation and ease pain, or a warm bath to relieve aching muscles. As always, consult your health care provider with any health concerns.

Some pain can be episodic, kicking in after a physically strenuous activity. Or, it can be long-lasting pain, perhaps preventing us from participating in the activities we love. If you experience long-lasting pain that interferes with your ability to stay active or accomplish the things you want to, these simple tips can help you take control of your pain:

Stay active: Body pain may lead you to avoid physical activity. But low-impact activities like walking, stretching or light exercises can actually help manage pain and even increase strength and flexibility.

Get relief: To help gain control over your pain so you can accomplish everything you want to, try a non-prescription pain reliever.

Hot and cold: Direct heat from hot packs or a warm bath can help relax tight muscles, while ice packs can reduce inflammation and ease pain. These tips are suggestions. As always, consult your health care provider with any health concerns.

GARDENING PAIN

The long, sunny days of summer are returning, and that means it’s time to dust off those gardening tools. But if you experience long-lasting body pain, yard work might be easier said than done.

Gardening and weeding involve a wide range of motions, including kneeling, squatting, twisting and lifting, engaging many muscles and joints. These movements can exacerbate existing pain, including arthritis pain, if not done right.

Try these tips to minimize pain when gardening:

Limber up: Tend to yourself before tending to those precious flowers. Stretch your arms, back, wrists and hamstrings prior to planting — your joints and muscles will thank you.

The right gear: Choose tools that help ease the burden on your body. Use a wheelbarrow to carry bags of soil and other heavy materials across the yard and wear kneepads to reduce the strain on those joints.

Relieve your pain: A non-prescription pain reliever can help you focus on your gardening tasks without your pain holding you back, and also relieve pain after a gruelling day in the soil.

Proper technique: Proper technique and positioning reduces strain on muscles and joints. Bend your knees when lifting heavy objects and alternate between heavy and light activities to avoid repetitive-motion injuries.

These tips are suggestions. As always, consult your health care provider with any health concerns.

www.newscanada.com

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