Catherine Stewart6 dumb ways to be injured in the garden

I have done all of these dumb things. I’ve hurt my back, cut my hand, dinged my head, scraped my shins and generally given myself a beating. For a vaguely sentient being, I surprise even myself at my ability to make stupid decisions that result in injury while I’m gardening. Fortunately they’ve never involved succumbing to tetanus as well, but I’m sure it’s only the good immunity I have from vaccination to thank for that.

So here is my guide about how to NOT make the same dumb decisions, and hopefully you’ll be able to prevent blood on the garden beds and to keep yourself out of emergency areas, doctor’s waiting rooms and physiotherapy beds.

Image credit www.SeniorLiving.Org

Image credit SeniorLiving.Org

 

1. If you think you’ve picked up something that’s too heavy just drop it, as saving it might send you broke.

A few weeks ago, we were picking up new turf rolls to re-lay a lawn beside the driveway. We choose one of the more expensive turf types called ‘Sir Walter’ buffalo (St Augustine grass), which costs a premium $12.50 per square metre (that’s 11 square feet). Just before we went to collect it, it rained. That seemed like A Good Thing for making the ground moist but what else it did was wet the turf rolls, increasing their weight by about 50%.

As I picked one up and turned around to put it in our trailer, I realised I was going to have to lean right over the trailer wheel guard to stack it carefully next to the last one. As I picked it up I thought, ‘wow, this is heavy’, and as I turned and leaned over I thought ‘oh, oh this might be a mistake’. So did I drop the bloody turf roll, worth $12.50? No, my decision-making paradigm decided that it was better to preserve the turf roll at all costs. PING! went discs L4 and 5. So instead of paying another $12.50 to replace a dropped turf roll, I’ve so far paid a physio over $150 to help ease the pain and get me moving again. Doh!

Image by GardenDrum.com

 

2. Don’t leave garden rakes on the ground with the tines pointing UPWARDS

You know how there’s that comic book moment when you do something so, so stupid that you can see the whole scene slotting neatly into a banana peel-slipping, Adam Sandler kind of movie? During last summer I used a rake to pull out a whole lot of trad (wandering jew) weed – the heavy duty sort of rake with stiff, nail-like tines. As it was a hot day I built up quite a thirst. I threw the rake down in the mess of weeds to go inside and get a drink of water. Came back outside and THWACK! trod straight onto the rake tines, causing the handle to arc through the air and smack me fair in the middle of my forehead. Although it hurt like hell, my first thought was “OMG how embarrassing, did anyone see that?”

Image by GardenDrum.com

 

3. Don’t hold tightly in one hand the bunch of foliage you’re quickly cutting into with sharp secateurs

OK so I’ve only cut myself a teeny bit doing this, nicking the tip of my left forefinger. But I know someone (yes, you Gordon) who nearly cut off his whole finger doing it. When you’re pruning a bushy plant, it seems easiest if you grab a bunch of foliage with one hand and chop into it quickly with secateurs. Of course, you can’t see where your holding hand is among all the foliage, but there you go, chop, chop, chop and….YOW! suddenly there’s blood everywhere. Someone suggested to me that thick gloves would prevent this but I suspect not. Unless it’s a butcher’s Bettcher glove.

Image by GardenDrum.com

 

4. Don’t try and step further than your legs can actually stretch.

While we were rebuilding the stairs down from our deck, we made some makeshift steps out of a few old retaining wall blocks. They weren’t too bad but a bit rickety and a bit of a nuisance to navigate so one day I decided it would just be faster to try and get up to the deck by taking one giant stride up to the lower level. I’m pretty tall, so I figured I could just reach it. Out and up went my foot, and I lunged forwards, fully expecting to end up on the deck… rather than wheeling my arms frantically about trying to get my balance and then falling backwards CRASH into the garden below. It really was quite comical but the back of the hand and shin I grazed on the concrete block during my flailing descent still carry the scar. And you should have seen the plants I landed on! (This photo is my dramatic re-enactment).

hidden garden stake Image by GardenDrum.com Image by GardenDrum.com

 

5. Don’t use pointy sticks as plant supports without putting something over the top ends.

I don’t have a lot of perennials but inevitably there’s a couple that like to flop about in an annoyingly disobedient manner. So what better way to keep them more upright and soldier-like than to use 600mm-long (2 foot) bamboo sticks and tie them up with twist ties? The trouble is, if you use that length of bamboo stake, after you’ve pushed it into the soil, it sits at about knee height. And its small top end becomes almost invisible against a background of mulch. That’s what I discovered when I bent over a plant to see why it wasn’t growing the way I wanted. SCRAPE went the stick, just missing my right eye as it slid along my temple. Can you see it in the photo?

