Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

Pacific Northwest

July, 2006
Regional Report

Shows & Events

Bainbridge in Bloom
The eagerly awaited matriarch of the Northwest garden tours, Bainbridge in Bloom, celebrates its 18th annual tour and festival July 14-16, 2006. With Puget Sound as the backdrop and the encompassing beauty of Bainbridge Island as a palette, garden enthusiasts can visit uniquely personal and private gardens, each selected for its distinctive style and originality. These gardens are all private and only open to public viewing during Bainbridge in Bloom.

Each Bainbridge in Bloom ticket contains a map with directions to the main festival site at Bainbridge High School, descriptions of each of the gardens, and a list of all related features. The ticket is good for one visit to each garden, and may be used Saturday and/or Sunday. Tickets are $30 for adults and $15 for children ages 4 to 12 and can be purchased at most garden centers, Kitsap Bank branches, or online at Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council Web site:

For additional information, visit the Bainbridge in Bloom Web site:

Clever Gardening Technique

Smart Digging
There is more to digging, shoveling, and spading than grabbing a shovel or a fork and putting your muscles to work. If you use common sense and follow good digging techniques, you can save time, energy, and wear and tear on your body.

Digging is easiest if you let gravity do most of the work. Gravity pulls straight down, so you'll get the most help from it if you dig straight down. Pay attention to the angle at which you hold the shovel. If the handle is straight up and down, the blade isn't, and you're wasting energy. Push the handle away from you until the blade is vertical. Then add your weight to the shovel by stepping on it.

Once you've lifted out that first shovelful, limit your work to taking thin slices of soil from the sides of the hole. A fully loaded shovel can strain your back and tire your muscles. It also stresses tools. Anything more than a slice has to be pried away from the side of the hole. Shovel handles are for lifting, not for prying. Smart diggers have learned that a medium-weight slice of soil is easy to cut and lift, yet substantial enough to hang together on the blade until it's brought up out of the hole.

Lift a loaded shovel with your legs, not your back. Leg and arm muscles are strong, back muscles are comparatively weak. If you keep your back straight and bend your knees, you transfer the effort of lifting to your stronger leg muscles, decreasing the risk of back injury. But old habits are hard to break. I still catch myself pushing the shovel in with my back straight, lifting the full shovel -- knees locked -- as I straighten up. Having once injured my back, I should know better.

Shoveling material that's already loose -- sand, compost, prepared soil -- requires a different stance. While digging harnesses the downward force of gravity, shoveling is a horizontal movement. Hold the shovel so its back is on the ground and push it into the pile. Push from the end of the handle, not from the side. Pushing from the end lets your weight do the work. Once the shovel is loaded, bend your knees -- not your back -- and lift the load.

Whatever sort of digging you do, it's important to pace yourself so you don't get overly tired. Exhausted workers trip over their own feet, drop loads, and develop sloppy work habits. Before fatigue sets in, take occasional brief breaks. Leaning on your shovel now and then is not a sign of laziness. It's a great way to appreciate the portion of the job completed while drinking a glass of water.

Digging is one of the pleasures of gardening. Get some good tools, choose the pace and posture that's right for you, and enjoy your work while you dream about the difference you're making in your landscape.


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