Gardening Tips for Seniors
It turns out that digging around in the garden is pretty good medicine. It counts as a low-impact aerobic workout, gets you your Vitamin D, and improves your mood. Maybe that's why tens of millions of Americans do some kind of gardening or yard work. That said, all that stooping and digging can be hard on your back and knees. Here are gardening tips for seniors to make sure your time in the garden is fruitful and fun.
Tools of the trade
Keep your gardening tools in top shape, and it will make it easier to dig, trim, weed, or sow. It’s especially important for people suffering from arthritis, or anything else that causes hand pain or weakness. Have your trowels, shovels, and shears sharpened at the beginning of every growing season. Wash the dirt, mud or debris off of your tools after every use, and oil them often. In some cases, depending on your needs, you might look at specialty gardening tools to help you get the job done. One woman, who has had rheumatoid arthritis, swears by the garden cultivator. It's a three-prong tool that loosens up the soil and pulls up weeds at the same time.
Vertical gardening and raised beds
Raising garden beds to knee or waist height is another way to cut down on kneeling and bending in the garden. It’s also a great way to keep weeds in your yard from encroaching on your veggies or flowers. A raised garden also provides good drainage and keeps pests such as snails and slugs out of the plants. You can build them on your own or buy kits from the gardening store. Vertical gardening is a hot trend right now that has benefits for older adults. Trellises, planting walls, fences, shelves — anything that lets you arrange your plants vertically also makes it easier. It’s an excellent investment in your back and your garden.
Have a seat
No matter how much you bring your garden to your level, you will have to get closer to the soil. This is where a stool or seat comes in handy. Seating allows you to hunker down next to your plants to weed or plant or deadhead, without stooping or spending time on achy knees. A favorite is the rolling garden seat, which is a wagon and a chair combined. It rolls along with you so you can garden without having to get up and move the stool every couple of inches. Some even come with a cup holder.
It still comes as a shock that I’m not the same as I was when I was 25, but there’s no getting around it. Older bodies have to work a little harder and don’t bounce back as fast from physical stress. That’s why you should garden — or do anything active — in the cooler morning or evening hours. Avoid sunburn, dehydration, and heat exhaustion which are all more likely when the sun is high. You’ll enjoy gardening more and feel better the next day, too.
We’re stating the obvious here to make a point: lawns need regular maintenance. It can be hard to keep up with the demands of a big yard, so you may consider downsizing the lawn and turning some of the space into more garden or flower beds. If that doesn’t sound like fun, consider buying a riding lawn mower to cut down on the physical toll. The cheapest riding lawn mowers run just over $1,000. You may find a less expensive used one for sale on your neighborhood’s Facebook page or NextDoor app. Another option? Hire a weekly lawn crew, so you can dedicate more time to gardening.
Gardening is one of the great pleasures of life, no matter how old you are. It might be even more fun for seniors who have the time to spend in the yard, instead of the office, the kitchen, or the playground. It's also a great activity to share with the grandkids! But like anything else — you should approach gardening with your body’s current needs in mind. This will make gardening less of a chore, and more fun.
Rose Weber is a garden care extraordinaire and home decorator. She has been gardening since she was a child and loves to spend her weekends teaching her grandchildren all about growing a vegetable patch. You can find her sharing her crops and her decorating ideas with her friends and neighbors.