Salisbury Press

Friday, June 5, 2020
CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY DIANE DORNContainer-gardens won’t give gardener “the bends.” CONTRIBUTED PHOTO BY DIANE DORNContainer-gardens won’t give gardener “the bends.”

Growing Green: Tips

Friday, March 29, 2019 by LEHIGH COUNTY EXTENSION Special to The Press in Focus

It’s 16-feet-long, 4-feet-wide, and brimming with yellow marsh marigolds: A display that gladdens the heart of gardeners and passers-by alike.

What’s even more uplifting is the example this flowerbed makes.

It shows for all to see that gardening can continue as a lifetime pleasure regardless of age or illness.

How so? Because this garden plot is planted waist-high in the bed of an old farm wagon.

Raised beds such as a wagon garden make it possible for someone who can no longer bend over comfortably, or who uses a wheelchair, to continue working outside in the soil.

Many things can be done to make gardening comfortable for persons who are no longer as spry or able-bodied as they once were.

Here are some suggestions for older or handicapped gardeners.

Raised beds, container-gardening: Getting the flowers or vegetables up off the ground is one place to start. Raised beds need not be as grand in scope as the farm wagon.

Window boxes attached to the rail of a deck or porch, hanging planters, or containers set on tables or pedestals make for ease of reach.

Limiting the size of the garden in this way also lightens the workload. Garden-supply stores carry a range of seeds bred especially to thrive in containers.

Location: One caution about container-gardening is that it requires frequent, consistent watering, making the proximity to a water source a major consideration in where to locate this type of garden.

If an in-ground garden is still suitable, be sure it’s not too far from where tools are stored and that the surface of the ground presents no undue obstacles such as irregular stones, steep steps or slopes and the like.

Watering can be simplified by a drip-irrigation system or sprinkler that’s left in place. Space the rows widely enough to accommodate a wheelchair or other type of riding device. Make the beds only so wide as is comfortable to reach.

Tools: New tools may be in order when a person’s physical abilities change. The lighter weight of a plastic trowel versus a metal one can considerably reduce fatigue.

The right design gives added power. Many garden-supply stores feature ergonomic tools that are intended to match the way human muscles work.

Don’t assume such tools fit the bill. Try a variety of trowels, weeders, hand-rakes and pruning shears for size, weight and balance.

Old favorites can be modified to enhance grip by adding a Velcro strap to wrap around the back of the hand or by sliding a tube of pipe insulation around the handle to make the diameter larger.

Attaching a second handle (at a right angle) midway down the shaft of a long tool, such as a hoe, allows for efficient use of both arms.

Specialized tools, such as scissors that also keep ahold of the stem that’s been cut, may come in handy. Others can be homemade, such as using a long piece of plastic tubing as a funnel to drop seeds through to the ground without bending over. Then brush dirt over the seeds with your foot.

Equipment: Some older gardeners have found garden seats on wheels real energy-savers. Others prefer kneeling benches with high sides to grip when standing back up.

Wheelbarrows with two large wheels are easier to push than the conventional single-wheeled kind. A homemade walker-wagon gives physical support as well as a means of carrying tools around.

Riding mowers that pull a wagon are another handy way to move tools. Equipment and tools should be stored near each other so they needn’t be gathered together each time.

Work methods: Consider commercial products that make gardening easier, such as seed-strips or use seedlings instead of seeds.

Work early in the morning or late afternoon, avoiding the heat of the day. Take it easy, doing a little at a time.

Place chairs here and there throughout the garden for easy-access rest spots.

So if you love gardening, don’t let age or disability stop you. Start planning your garden now.

“Growing Green” is contributed by Lehigh County Extension Office Staff and Master Gardeners. Lehigh County Extension Office, 610-391-9840; Northampton County, 610-813-6613.