May 23, 2020
Dot Zanotti Ingels
I have a sign hanging in my house that says, ‘A Garden is a Friend You Can Visit Anytime’. I visit mine lots in every season. And I plan to make sure that I can be a part of my garden for a very long time.
Our lives are ever-changing. The challenge is in learning what we can do to become ever adaptable so our gardens can be an enjoyable and safe place to be now and in our future. When I became the only gardener at my house, I started making plans to keep me working and playing in my garden for a very long time.
I want to share what I learned and how I am making it happen. I did a lot of reading and listened to advice from fellow Master Gardener Toni Gattone, who has written a book on the subject. She advocates for resilient gardening and a never give up attitude no matter our age or physical limitations. Our gardens can feed our bodies, but they certainly feed our souls.
I may not have the stamina for a full day working in the garden, but I do try to stay as fit and flexible as I can. I put my chores in manageable amounts of time and exertion levels. I have my skin protected from the sun with sunscreen, gloves that fit well, and a large-brimmed hat. My water bottle is out there and the cell phone, too.
Utilizing good form is so important. Take the time to investigate how to protect your body or make the best use of your strength. If the soil bag is too heavy, I open it and put it in manageable size buckets. Ladders are out. I have a sturdy stepstool, but I still don’t climb unless someone else is around. I have a reversible garden kneeler seat for easier ups and downs and less stress on my back. I changed pathways so there are no tripping hazards.
There are so many great tools available to make gardening easier on joints. Gardeners love their tools and we each have our favorites. Ergonomically-designed trowels, weeders, scoops and pruners are available. There are assistive devices designed to ease gripping, extend your reach, pick, help you clean up, water and weed. For almost every need, there is a good solution.
For me, the key was raising up my beds. For my veggies, I chose galvanized troughs, but there are so many choices available to purchase or designs to copy. Mine are 3’-4’ deep for easy maintenance. In the entertaining area, I raised the beds more aesthetically, but still provided easy access. Sprinkler systems are such a help. Gardening vertically is also a good option as long as you can reach without climbing. I made the mistake of planting pole beans that I needed help to pick.
I am not good at asking for help, but I have learned that we all sometimes need a little help from our family, friends or professionals. Trading some of your bounty of fruits, veggies or flowers is a total win/win. I have gotten good at writing checks!
I am also good at feeding my soul. Plan for places to sit in the shade and admire the fruits of your labors. My lot is small, but there are many places to sit. These are the places I drink my coffee or wine, read, work and visit with family and friends. My puttering shed keeps everything handy and organized. My fountain refreshes.
Take some time to look at your garden and how you garden. It is fun to explore all the possibilities.