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Gardening is one of those hobbies you can enjoy your entire life, but as you grow older, some of the physical tasks required to manage your garden can become more strenuous and taxing on your body. However, there are many ways you can alleviate or reduce some of the physical challenges that come with the territory, regardless of whether you have arthritis, back pain, or are confined to a wheelchair. 

Here are some suggestions that should help minimize the physical challenges of gardening and some tips on better gardening practices.


There are alternatives to getting down on your hands and knees and working the ground. For those with bad backs or knee and neck problems, switch from garden plots to raised beds. Have them built to a 28 to 30-inch height with easy access to the bed center so you can water and tend to the plants from any side. This will significantly reduce bending over and eliminate gardening on your knees. If you maintain multiple raised beds, consider creating wide, level pathways between them composed of pea gravel, pavers, or brick. This will help with weed control but also provide flat, secure grounding that is wheelchair-friendly.


If managing a large garden or yard becomes too much work, scale back and grow plants and vegetables in containers that you can quickly move from the outside to an inside sunroom or greenhouse as the seasons change. 


Save your energy and use water-conservative soaker hoses. Not only are they designed for better soil saturation, but your water bills will be lower as a result. Automated sprinkler systems seem more convenient, but they are expensive, require repair maintenance, and can waste water. Soaker hoses only need to be set up once, and you are done. Growing plants in window boxes using drip irrigation is another easy and effective way to water. 


Reduce your labor in the garden and concentrate on planting perennials over annuals. You can always grow your favorite annuals in containers or window boxes, saving your energy for the care and maintenance of ornamentals and perennials that will come back year after year. 


There is no longer a need to risk straining your neck, back, or arms when pruning, raking, or working the ground. There are now a number of tools available for gardeners with physical limitations from specialty garden product makers. New products have been created to fit better in your hands and are made from lighter , yet durable material. If you are on a budget, consider refurbishing your favorite tools.


If you tend to bend over too much while gardening or need additional support, consider investing in a garden stool or a rolling work seat that you can easily move around the yard. Foam knee pads are another inexpensive garden aid that offers great support. It is also wise to keep the essential tools you need in a portable wagon, bucket, or handyman's tote. This will prevent you from accidentally misplacing them while gardening or making constant trips to the tool shed.


Wear a cotton shirt with long sleeves and avoid bright-colored clothing because it attracts insects. Wear a wide-brim hat to provide shade for the face. Remember to drink plenty of water and avoid working in the day's heat. Another helpful suggestion is to garden with a damp towel around your neck. You can also buy cold packs and keep them in the freezer until ready to use them outdoors for heat-related weather.


Gardening is an enjoyable activity within reach for just about anyone who wants to dig in and enjoy the many perks of nurturing plants.

Resource, HGTV, September, 2021 edition

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