Embrace Hand Tools On National Gardening Exercise Day

Did you know June 6 is National Gardening Exercise Day? It’s a day hobby farmers should be keen to celebrate. Here are some ideas to get you started:

by J. Keeler Johnson
PHOTO: Daniel Johnson

Did you know June 6 is National Gardening Exercise Day? It’s a day hobby farmers should be keen to celebrate.

We all know exercise is good for us, and gardening is an enjoyable way to approach it. You don’t necessarily have to turn gardening into the equivalent of a full-fledged workout regimen. Even just puttering among the beds, repeatedly squatting down and standing up to remove weeds and harvest veggies, is a beneficial exercise.

But even if you’re out in the garden every day, it’s worth pondering whether there are ways you can increase the amount of exercise you receive. For example, why let power tools and machines do all the hard work? I’m all for getting things done quickly and efficiently, and often machines are the best way to do that. But there are benefits to occasionally trading power tools and machines for old-fashioned hand tools.

Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Use a string trimmer or hand-pushed reel mower around your garden.

A riding lawn mower is a must-have tool when mowing large yards, and I wouldn’t dream of caring for my farm without one. But they can be too large for use in and around a garden, where pathways between beds are often narrow. And using a riding lawn mower doesn’t require much in the way of exercise.

Fortunately, you can keep your garden looking tidy and simultaneously get a good workout by using other tools. A handheld string trimmer is one option. Maneuvering the trimming head between your beds, keeping it steady and elevated to just the right height, can be an excellent workout.

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Or, if you prefer your garden time to be peaceful and serene, skip power tools entirely and opt for a hand-pushed reel mower. Reel mowers are excellent at cutting grass (provided the grass isn’t too long), and since hand-pushed models don’t have an engine, they’re quiet and pleasant to use. You can listen to music and podcasts or simply enjoy the sounds of the garden while tidying things up and getting good exercise.

Read more: A reel mower can bring numerous benefits to the small farm.

2. Skip the power tiller, use a garden fork.

Does the soil in your garden beds need to be broken up and turned over in preparation for planting? It’s tempting to reach for a gasoline or electric tiller and let the power of an engine or motor do most of the work, though truth be told guiding such a tool requires strength and exercise on your part.

But gasoline engines are noisy, and if you’d like to work in peace while getting even more of a workout, grab a garden fork and work the soil by hand. It’s not as fast or efficient, but you can enjoy pleasant conversations with fellow gardeners while you work. And the price of a garden fork is a lot lower than a power tiller.

Read more: Check out these 12 essential garden tools!

3. Forego soaker hoses in favor of watering manually.

Soaker hoses have their place in gardens, particularly if you’re pressed for time. When properly installed in level garden beds, soaker hoses can thoroughly water your plants without supervision beyond turning the water on and off.

But I find that watering manually—whether with watering cans in a small garden or with regular hoses and a spraying nozzle in a large garden—has its own benefits. In addition to the exercise you receive by traveling the garden to quench the thirst of every nook and cranny, watering manually ensures that you regularly lay eyes on every plant. You can watch for signs of pests and diseases, tend to plants that need extra care, and simply enjoy watching your garden grow from one day to the next.

National Gardening Exercise Day is technically a single day, but you can apply its lessons all year round. Have fun!

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