1 year ago

Minimizing the physical challenges of gardening as we age - Calaveras Enterprise

Gardening is a hobby you can enjoy your entire life, but as you grow older some of the physical tasks necessary to manage your garden can become difficult. A lifelong love of gardening should not have to end as mobility and other issues arise. There are simple things you can do to make your garden a continued source of pleasure. Here are some suggestions to help minimize the physical and mental challenges of gardening along with tips for better gardening practices.

Bad back?

For those with bad backs or knee and neck problems, convert your garden plots to raised beds. Build them to a height of 28-30 inches with reachable access to the beds center so you can water and tend from any side. Create wide, level pathways between multiple beds made from pea gravel, pavers or brick to help with weed control and provide flat, stable ground that is also wheelchair-friendly.

Mobility/balance issues?

A rolling garden seat makes movement easier on firm soil and pathways. If you have a tendency to bend over too much despite being warned to use your knees, this is a worthwhile investment to prevent lower back pain. Keep essential tools in a portable wagon, bucket or a handymans tote to prevent not only misplacing tools but also to reduce unnecessary repeat trips to the garage or tool shed.

Memory loss?

For gardeners becoming a bit more forgetful, paint the handles of garden tools in bright colors so they stand out against the greens and browns of plants and soil. Or simply tie them with brightly hued ribbons so they are not easily lost or misplaced. Plant flowers with familiar scents that will rekindle favorite memories. Keeping your garden layouts simple with recognizable focal points such as a water feature (birdbath) or special shade tree will also help you to remember where youve worked last.

Adaptive garden tools

Many tools have been created in recent years that provide better ease of use for gardeners with physical limitations. Some tools extend 18 to 30 inches or more to allow those in wheelchairs to sit and still use trowels, rakes and cultivators. Still others are made from lighter and more durable materials that help reduce hand and body fatigue. Newer adaptive garden tools include attachable extension rods, quick-release tools, cushioned handles and grabbers.

If your budget is tight and you dont want to replace your favorite tools, you can make improvements on what you already own. Roll a layer of pipe insulation secured with electrical tape to the grips of garden shears and pruners to help ease arthritic joint pain. Adding old broom handles or PVC pipe to your tools will help extend your reach as well.

Other healthy practices in the garden:

Add lots of organic matter like compost to your soil to make it easier to dig.

Wear long sleeves and breathable cotton or protective clothing along with a wide-brimmed hat to protect your skin from sun damage. Avoid bright colors that also attract insects.

Drink plenty of water and avoid working in the heat of the day.

For help with foothills gardening call 754-2880, email mastergardener@co.calaveras.ca.us or visit ucanr.edu/sites/