Checklist for Senior Gardeners

By Charlie Nardozzi

Gardening when you're older has special benefits and challenges. You likely have more leisure time to plant, weed and harvest at a pace that suits you, but let's face, older bodies just don't work like they used to! Aches, pains and loss of strength and endurance can cut into your gardening time and make that time less enjoyable. Here are some tips to help you get the most out of gardening without getting bent out of shape.

Garden with Containers, Raised Beds, and Trellises - They're all positioned higher and are easier to reach with less stretching and bending. Pots and beds filled with loose potting soil are easier to turn and work than a standard in-ground garden. Use kneepads or stools to make the bending you still have to do less taxing.

Buy Small - Although you might still be strong enough to drag a 50-pound bag of fertilizer 200 yards from the driveway to the garden, the toll it takes on your back and knees isn't worth it. Purchase materials in smaller-sized packages to avoid the stress of lifting heavy bags. Instead of single-wheeled wheelbarrows, use dual-wheeled garden carts that are easier to balance and pull.

Break Up the Work - Work for brief periods, ideally during the cool morning and evening hours, instead of a full-day marathon. Keep hydrating and taking breaks even during these short sessions. Wait until evening to have that rewarding beer or martini.

Dress Like a Movie Star - Wrap up like you're trying to avoid the paparazzi. Wear long sleeved, lightweight, loose-fitting, light-colored shirts and long, baggy pants during the heat of summer. Wear wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect exposed skin and eyes. Mist your shirt with water for a quick cool down.

Stretch it Out - Before you even get started, gently stretch your legs, arms, and back. The more limber you are, the less likely you'll pull a muscle or get sore muscles after gardening.

Use Adaptive Tools - Ergonomically designed tools reduce stress on joints and muscles while you go about your routine garden activities such as raking, pruning, and digging. Try 'em out!

Automate, Mate - Instead of toting watering cans and dragging hoses, consider installing a drip irrigation system, soaker hoses, or overhead sprinklers. Set it up with a timer all you have to do is sit back, relax, and watch the water flow and your garden grow.

Make Paths Smooth and Wide - Pave pathways between beds with a solid material such as textured concrete that is easy to walk on. Make the paths between beds wide enough to easily maneuver your garden cart.

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