Gardening is a well-known pastime for many, and Dr. Nancy Kaplan is no exception. In addition to being an avid hobby homesteader—growing nearly all the food her family consumes organically and sustainably—her husband also spends his time farming heirloom tomatoes. Mixing business with pleasure, Dr. Kaplan explores how to keep herself and her patients free from foot and ankle injuries while participating in this relaxing and fulfilling outdoor activity.
Though it may not seem like it, gardening is an up-and-coming hobby for many Americans. In fact, in 2014, it was reported by the National Gardening Association that 1 in 3 households was growing their own food. It was also shown that from 2008 to 2013, the number of home gardens increased by 4 million to 37 million households, while community gardens tripled from 1 million to 3 million, a 200 percent increase.
I am happy to say my family proudly contributes to these statistics. As passionate gardeners, it’s safe to say that my husband and I know our way through a garden patch. However, as a podiatrist, I am also keenly aware of the potential foot and ankle hazards that lurk around said patch when one isn’t paying attention. Let’s take a look at some of the things to keep an eye out for in order to practice good gardening safety:
1. Check your gardening boots before you put them on.
Items I’ve found in my gardening boots include dog kibble that an enterprising mouse stored in the toe tip, spiders and small stones I swear weren’t there when I put them away! Be sure to give your boots—or whatever shoewear you have for gardening—a good shake before you put them on to avoid injury (or possible infection, depending on what gets stashed there). This becomes especially important when you may have decreased sensitivity in your feet from diabetes or a back injury.
2. Wear durable shoes.
It’s a good idea to wear sneakers or boots (even construction boots) when gardening to minimize the risk of puncture wounds. It’s amazing how you find neglected gardening tools, thorns, old nails and such when gardening. Stepping on a discarded rake is no fun! Also, running barefoot in a field of clover is awesome until you step on a bee sipping nectar. Ouch!
Since we’re on the subject of going barefoot: Don’t do it in your garden if you can avoid it. Soil can contain any number of bacteria and viruses that can penetrate even the smallest of cracks in the skin of your feet. These infections can range from something as mild as a skin/nail fungal infection or plantar wart to something as serious as botulism or tetanus.
3. Take cover!
When it comes to gardening dangers, your feet aren’t the only things at risk—exposed skin on ankles and legs can leave you wide open for problems like poison ivy, sunburn and tick bites. I know it gets hot in the summer months, but consider gardening in the morning before it gets to warm and wear pants tucked into socks to stay protected.
4. Keep an eye out!
Remember to look down often when strolling through your garden and lawn. Gophers, mice and other critters as well as erosion can be a hazard and leave you at risk for spraining or breaking an ankle.
One time, I was strolling through our sheep pasture with my aunt and when I looked back her leg was up to her knee in a gopher hole. Thank goodness we had a laugh and not a trip to the ER!
5. Cut grass, not feet.
Lawnmowers are a pretty standard household item even for people who don’t garden. Unfortunately, they can be a common household hazard, as well. To keep safe while attempting to achieve those perfect lines in your lawn:
- Take care when pulling the mower towards you or when mowing on a slope
- Wear long pants to keep debris from injuring your legs
- Wear those durable shoes mentioned earlier
If you keep these tips in mind, you can be sure that your time in the garden can be worry-free. For more information or to schedule an appointment with me or one of my associates, contact us today.