Tag Archives: garden maintenance

Kneeling In Comfort

garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
SVSeekins

It did not take me long to realize that weeding from a standing position was only a short-term exercise. Kneeling down to dig out roots is so much more effective…
but not without its challenges.

The search for solutions was a journey of several years.

foam kneeling pad

kneeling pad, kneeling mat, foam gardener kneeling pad, knee protector, garden knee pads review, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

(about $10)

The first step was a simple, inexpensive one, protecting my knees from wet, mud & rocks.  The rectangle piece of foam is lightweight and easy to move around.  I just throw it into the weed bucket with the rest of my tools for handy storage at the end of the day.

folding kneeling bench

Then came a birthday gift …. (catalogue listings for $50+)

folding kneeling bench, kneeler, folding garden stool, garden kneeling pad and cushion seat, knee pad seat, knee protector, garden knee pads review, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

This is a luxurious option.  It has the protective benefits of a simple kneeling pad plus the bonus of handhold assistance while getting up & down from the ground– surprisingly useful & appreciated even after a few hours in the garden.

Inverted, it becomes a stool.  I’m hard-pressed to recall using it that way — but I’m sure I did a couple of times at least.

I like that it folds up for storage.

It’s a bit cumbersome to lug around the garden, but this is just whining on my part.  I quickly gave up the simple kneeling pad & used this instead.

Eventually, I found the bench was just too awkward for slopes & confined spaces, so I searched out other options.

foam knee pads

About 10 years ago, I got a  $30 pair of knee pads from a garden centre.

cloth & foam knee pads with velcro and clip straps, garden knee pads, knee protectors, garden knee pads review, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

It’s so convenient to strap them on & not have to reposition a kneeling bench whenever I move about the garden.  That said, knee pads are not trouble-free.

The strap highest on the leg is elastic with velcro closure.  It’s comfortable as my thigh flexes but stretched out quickly.  The velcro clogs up.  The non-stretch webbing of the lower strap works well to keep the knee pads from sliding down my calf.  The strap adjuster loosens during use, so I need to tighten the belts throughout the day.

cloth & foam knee pads with velcro and clip straps, garden knee pads, knee protectors, garden knee pads review, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

When planting from a kneeling position, the gap between the pad & my bended knee collects soil resulting in filthy jeans.

The cloth outer surface of the knee pad wore out long before the usefulness of the other components.
Duct Tape to the rescue.  🙂
Fashion sacrificed.  😦
I recovered the exterior several times before finally giving in to vanity & looking for a better solution.

pants with built-in knee pads

I’d already used C’s logger pants for blackberry bashing.  (Purchased long ago for who knows how much?)

Logger pants - viewed inside out,, pants with padding over thigh and knee, knee protectors, garden knee pads review, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Logger pants are designed to be tough-wearing.  They protect thighs & knees with extra quilted padding sewn right into the pants.  (Here’s an inside-out view of them.)  They’re heavy & HOT.  I get so dirty that they need to be washed every day. I reckon the washing machine would wear out agitating that kind of bulk longterm.  So its a pass.

I found some carpenter pants with knee pockets to hold removable foam knee pads.  Sensible idea,  but I dismissed them because of cost ($100+). I get my garden jeans at the thrift store inexpensively – this costly new option was too much of a price difference for me to get past.

Confident there’s another way, I set out to create an apron / chaps invention from thrift store materials. Unfortunately, it was beyond my sewing skills / patience.

Then I remembered something I already owned…

Hiking Shell Pants

Living on the Pacific “Wet” Coast teaches a person about enjoying the outdoors, even in the rain.  Gortex is my friend.  One breathable rain jacket I bought came with a handy pair of hiking pants.  (The set cost $200, but I would’ve paid that for the jacket & felt the pants were almost a freebie).

tough shell hiking pants with full leg zippers, knee protectors, garden knee pads review, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The pants are a rain-resistant version of snow pants.  A full-length zipper runs along the outside of each leg.  When I’m walking through tall, dewy grass, the wet wicks off the material.  I unzip along each leg to allow air circulation & cooling as needed.  Snaps at ankles & waist hold the pant legs in position, so they continue to protect.
Lightbulb moment – – I can wear knee pads under these hiking pants.
No soil ingress behind the knee pads.
Cleaner jeans.  🙂

This works a treat during either end of the gardening season. After dividing perennials, I throw my lightweight outer shell into the wash & come inside with relatively clean jeans.  🙂
One problem: Double layers are not the answer for summer gardening.
So close…
The search continues…

gel knee pads

My 2nd pair of knee pads came from a lumberyard for $50.

flexible accordion rubber shell with gel liner knee pads, industrial knee pads, knee protectors, garden knee pads review, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

The gel padding is a lovely upgrade from the garden centre knee pads.

