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MASTER GARDENERS: Use these safety tips for healthy gardening

Gardening is our No. 1 hobby in America. It offers good exercise, stress reduction, mental health and a way to beautify the community and grow nutritious food. Whether you are a beginner or expert, your health and safety should be a priority while in the garden.

Dress for protection: Wear safety goggles, sturdy shoes and long pants to prevent injury when using power tools and heavier equipment. Protect your hearing when using machinery. If you have to raise your voice to talk with someone who is an arm's length away, the noise can be potentially harmful to your hearing.

Wear gloves to lower the risk for skin irritation, cuts and certain contaminants. Use insect repellant and sunscreen of at least 30 SPF when in the garden. Never go without a wide-brimmed hat and a water bottle. Even short periods in a sunny garden can cause serious health problems in the heat.

Drink a cup of water before going out to the garden and also avoid alcohol or large amounts of sugar when working in extreme heat. Take breaks often, resting in the shade so your body thermostat can recover. Stop working if you get breathless or experience muscle soreness, headache, rapid pulse, dizziness, nausea or confusion.

If you have arthritis use tools that are lightweight and easy to grip. Take your cell phone to the garden for contact in case of emergency. Vary your garden activities not only for interest but to work different muscle groups.

All adults should get a tetanus vaccination every 10 years. Tetanus lives in soil and enters the body via breaks in the skin. Because gardeners use sharp tools to dig in the soil and handle plants with sharp points, they are particularly prone to tetanus infection. Before you start gardening this season, make sure your tetanus/diphtheria (TD) vaccination is up to date. Ask your healthcare provider if you need any other vaccinations as well.

Winter will soon be a memory and we will be in the garden again. We forget we are one year older and may need to pace ourselves better for the 2017 garden season.

Master gardeners have been working at a busy pace, providing horticultural presentations at the Bemidji Public Library, presenting a community workshop, writing these articles, and now have resumed assisting folks with gardening questions via the Beltrami County Horticulture Hotline. Call us at (218) 444-7916, tell us your gardening problem, leave your phone number and name and a master gardener will give you a call. If you have suggestions for articles that would be of interest to you, you can leave that information on the hotline voicemail as well.