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New tools carry more of the load for gardeners

| Saturday, March 17, 2007

Gardeners can lighten the load of their work by using the right tools, says rehabilitation therapist Joe DeLuca.

Scott Buck, owner of a Charleston, S.C., firm that specializes in garden hardware, agrees and says "a trend in manufacturing has led to the production of tools aimed" at a growing, aging group of gardeners.

DeLuca works for Excela Health out of Westmoreland Regional Hospital in Greensburg as the manager of rehabilitation services for Barclay Rehabilitation.

Some issues are easy to grasp. He says using shovels with longer handles lets gardeners avoid bending, and thus avoids an aching back.

Buck, owner of the 3-year-old Garden Hardware Co., says some new shovels also have other ergonomic features. He has one model that has a shock absorber in the handle so when a user strikes a rock, there is some cushioning.

"It's not going to move like a pogo stick," he says, "but it will help ease the shock."

That shovel has some subtle features, too, he says, such as a handle that is angled slightly forward to provide better leverage.

Buck says changes in the handles on pruners make them fit various size hands better and some can be adjusted for right- or left-handers.

DeLuca says it is important to be aware of handle thickness. When a handle is too narrow, it is difficult to grip because the hand doesn't fit well enough around it.

He also sees advantages in pistol-grip trimmers that are easy to operate by the fingers and keep the wrists in a better position than the traditional ones with a lateral handle.

"Any time you allow your wrist to be in a neutral position, you are in a good position," he says.

DeLuca also says it is unwise to wear gloves that are too thick. That makes it difficult to feel what is in the hands and forces tighter, wasteful gripping.

"If you grip harder, you can lose 25 to 30 percent of your gripping strength," he says.

-- Bob Karlovits

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