Aches, Pains, and Ageing: Adapting Your Garden Techniques

by Marie James on January 29, 2012 · 0 comments

in Gardening Tips

If tending your garden is a challenge due to back strain, knee pain, or other health limitations, there’s no reason to give up gardening altogether! The only thing you need to abandon is the thought that you can no longer grow your favorite plants!

I love raising flowers and food for our family, and I wasn’t about to surrender one of my favorite activities just because of my ageing back and knees. Instead, I set out to find the best ways to adapt and make my garden work for me.

Raided Garden Beds

Premium Raised Vegetable Bed Planter 6x3

Premium Raised Vegetable Bed Planter 6x3

Raised garden beds are wonderful for several reasons: the soil warms a bit early in the season, the beds organize the planting area, and they make the garden more attractive. But a raised vegetable bed can also alleviate the strain on body parts and eliminate the need for challenging physical movements.

Even a low raised bed allows a gardener to sit on a stool or kneel on a pad to tend the plants. A bit higher might be ideal for a gardener in a wheel chair. With a waist-high raised bed one can  stand and work without pressure on the knees or back.

Weatherproof Table

A weatherproof table outfitted with potted plants is another option. It’s important to find a balance between containers that are too small and those that are unnecessarily large.  A tiny pot may not retain moisture or contain the root system. On the other hand, excessive weight of an overly large pot and its soil can put too much strain on a table.

My husband built me a raised bed of lumber frame and metal roof material on the sides. Other potential materials are stacked stone or brick, wood slats, and fine screen or hardware cloth. One key thing to remember is that the taller the bed, the more fill material it will contain. The structure of the bed must support the weight of the soil.

We designed the bed to be four feet across, a little over a meter. This allows me to reach the center from both sides and tend every part of the bed. It also requires me to stretch just a little, which is actually good for my back. The ledge is sturdy enough for me to lean on it for extra support.

I grow salad greens, herbs, root veggies, short vegetable plants, and small flower plants in the raised bed. But tall plants like pole beans and spreading vines like squash are not so easy to grow in such a high raised bed. So we plant those in the ground or in low raised beds. To tend them, I use some other handy dandy helpers.

Helpful Garden Tools

There are many helpful garden tools to choose from. Look for tools that allow you to work around your limitations. Personally I need to avoid kneeling and bending over, so I use a garden claw, a good hoe, and a long-handled cultivator for working the ground-level planting beds.

I also have a nice bench that I can sit in and gently bend down to reach the ground. Mine is lightweight plastic so I can easily carry it and move it down the garden patch as I work. It also flips over to provide a padded kneeling cushion.

If you have circumstances that make gardening a challenge, look for some ways to adapt to your own needs. Every situation will be different, but with creative thinking “outside the box” you may be surprised what you come up with.

About The Author

Marie James is an active gardener who raises veggies, fruits, herbs and flowers. At The Homesteader Kitchen, Marie and her daughter review equipment they use to process their garden produce.

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