How to care for a garden if you are a senior and aren’t that fit any more?
How to start one, if you never have done it before? Should you? Why?
Aging brings all sorts of physical and mental changes. Muscles are not that strong anymore, bones and joints are stiff, aching, hands are weaker, vision is poorer, balance is not good, arthritis and/or osteoporosis put limits to flexibility, it is easier to fall and perhaps harder to think, due to dementia or similar. It becomes more difficult to kneel or bend, dig, plant, water, weed…in garden. Still, if someone loved gardening while younger, none of these challenges should be an obstacle.
In this article, I’ll discuss why you, even if aging, should still go on gardening, and how could you make it more comfortable with a few simple, inexpensive, or even free alterations.
I’ll offer some tips also to those who have never had a garden of their own, but realized now what tremendous benefits it would bring to their physical and mental well-being. Finally, we’ll see whether it is too late this year for your garden or you can still do some late summer vegetable planting, for example, or what flowers to plant in September.
If you find it hard to take care of your garden, but would like to keep it, you can always hire a reliable gardener to take on the job. Or you could adjust your garden to your abilities, add some helpful tools and alter how you approach the tasks.
You can also ask your children or other family members to help you with the more physical to-dos in the garden, while you can engage in the more delicate tasks.
However, if no one is available, you still do not have to give up. You will have to take into consideration your possible conditions when planning how to accomplish individual tasks, but you shouldn’t allow these to take away from you the joy of gardening.
Moreover, Gardening Is a Beneficial Activity for Anyone, but Especially for Elderly
-it is a great, enjoyable, gentle form of physical activity that can help you stay fit and mobile
-improves mental well-being
-will make you use all of your motor skills
-increases your mobility and flexibility
-improves strength and endurance
-improves density and strength of bones, decreasing so risks of osteoporosis
-makes you spend time outside, breathing fresh air, connecting with nature
-lowers blood pressure
-decreases bad cholesterol in blood
-may help to avoid feeling of loneliness
-decreases risks of depression
-helps in relaxation
-fills you with joy and pride to have your own growing
Let’s See How to Organize Your Garden to Have Maximum Comfort in It and Easy Access to Your Plants
-you can decide on having raised beds, so you don’t have to bend that much, especially with a painful back. Be careful, though, not to make them too wide, to reach the whole width easily
-leave broader path between beds, so you can go through with a wheelbarrow trolley when you need to take something heavy to a bed.
-plan the width of the path so that you can place a chair or similar and work comfortably from it. There are special gardening chairs for seniors available, either in garden centers or even online. You can choose a comfortable foam kneeler that can be turned into a seat, or even a wheeled garden stool that you can move around with
-make sure the walkways and the paths are flat enough for safe walking and they are not slippery anytime.
-you can decide on having raised beds, so you don’t have to bend that much, especially with a painful back. Be careful, though, not to make them too wide, to reach the whole width easily.
-wheeled containers can be used as beds, with a benefit of moving them around when needed
-consider adding to your existing tools a few special gardening tools for elderly
-use mulch (I use wooden chippings, but straw is equally good, and even pebbles) between and around plants to stop or at least reduce weed growth, so you don’t have to worry about frequent weeding. Wait until plant stems come up, though (late spring-early summer)
-consider vertical gardening, so that planting in beds and harvesting later is easier. You can DIY wooden or metal trellis, or purchase ready-made ones. You can also install a garden mesh on a sunny wall and use it as support for your plants, or grow your plants against a fence.
-you might consider planting in pots which can be held on a table of suitable height, or if they are bigger, on a stand with wheels, to move them easily, without lifting, if needed.
-a useful addition to your flower garden are retractable hanging baskets, which you can pull down when watering or working on them and let it be pulled back higher when you are done, without a need to climb to reach them
-think of your watering options. Watering the plants may be not an easy task at older age if the tap is far from the garden. Either re position the tap, or install a long enough hose with a suitable hose nozzle.
I do like my garden and surroundings tidy, so I chose this very light, expandable hose, with different settings on the gun. It doesn’t take up much space while not in use and still expands more than twice in length when filled with water. The most important is, I do not need to carry a heavy can but have water on hand whenever my garden needs it.