The hard outer shell is much tougher than the cloth covering of my 1st pair, too. The accordion-shaped upper ridge reminds me of something from a spacesuit but is much better at blocking soil ingress.  My jeans stay cleaner.    Moisture collects behind the shell, so the knees of my jeans get wet.
Sweaty knees – who knew?  A minor inconvenience.

flexible accordion rubber shell with gel liner knee pads, industrial knee pads, knee protectors, garden knee pads review, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

I first worried that the adjustable rubber straps with their buttonholes would be the weak point of the product.  Over a couple of years, the straps stretched a bit, but not beyond their usefulness.   That flexible strap makes wearing comfortable, yet it stays firm enough that the pads don’t slide down my calf.  It was the button itself rather than the belt or buttonholes that turned out to be the weak point.  One day it just sheared off.

flexible accordion rubber shell with gel liner knee pads, industrial knee pads, knee protectors, garden knee pads review, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

C came to the rescue this time with a small drill bit & some zap straps to bind the belt permanently in position.
Crisis averted. 🙂

A few weeks later, a button on the other knee pad sheared off too.  That’s when I noticed a crack opening along the edge of the accordion joint. I guess they’re pretty much done for, even though they’re otherwise in good shape.

These tough kneepads have been such steadfast, comfortable workhorses.  I’d hoped to be set for life.

garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Back at the lumberyard, exact replacements are nowhere to be found.
Curses!
These knee pads were so well suited for my tasks – – what now?  The options on the shelves were designed for roofers & floor installers – – all too big & bulky for me.  I don’t want to go back to the garden centre knee pads – too problematic…  What have I missed?  What do you use?

Finally, I searched online &  was directed to a local industrial safety outlet.  I picked up a  new set of the gel knee pads & am back in business – for now…

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You might also enjoy:

Wild Violet Root System

In digging a planting hole for a new treasure, I found a splendid example of the wild violet root system. How deep do you think they grow?

root system of wild violets in lawn, early blue violet, s sand violet, western dog violet, hooked spur violet, viola audunca, alaska violet, aleutian violet, viola lnagsdorfii, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Deep.
And Strong.

The primary root went at least 6 inches into the clay before sending out its feeder roots.

Who knows how much further those fine roots reach down to get moisture in a dry summer!

wild violets in lawn, early blue violet, sand violet, western dog violet, hooked spur violet, viola audunca, alaska violet, aleutian violet, viola lnagsdorfii, garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

Can you imagine the mess I’d make trying to dig the wild violets out of our lawn?  (I don’t bother coz I enjoy seeing them there … but…) Undoubtedly, some root would be left in the ground & in no time, the bees would be feeding on the violet’s sweet nectar again.

Some plants are so resilient.
🙂
Let’s hope my new treasure does half as well as the wild violets.

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Other Plants That Might Be Considered Weeds:

Digging Bluebells

Hyacinthoides hispanica – bluebells spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
For a few years, I thought bluebells were lovely spring flowers & welcomed them into our beds & borders.  And no wonder:
  • Each stem bears a profusion of bellflowers.
  • The bells dangle & shift delicately in the breeze.
  • Deer ignore the blossoms.
  • Bluebells are just so darn pretty.
  • Great masses of them are even prettier.  Have you seen the blue carpets of English woodlands in bloom?
Hyacinthoides hispanica – bluebells spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
In the Pacific Northwest, we have similar growing conditions to the UK. Bluebells grow just as well here but aren’t as welcome.  (preference is for our native Camas.) It’s becoming more apparent to me how thuggish bluebells can be – overwhelming whatever they’re grown with, especially other bulbs – – like Camas.  😦 It’s a pity something so pretty can be such a bully.
before the dig - Hyacinthoides hispanica – bluebells spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
This spring, my challenge is to clear one bed of as much bluebell as possible.  Here’s a “Before the dig” photo: I do like the lush spring foliage of the bluebells, but can you see any of the perennials?  Those plants are hidden from sunshine by masses of bluebell leaf.
Hyacinthoides hispanica – bluebells spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
A pitchfork worked well in the moist soil.  Great clumps of bluebell came out.  Apparently, bluebells don’t leave their survival to seed dispersal alone. Each bulb can produce offsets, forming dense clusters.  Clever. Check out how deep some bulbs were! The bluebells in this photo had only just reached the surface of the soil!  That’s a loooong climb through darkness.  Imagine how much energy the bulb had stored in order to grow that much stem in search of sunshine!! (If only we could harness that energy!)
Hyacinthoides hispanica – bluebells spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
Then…  I started noticing how some of the shoots were creating replacement bulbs closer to the surface.  Isn’t that clever, too?  Another excellent survival strategy. I wonder how deeply a bulb can be buried before it just cannot reach the soil surface & re-establish itself?
Hyacinthoides hispanica – bluebells spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
And THEN…  I noticed how some bulbs were sending out ‘runners.’   This is undoubtedly an effective way of increasing its distribution in the bed!  These bluebells are determined to take over.
Hyacinthoides hispanica – bluebells spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
There were masses of new starts– baby plants that likely grew from the seeds that fell last year.   I tried my best to get them all.  But just think about it —  my digging has likely exposed more of the seed bank to the sunshine.  More bluebells are about to sprout. There’s no way I dug out ALL the bulbs.  Many stems broke off, leaving the bulbs deep in the ground.  Hopefully, depriving the bulb of this year’s leaf will starve it enough that it won’t grow next year.  What are the chances?
after the dig - Hyacinthoides hispanica – bluebells spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins
I’ll continue to pull any that I find this spring.  For now, the bed is clear enough that the other plants have access to the sunshine & a chance to grow. I guess we’ll have to wait until next spring to see how well the effort pays off…
Hyacinthoides hispanica – bluebells spanish blue bells garden Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, Pacific Northwest
photo by SVSeekins

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Other plants that might be considered ‘weeds’: