Serve – March 2018

Contents (Click on a title or scroll)

Getting in Shape for Gardening

Master Gardener Coordinator’s Corner

Hospice House Rose Garden Update


Getting in Shape for Gardening

by Jill Greenfield, Physical Therapist at Munson Home Health Care

With the growing season in Michigan right around the corner, now is a good time to stretch and strengthen the muscles that you will be using to create your masterpiece gardens.  Too often, we wait for that beautiful spring day to turn over the soil, pull weeds and remove debris without having prepared our bodies for these activities. Then when the next day is also a lovely spring day, we are either too sore from the chores of the day before to garden again that day, or we push ourselves to garden anyway and risk further long-lasting injuries. 

Whether you have a small container garden or several beds in your yard, using proper body mechanics is not always easy with gardening.  You cannot always “lift with your knees with your back straight” like the literature tells us to when moving a 3-cubic foot bag of soil or mulch.  How many times have you gardened on your hands and knees until your feet and hands are practically numb from the restriction of circulation?  I know that I am guilty of this!

So how does one begin to even think about getting in shape for gardening?  If you have been somewhat inactive over the winter, it begins simply with walking.  Find a place with no snow or ice and begin a walking program, under the guidance of your physician if you have health issues, and get your arms swinging in unison with your legs.  This gets weight-bearing through the legs for strengthening and improves your balance and coordination.

The shoulder muscles especially need some TLC with gardening.  The incidence of rotator cuff injuries increases as we age and there is a slightly higher incidence of this type of injury for women than men.  Imagine the motion of pulling a heavy trash bag out of a trash can and lifting the bag with your hands holding the bag about shoulder width apart in an up and out motion.  This is a common mechanism for a rotator cuff injury.  The solution is to tip the trash can on its side and slide the bag out.  Then you have the option of grabbing onto the bag from the bottom and lifting it.

Some easy shoulder exercises to loosen the muscles are shoulder rolls forward and back, standing in a doorway with your forearms on the door frame and leaning forward just until you feel a slight stretch in the front of your shoulder and clasping your hands together in front of your body and bringing both arms up above your head.  Please do not subscribe to the “no pain, no gain” attitude.  You may feel some muscle tightness, but it should not be painful. 

Shoulders are not typically weight bearing joints, so it takes some time to get them ready if you are a hands and knees gardener.  Practice getting on your hands and knees in the privacy of your own living room.  While in this position, try the cat and cow exercise.  For the yoga aficionados out there, you will know exactly what I mean.  While on your hands and knees, arch your back (cat), and then stick out your bum and let your belly sink toward the floor (cow).  If you are unable to be on your hands and knees on the floor, you can also do this exercise sitting in a chair.  This is a great exercise to stretch and strengthen your back muscles. 

Another good hands and knees exercise is the child’s pose.  This will stretch your back, hips and knees.  Start in the hands and knees position with your knees spread apart as wide as your hips.  Rock backward and bring your stomach to the floor while leaving your arms outstretched.  You can leave your arms outstretched in front of you or you can walk them to the side to get a rotational stretch.  A way to modify this exercise to not be on your hands and knees is to stand at the side of the bed leaning forward with your hands on the bed and lean backward feeling the stretch through your spine and shoulders.

One of the most important things to remember while gardening is to take frequent breaks.  If you start to have discomfort in your back or a joint, reposition yourself or take a walk.  Try to vary your tasks so that you do not spend too much time in one position.

Master Gardener Coordinator’s Corner: Finding Master Gardener Projects in your area this spring

by Nate Walton, MSU Extension Master Gardener Coordinator for Leelanau, Benzie and GT County

Spring is a busy time for everyone, especially gardeners.  At the MSU Extension Master Gardener Volunteer Program, we want to make it easy for you to find volunteer opportunities.

  • The best way for a certified Extension Master Gardener to find information about local master gardener projects is through the MSU EMG Volunteer Management System (VMS).  The VMS homepage will often contain info about new projects or those that are currently seeking more volunteers.  You can even use the Event Calendar on the left side of the VMS homepage to find and sign up for upcoming MG events!  The full list of area projects can be found by clicking on the Projects link under General Information.  This will take you to a list of educational opportunities and projects.  Click on the project name for a description and contact info of the project’s leader(s).  The project information found on the VMS is maintained by your local MG coordinator or VMS ambassador, and it will contain the most up to date project information for your area.
  • A list of area Master Gardener projects can also typically be found on your local Master Gardener Association web page.  In Northwest Michigan, for example, the MGANM maintains a list of MG projects by county with links to partner websites where available.

When in doubt, contact your local MG coordinator or VMS ambassador for additional project information. 

Thanks for reading, and thanks for helping to make a difference in your community!


Munson Hospice House, photo by same

Hospice House Rose Garden Update

by Gayla Elsner

The Munson Hospice House, 450 Brook Street, Traverse City, is having a work bee for its rose garden from 9am to mid-afternoon on Sunday, April 29.  The work bee is a collaboration between MGANM and the Cherry Capital Rose Society (CCRS).  

Hospice House Volunteer Coordinator and Bereavement Counsellor Kjirsten Boeve already has a group of hospice volunteers ready to help that day who will need rose care knowledge and direction from Master Gardeners and rose experts.  There are approximately 100 Knockout roses and various other gardens around Hospice House that will need tending to in preparation for the spring and summer growing season.

Judy Guith from CCRS has been instrumental in organizing the event and the group plans to donate 50 lbs. of a special rose fertilizer it makes.  Other CCRS members, including Nancy Larson and Peggi Tucker, also plan to be at the work bee.

Hospice House garden, photo by Gayla Elsner

Work bee volunteers need not stay for the whole day but may drop in as their schedule permits.  However, MGs should plan to bring their own tools to the event, especially good pruners, and be prepared to show novices how to sharpen them right.  Weeding tools, shovels, buckets and tarps will probably be needed as well.  In addition, it is advised that you bring water and sunscreen/hat and wear your MG apron if you have one.  

After the big day on April 29th, the group will meet again at the end of August for another work bee, the purpose of which will be to guide garden clean-up and maintenance for the end of the season.  

This is a great project that all those involved with can be very proud of.  Your work will give those experiencing hospice care a beautiful place to relax and remember and, hopefully, to find peace.  That is something special.

For more information, contact Gayla Elsner at or at (231) 883-8839.

Submit a Comment


Join Our Newsletter

Sign Up Today!

Michigan Garden Hotline

9am to Noon, M-F Year round
Also 1pm-4pm in Spring/Summer


Log Your Hours