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Archive for Wednesday, February 11, 1998

ON BENDED KNEE: GARDEN WORK TAKES ITS TOLL

February 11, 1998

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I had the nasty realization the other day that the onset of middle age is leaving its mark on my plans for this year's vegetable garden. It was a horrifying moment when I understood that, for the first time, I was considering my physical comfort in deciding what to plant.

The beans tipped me off. More on that in a minute.

While my discovery last year that I have developed gardener's knee has caused me occasional concern, I had been doing a fairly good job of ignoring the condition. Just as you may have snickered when you read the words "gardener's knee," I had declined to pay it deference.

That was then. My state of denial has now evaporated and I am no longer ashamed to own up to my circumstances. Furthermore, as more people take to gardening, I have a growing sense that I am not alone in my suffering.

In the interests of greater acceptance for our plight, I hereby offer myself up as the poster child for this syndrome. While perhaps not as widely acknowledged as other, trendier afflictions, gardener's knee has the potential to be for the end of the millennium what tennis elbow was to an earlier decade.

What I'm describing is an uncomfortable, sometimes painful condition that develops from prolonged kneeling on hard surfaces. That posture isn't easy to avoid when pulling weeds, harvesting veggies and doing any number of other gardening chores.

I understood that the knee thing was insinuating itself into my garden plans when I saw that my seed list for this year's vegetable garden included far more pole beans than bush beans, which will allow me to do more picking standing up. I've always preferred bush beans because I can plant them earlier and they mature quicker, however harvesting them has been an uncomfortable proposition the last few years.

When I reflected upon the seeds I intended to plant this spring, I realized that I had bought half a dozen varieties of pole bean but just a few bush beans.

Without understanding my motives, I was fully cognizant when I made another change in this year's garden plans. That was to experiment with vegetables that don't grow green on green.

On my list for this year are some purple-podded beans and some red okra. I'm not ready for bifocals but my patience with camouflaged vegetables has grown thin.

To those spry, energetic gardeners who are my seniors in age, I probably sound like a light-weight. I'll accept that.

A couple of years ago I persuaded my husband to buy me one of those cute little mini-tillers for my birthday. The rationale was that I would be able to space rows closer together because this tiller would be able to weed where the larger tiller couldn't go.

My husband was skeptical. In making my case, I conceded that the rear-tine design was indisputably superior for bigger machines but pointed out that the ads for several brands of the mini-tillers included testimonials from women, some of them elderly, who were photographed hoisting these appliances into the air with ease.

My powers of persuasion carried the day and I got a little tiller. While I have no reason to doubt the many people who swear by their mini-tillers, I'd bet that any grandmother who churns up her whole garden with one of those things could take me in arm wrestling.

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