As you grow less robust in your physical self, it’s a good idea to adopt a few new ideas to make gardening safe and pleasurable for you. It can be done!
“I like gardening – it’s a place where I find myself when I need to lose myself.” Alice Sebold
How true! It’s a hobby many of us come to enjoy in life. It brings contentment, peace, tranquility and fitness. As well as grubby nails and dirty clothes! To be in a garden is to be at peace with the world. Nurturing, cutting, planting and generally tampering with nature. Time passes swiftly while the mind wanders where it will. It’s a perfect antidote to the troubles of life!
Sadly though, as our bodies age, some physical activities become near impossible and force a gardening devotee to rethink his/her hobby and opt for something far more sedentary. It may be the knees aren’t playing fair and leave you stuck on the ground unable to rise. Or perhaps the back has taken too many loads in life and is screaming “I am NOT doing THAT anymore!”. The hands may be too swollen to squeeze a pair of secateurs, or the shoulders too sore to lift that bucket.
Does this mean you need to give it up? Sit on the bench in the shade and watch someone else get their fingers in the ground? ABSOLUTELY NOT we say!
Here at Glenvale Villas we prove it season after season. You may not be able to haul rocks across acreage any more, or prune the entire mango tree, but ladies and gentlemen, you certainly can still garden. We must perhaps mold the garden to our capabilities instead of doing ourselves injury or retiring defeated.
Here are some tried and true tricks which we adopt at Glenvale Villas to allow our gardening residents to continue gardening throughout life.
For the vertically challenged!
Bending over for long periods can cause significant back pain. Simply bring the garden higher. Opt for raised or vertical garden beds. Containers on benches and ledges work well, as do some of the modern vertical systems available at hardware stores. You could also work as part of a community and concentrate on raising seedlings or propagation, so that your work is largely benchtop based.
For the knee people!
Soften the ground by providing a small raised pad to work from. Kneeling pads need not be expensive. Simply make a sack with rice or try a high density piece of foam. A little stool or chair is a great aid as it helps kneelers take a break when they feel stiff, and it also acts as a frame to hold on to when standing up again.
Choose plants wisely
Keep safety in mind. Large thorny bushes, fast growing shrubs, trees etc are mostly beyond the maintenance ability of the over 70 gardener. Use plants that require regular but light maintenance and are rewarding. Having to prune an overgrown thorny bougainvillea is probably not ideal for mature gardeners. However a light prune of an azalea bush or a climbing jasmine will be fine.
Don’t be a tool!
Keep tools in good working order. Equipment that does not work well can cause accidents. Best to throw away broken tools and opt for a lightweight new version. Clean your tools regularly and sharpen blades so that minimal effort is required to operate them. Sometimes using pool noodle pieces around handles can help arthritic hands grip better.
Get yourself a helper!
It is very worthwhile to find yourself a regular garden helper. Don’t try to prune that citrus tree on your own. You don’t need to be climbing ladders either. Get your garden person in to do the job you feel physically challenged to do and you can supervise!
Get a lot shady!
Provide plenty of shaded areas for garden work to be done. A large umbrella will do the trick, as will a shade sail. Our summer season is not for the faint hearted and working in the sun can cause lots of physical stress as well as sunburn.
Keep some basic first aid supplies within easy reach. This would include a first aid kit, some water, insect repellant, and a phone just in case you need to make a call for help. Make certain you rid the garden of high populations of unwanted pests such as wasps, ant nests etc to make your gardening experience a pleasant one.
Opt for lovely garden ornaments and accessories. Bird baths and feeders bring residents a lot of joy at Glenvale and allow people to feel connected to a garden even if getting down and dirty is not their thing. Weather stations, wind chimes, statues, benches, waterfalls – the list is endless and all of these things provide a delightful setting to spend some restful moments in the day.