Bougainvillea thorns

 

6. Don’t forget before you pick up the day’s prunings, without gloves, that you also pruned the bougainvillea. Or rose. Or anything else with thorns.

I had been busily pruning lots of shrubs and had quite a pile on the driveway for the chipper. Down I went to grab up a big bundle of lilly pilly and westringia (I thought) and OW! went a big bougainvillea thorn, straight into my palm. Oh yes, that’s right, I cut ONE water shoot off the bougainvillea and stupidly threw it into the same pile.

So that’s my tale of gardening stupidity. And have I learned from my mistakes? As Peter Cooke said to Dudley Moore:

“I think I have, yes, and I think I can probably repeat them almost perfectly. I know my mistakes inside out.”

 

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Catherine Stewart

About Catherine Stewart

Award-winning garden journalist, blogger and photographer; writer for garden magazines and co-author of 'Waterwise Gardening'; landscape designer turned landscape design judge and critic; compulsive networker and lover of generally putting fingers in lots of pies. Particularly mud pies. Creator, curator and editor of GardenDrum. Sydney, NSW.

16 thoughts on “6 dumb ways to be injured in the garden

  1. Stephen Read on said:

    Once when I was pruning I was stung on the hand by a wasp. Without thinking I swatted it away – of course I had a pruning saw in my other hand, and still have the scars to prove it. (just glad it wasn’t a chainsaw)

  2. Sandra Pullman on said:

    Catherine what a ripper article, I laughed out loud, I have done all those things.

  3. Ooo, pointy sticks. It’s a wonder there are not more one-eyed gardeners about the place. Hope the back is easing up.

    • I suspect there have been a few eye injuries caused by garden stakes. I like those little top thingos (what on earth would you call them?) you can get for plant support sticks but they only seem to be made for when you put 3 together in a teepee

  4. JenniP on said:

    Just loved this post! You’ve made me feel so much braver to admit I’m a total gardening ditz; done all of these across the whole spectrum and beyond. Stupidly had a glass of chardonnay on an empty tummy prior to #3 resulting in a couple of sutures at A & E (suppose that make this effort even dumber). Cut my cornea on those lovely pointy Juncus, tidying up the pond and one step dumber on #6 is one of my regular efforts: leave your spiky prunings in a pile for a week or two because of work commitments, then give yourself a serious spiking on those dried out talons; genius.

  5. Alison S on said:

    I think the only one of these I haven’t done is the long stride followed by backward fall, and I’m sure that must be coming. My version of the rake one was wheeling the wheelie bin with the lid open, stepping on the trailing open lid, and ending up actually inside the bin.

    • Oh dear, I know I shouldn’t have laughed. Well not quite so loudly anyway.

  6. Yup! I recognise all of these. Another few to add – forgetting I had planted stinging nettle in a pot and placed it in amongst my herbs. Neglecting to use gloves when trimming lavender – bees love lavender and sting you if you grab the flower they are sitting on. Oh – and placing fencing around beds to stop the dogs/chickens from destroying newly transplanted seedlings. Then hooking my foot in the fencing when I climbed over it, sending me tumbling and destroying the seedlings anyway . . .

    • Ow and double ow! Do you suppose we become too preoccupied with the task at hand to properly assess the danger in these situations?

  7. Heather Miles on said:

    Or how about wandering in the garden in thongs and nightie, with everything open to beautiful nature, like those big bull ants…
    Or lifting rocks without gloves on…
    And we can’t forget the classic sunburn – “it was so cloudy I didn’t realise there was any sun shining”.
    For an otherwise intelligent person, I can do some pretty dumb things! But I’m amazingly unrepentant!!

    • Oh indeed Heather. When the garden emits its siren call, who among us can resist – no matter what we’re wearing (or not) at the time?

      • Catherine, I garden up to the edge of the swimming pool. I always hope someone is watching when I do something really stupid, they would find it very funny and if I wack my head on one of the edges, they might save me (always on the coldest day mid winter). They would all say, she died doing what she loved which would make me exceedingly angry – I wouldn’t have finished what I was doing!

  8. Peggy on said:

    You did give me a good laugh!

    New poodle puppy was jumping on the seedlings so I stuck a bunch of bamboo skewers in amongst them hoping the obstacle course would look like too much trouble to bother with. Apparently not. Her curly coat hid the puncture in her chest until I felt the swelling. Vet visits and antibiotics ended up costing me more than buying advanced, puppy-proof plants would have done.

    Re #3, I now wear a ‘cut resistant’ knit kitchen glove under a riggers glove. I’ve still managed to slice through the leather, but no bloodshed!

    • Oh my, that’s a scary result! I’ve often seen people using sticks like that to deter animals but hadn’t realised that could happen. And a cut resistant kitchen glove sounds like something I must investigate before I lose a finger tip. As of course I still do the very thing that I know I shouldn’t!

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