Gardening Is Bad for Your Health
I know that according to conventional wisdom gardening is supposed to work wonders for your happiness and wellbeing, but I beg to differ.
For a start let’s not forget the fatal consequences of tending your leaf mould collection too assiduously. Ten years ago or so, there were reports of a 47-year-old man who died after inhaling spores from clouds of dust in rotting vegetation. The resulting lung infection led to sepsis.
But there are still hazards for someone like me, for whom compost curation represents a post-doctoral level of gardening. When I got Covid recently, I couldn’t tell which of the aches and pains came from the virus, and which from the extraordinary contortions I’d had to force myself into while gardening: the unnatural kneeling position I’d had to adopt to be able to plant something in a gap in an existing bed, or the weird posture needed for snail-hunting in the clematis – crouched and craning to spot the blighters while also checking to see that the ones I’d already picked weren’t about to slime up out of the bucket and onto my hand.
Further evidence of the risks to health came from my dentist, who insisted that I must be grinding my teeth and was all for prescribing some terrible night-time contraption to prevent this. But I wasn’t aware of grinding my teeth at any hour – until spring rolled around and it was time to get out into the garden.
I did indeed catch myself grinding my teeth, for two reasons. The first was the terrible anxiety of never being sure if I was inflicting the right kind of cut. Despite keeping a pruning bible by my side, with helpful little red lines showing where to cut, I couldn’t be sure whether I would be rewarded with lush foliage and blooms. Perhaps I was just despatching an innocent plant to an early grave? The second cause of tooth-grinding was giant-turnip type situations,* such as the supreme physical effort of uprooting a weed or a tenacious stump. Not that the teeth-grinding helped at all – it just seemed to come naturally.
I don’t wear my glasses when gardening (I like to see close up the damage I’m causing), so trees and shrubs are always threatening to have my eye out. Deadheading the bottlebrush means getting pelted in the face with sharp spiky leaves alongside the spent blooms.
Finally there are the trivial incidents that don’t actually harm you, but give everyone else a good laugh, dent your dignity and have been a staple of comedy gold for decades, namely stepping on a rake and squirting oneself in the face when trying establish why the hose isn’t working.
But I found myself confronted with an entirely new danger last week: cardiac arrest. I will have you know that I have entered a nematode programme, which is the manufacturer’s way of selling you an all-natural parasite-based anti-slug preparation that they send out to you at six-week intervals over the summer so that you apply it at the correct frequency. The night after applying the first dose of this I opened the dishwasher to see an earthy, brindled excrescence glistening on a coffee cup. I let out a shriek that would have won me a role as a screamer for Hammer horror. It was THE REVENGE OF THE GASTROPODS!!!
*Complete disclosure: I have never actually grown a turnip