There is nothing worse than being a gardener but being physically unable to garden. Mobility difficulties can strike at any time and at any age, temporary or permanent, so what can we do to help ourselves to keep gardening? You might be surprised that there are lots of very simple techniques that you can use to keep gardening.
Now I’m not talking ground level beds, even though they are very useful; I mean waist high raised beds allowing you to sow and grow while standing or sitting. I have recently come across a few people using handmade waist high flower beds and borders. It is a simple yet life changing idea.
If you struggle to bend down, have back problems or cannot kneel, you can take the strain out of gardening tasks such as sowing seed and planting by bringing the soil to your level. These raised planters are ideal for veg crops and flowers; even weeding can be liberating if you can actually do it yourself!
Use light ergonomic tools
Tools can be weighty and cumbersome so look for products that are durable but made of light materials. Ditch heavy metals in favour of aluminum alloy, carbon steel or readily available, heavier but stronger stainless steel. Use tools with recycled plastic or wooden handles and ergonomic grips to help you garden for longer by taking the strain away from your wrists and reducing exertion. Arm supports can also be added for extra comfort and stop tools being dropped.
Easy reach pruners
Pruning can be arduous and frustrating if you cannot react those elusive out-of-reach stems but there is help at hand. I use razorsharp easy reach pruners. Their one-hand operation means they are easy to use sitting down or standing up and you still have the other hand free. They eliminate the need to balance precariously on a stepladder. Equally if you are chair bound then these are fantastic for pruning and deadheading making light work of roses, perennials, shrubs and small trees. The blade cuts stems up to 7.5mm thick, then the cut material is held in the ‘jaws’ of the blade so no bending down to pick up garden waste, it can be deposited straight into a bin ready for the compost heap.
Long handled tools help get to those hard to reach areas without needing to get down to soil level and if you cannot get down to pick up garden waste then try a long armed litter picker / grab stick. Light weight and used with one hand.
Another way to save repeatedly bending down is to carry your hand held tools around with you. There are numerous tool belts available these days or buy work-wear trousers with detachable pockets.
Drought Tolerant Plants
Watering can be a difficult task if mobility’s a challenge. Lugging heavy watering cans about the garden could seem like mission impossible. Hoses can be wasteful and expensive if you are on a meter so install a drip system for pots and borders or make life easier for yourself from the outset; plant drought tolerant plants and cut down on watering. Last year we discovered first hand which plants are capable of surviving prolonged drought; our thoughts channelled into water conservation and gave us all an eye opener and sadly some casualties! Choose plants that require little attention, those that are not constantly needy for food and water such as lavender, rosemary, sempervivum or sedums such as Hylotelephium spectabile, ice plant. Perhaps introduce an alpine garden in a raised container so easily accessible for deadheading or weeding; once planted they ‘virtually’ look after themselves. To save backache only fill small containers with water. You will need to do more trips to fill up but this saves carrying heavy loads.
Sowing seeds directly where they are to grow cuts down on a lot of jobs. A long handled rake can be used to prep the ground, then simply scatter seed onto watered soil and lightly sprinkle a layer of compost over the top if they need to be covered.
Elevate pots off the ground to make an easy-to-view eye level display; this makes watering, feeding and weeding accessible. There are so many household items that could be recycled. Be creative; try an unused stepladder, table or shelving unit. If you have not got any furniture spare search your local charity shops or boot sale.
Long flowering blooms
Choose plants that have a long flowering season so once planted they remain in situ and give you lots of glorious blooms for months such as asters, Shasta daisies and nemesia.
No need to pull out bedding and replace with seasonal short-lived flowers – steady eddy flowerers could make a huge difference to workload.
Take regular breaks
You do not have to design and build a garden in one sitting! Enjoy it, take your time and relish the slower pace. Don’t burn out with one big frantic push; break your jobs down into bite sized achievable goals. Your mind and body will thank you for it.
Take time to smell the roses.