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Gardening Tips for Older Adults

These gardening tips offer shortcuts and energy savers for older gardeners

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Even the most reluctant gardener—who only gardens to keep things looking tidy—can appreciate gardening tips that make the chores of gardening a bit easier.

For older adults, all the digging, hoeing, weeding, mowing and watering—that make a garden beautiful—can be especially hard on backs, shoulders and knees. And that can turn a labor of love into a chore we dread.

These gardening tips, were developed by the folks at Dynamic-Living.com for older adults or anyone who has trouble bending, squatting, pushing or lifting.

Who couldn't use gardening tips that allow you to do the most work with the least amount of effort?

Gardening Tip #1: Start with the right tools, and make them do the work.

  • Give away those heavy steel tools. Look for lightweight hand tools with resilient rubber handles and ergonomic designs that will be easier on your hands and require less effort. Gardening tools with offset handles make digging and weeding easier.
  • Make handles more comfortable. If you already have great gardening tools, make the handles more comfortable by covering them with foam tubing, like the kind used for pipe insulation. This inexpensive material already has a hole about 1" in diameter and is pre-slit for easy application.
  • Keep your tools sharp. This is an important gardening tip because sharp, clean tools work better and require less effort from you to do the gardening job. Look for pruners with ratcheting action because they require less hand strength.
  • Use the right tool for the job. For example, bulb planting tools make that repetitive job go faster, with less wear on your hands and arms.
  • Handle extenders save your back. Add handle extenders to shovels and other gardening tools to reduce bending.
  • Use a reacher to reduce stretching, reaching and bending, especially if you have back problems or arthritis. A reacher could pick up weeds or dead leaves, or even help you plant seedlings, and will help you put your tools away when you're done.

Gardening Tip #2: Use gardening gloves to protect your hands and provide extra cushioning.

This gardening tip will protect your hands and prevent injuries. Spend a little more and get gardening gloves with leather palms, or get "rose gloves" that protect your hands from thorns.

Gardening Tip #3: Add accessories to make lawn mowing easier.

  • Use an oversized pull grip handle. An oversized handle makes it easier to grasp the string for pull-start lawn mowers, trimmers and blowers, and works for garage and attic doors, too.
  • Add foam padding to lawnmower and power tool handles. Your hands and shoulders will thank you for reducing the aches and pains you get from motor vibrations.
  • Try a handle extender if you have to bend to use the lawn mower. Raising the handle height will help reduce strain on your back and shoulders.
  • Steering knobs make steering easier, and allow you to use one hand so you can balance with the other. They also raise the position of your arm, which puts less strain on your back.

Gardening Tip #4: Use shortcuts to make gardening go faster.

  • Replace annuals with bulbs and other perennials to get garden color with less effort each year. In many parts of the country, you can plant bulbs all summer and well into fall. Stagger planting times and choose plants that bloom at different times to provide color through most of the year.
  • Choose the best time to do certain tasks. Soil is softer after it rains, making it a good time to dig.

Gardening Tip #5: Try container gardening for ease and accessibility.

Containers can provide a variety of colorful and fragrant flowers, as well as delicious vegetables, and they are easier to manage than a garden.

  • Experiment with different types of containers, and look for containers on sale. Be creative and try old baby bathtubs, buckets, wheelbarrows or whatever you can find. Deeper containers are great for vegetables and small trees.
  • Save your back by placing the container where you want it, then filling it with soil, natural fertilizer, and plants. A layer of stones or broken pottery will improve drainage. And buy smaller bags of soil—they are much easier to handle.
  • Start small with your container gardens. It's easy to be dazzled at the garden center and buy more plants than you can handle. Pace yourself and buy only what you can plant at one time. Even if buying a whole flat is cheaper, the wear and tear on your body to get all those plants in the dirt does not make it a sound purchase.

With a little bit of planning, you can reduce the effort it takes to start and maintain a colorful and healthy garden. It's not hard to enjoy flowers, plants and even vegetables in your garden, but try not tackle it all at once.

Know your limits, plan carefully and use the right tools to have a garden you'll enjoy for years to come.

Do you have gardening tips you'd like to share? Send them to seniorliving@aboutguide.com.

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