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Boxed garden

Boxed garden

Great weather is around the corner which means planting and gardening flowers and vegetables. While there are more recent alternatives to gardening and planting in raised boxes to avoid aches and pains in the lower back, neck, knees and shoulders, there are still many who end up with pains in those areas as well as their sciatica or pain down the arms and legs. Is it gardening vegetables and fruit or planting flowers that should be avoided or is there a smarter way to garden? I think you see where I am going!! This blog will discuss smart ways to use your body when gardening and planting while throws in a few pearls of wisdom to organic planting and companion gardening.

Thankfully we have reached a point where many people see the value of clean eating which means organic vegetables and fruit. When you plant your own fruit and veggies, you know exactly how they were planted, if they are truly organic or someone went around the ‘system’ to get that organic label put on the package to sell it more than the ‘other’ stuff!!

These days, you can grow many of your commonly used herbs in a pot or two on your patio, have small boxes hanging from your balcony fence, use the community shared lots that many cities still offer or have enough land to plant your liked vegetables and fruit trees in the ground or in a vegetable boxes. Vegetable boxes are great to dodge the squirrels and rabbits. As cute as they are, it is never fun to take care of those seedlings just to find them gone but one of those cuties.

How to avoid pain between shoulder blades when gardening

The main thing to always remember is that we ought to use our body properly. In other words, the proper form is always the key to prevent injuries and to avoid aches and pains. With that said, most pains between shoulder blades has to do with too much bending with shoulders and neck rolled forward. It is easy to lose track of time and spend a long time bending down or squatting while reaching or shoveling.

The best thing to do is have an idea of what is needed and change positions and tasks so after some sitting or squatting, we walk around to get the shovel or pruner for instance. Also it is important to not lift bags or buckets, regardless of their weight by allowing the shoulders to roll forward. Keeping the shoulder blades flat against the rib cage and using the arms to do the lifting is very important. This means that heavy weight beyond our arms strength will be avoided which, while may not save time, certainly saves our bodies.

Here is a video that explains what I am talking about.

What should I do to avoid lower back pain and knee pain?

Lower back pain and Knee pain are no different than any other parts of you that are impacted as a result of a bad form. Many times you are told to use your knees when lifting but I see so many people still getting hurt despite using their knees and that is because it is not the use of knees that saves your lower back but the knee use combined with hip hinging that does the magic. The question now is what is hip hinge? Just to clarify, your hip is not your pelvis though many refer to their pelvis as their hip. The hip joint is the part of your thigh bone that connects to the pelvis. If you touch the back of your pelvis and call it your hip, you are talking about sacroiliac joint or SI joint.

How do you do hip hinge?

Stand up and put your hands on your hips (see above), keep your back neutral and straight and now bend down at the hip instead of your waist. Hip hinging saves your back, your knees and overall your body because instead of the lower back muscles doing the lifting, it is the gluts and the leg muscles that are working and those muscles together are much stronger than your lower back muscles by themselves. Here is a video on hip hinging!

Pruning and trimming 

When it comes to pruning and trimming, having the right tools is certainly very helpful. Make sure you sharpen your tools and maintain them because a rusty and difficult to operate tool simply means more struggle and a harder time maintaining the right posture. Tension in the arms and upper back becomes the end result of bad or wrong tools. This is when investing in the quality tools comes in handy but remember that no matter how great your tools are, if you are not taking multiple breaks from one activity and alternating the sitting to walking, pruning to squatting and basically (you get the picture), you will be hurting. Working smart is the key.

How do I start organic gardening

It is very simple and you don’t need to spend any money!! Have a container next to your sink. Every time you cook, all the parts of the fruit and vegetables (including onion and potato peel) and anything that falls under the unprocessed food category, that you need to throw away, goes in to that container. At the end of the day or two, put the contents into your outdoor compost area ( will explain how to make your own using old buckets below). This becomes a great organic compost for your vegetable garden which depending on your yard size, can be large or even over on your balcony or patio. I have a female friend who owns an organic catering in Orange county, California who grows many of her veggies and even some fruits on her patio and at a co-op field that she the community uses. She runs her catering and Meal Prep business using her own veggies and fruit. Check her out on Instagram @mypiato and her website.

How to start your own composting 

Organic gardening

Organic gardening

This is much easier than you think and I owe the knowledge to my great aunt who go to live over 100 years and managed to never be on any medication. Amazing woman with a great attitude on life but let’s not digress!!!

Dig a hole in your back yard that is 2.5 feet deep. Grab an old 5 gallon bucket that has a lid and has been laying around; if you don’t have a back yard, do NOT cut the bottom off but put 4 small holes at the bottom, use a saw to cut the bottom off. Place this bucket in the hole you just dug and put some mulch or dirt as a starter to fill the bottom 1/3 of the bucket. Go twig hunting!!! Put leaves and small twigs you find in your back yard or on the side of the street and put them in your ‘compost bin’. Every day or so, add what you have collected in your container by your sink and have a dedicated old ladle to stir the mixture in. Make sure to close the lid when you are not using the compost and stir it every time you add more compost to it. Having moisture is necessary for the compost to really flourish and next time you are at the gardening store (or when you are working in the yard) find earth worms and add them to your bin. They will do the work for you and make your compost be super rich after a while.

If you have a super dense compost from storing so much in it, you can always do the following to water your flowers. Grab a bucket and put a net or strainer over it; get a few ladle-full of compost and put in the strainer or net and add water to wash it off. The water now is caught in the bucket that you will use to water your patio or indoor flowers with.

For those with domestic birds, you can use duck poop immediately on your veggies and fruit but let the chicken poop store for a month before you can use them to add additional fertilizer for your vegetables and fruit.

How do I garden without using a chemical herbicide and pesticide?

I have used this website as a resource for a while now and love the information provided. Throughout the years of organic planting, I have come to learn how even certain weeds offer help to combat pests. It sure pays off to pay attention to learn the weeds that naturally grown in your garden and through time, you get to see what sort of pests they attract. I have noticed a weed that grows abundantly by my citrus trees and rose bushes that attract lady bugs. Tens of them on each stem!! Lady bugs eat aphid which LOVE to kill all fresh shoots. When the weeds are absent,however, I use a combination of 3 tablespoons of Ivory soap with water and leave them in a spray bottle that I use to spray the aphids off. The only thing to remember though is to do it when sun down or before the sun is fully out. Of course, while lady bugs are not impacted by the occasional Spring rain, this mixture washes off so re- application is necessary!

I never thought gardening would be my ‘thing’ but I now appreciate the lessons I have learned from being exposed to this way or clean leaving. The produce is amazingly tasty; it is rewarding and keeps me busy with things that otherwise would not add to my life.

Hope this blog leads to you exploring on doing your own gardening regardless of your yard size and lead to a much healthier life for you and your family.

Dr. Shakib