Starting a Garden as a Senior for the First Time
My auntie has always hated anything connected with gardening, earth, planting… They used to have a beautiful large lawn with a few beds of flowers, though, maintained by my late uncle, who sadly had a fatal heart attack at 72.
As we knew mowing would have been hard work for auntie, plus she didn’t like it, after uncle passed, someone from the family popped in now and then to help her out with it. But, no one thought about any real gardening.
Surprisingly, auntie soon asked for a small area to be dug up and freed from grass-she suddenly wanted to do gardening. She said she was doing it partly for my uncle, partly to have a few carrots on hand, without going to shop for them. Nothing big, just some flowers and a few vegetables.
Today, only three years later, auntie has not only tripled the flowers beds, and carrots, but she grows also lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, cucumbers, zucchini, red pepper, rhubarb and even butternut squash. She is as proud of her garden as one can be and regrets not trying it before.
It seems, no matter how old someone is, experienced or just a beginner, gardening is something that brings joy and delight.
I know it did wonders for auntie, physically and mentally.
Starting a Garden for Beginners-What to Do First
When you make up your mind:
-decide on the area of your future garden
-find a spot for your future sitting area, where you can rest and admire your beautiful garden with busy life in and around it
-then, plan your design (do you plan to plant vegetables or flowers, same color different species, or same species in different colors, or mixed, or in patches…)
-do not over complicate it, keep it simple. Choose plants with lower maintenance needs. There will be plenty of time later to challenge yourself with more demanding ones, when you are more experienced.
-choose plants to suit to various conditions in your area (sunny spot, dark, shady…) Ask for advice when purchasing them. Garden centers employees are mostly gardeners themselves and happy to help.
-prepare the soil. Loosen the soil in the whole area. Make sure there are no weeds left. You might need to add some good compost soil. It will improve the structure of your soil, loosen it and provide airflow. Sandy soils with compost can retain water better.
-position your garden so that you can work in a shade during very hot summer days (if there is no such possibility, work in the garden only early mornings or late in the day and do not forget a protective hat and sunscreen)
…and from here on, apply all the advises from the above section.
Choosing Tools for Seniors
Not just any tools, but gardening tools for seniors. These are adapted or can be easily adapted for your best, most comfortable and most safe using.
When you can’t or do not want to invest, modify existing ones with foam tubes, tapes, plastic tubes or anything else that can provide better grip or easier handling. Try to apply a bright color If you can, to find them easier when you forget them somewhere in the garden.
It is still better to find specially designed ones, as they will usually be lightweight and more adjusted to seniors’ needs. Some are designed to help arthritic hands, for example.
The one thing you shouldn’t skip by no means are the gardening gloves. You should have them on at all times when in garden, even if you are only checking plants. As older skin is more prone to bruises and even cuts or scratches, an infection can quickly find its way into the body.
Take extra care if using any power tools.
Do not overdue. Divide your daily tasks into two or three sections evenly through the day. Do not forget, if it is a hot day, work only early in the morning and late in the afternoon.
Make sure you have a bottle of water or natural juice on hand and drink occasionally.
Wear suitable clothes that you feel comfortably in, is lightweight, but covers skin completely (protects you from the sun and from insect bites), add a hat on a sunny day and the already mentioned gardening gloves.
When you finish, make sure your tools are stored safely, out of reach of children, or mentally unstable people.
If you definitely do not feel you can maintain your garden, you can still harvest flowers or food if someone else does all the rest. You can still sit at your spot and smell the flowers, or touch the plants, check the vegetables, watch the ladybugs, butterflies, listen the bees buzzing or birds chirping, if any. All that in your garden.
It is the end of August. Isn’t it too late for this year, you may ask, but there are flowers and vegetables that can or need to be planted in September. You can even have the pleasure of harvesting some before frost.
A few vegetables that can be planted in September: kale, rhubarb, lettuce, garden cress, spring cabbages, spring onion, corn salad, lettuce, pak choi, even salad rocket may be sown at the very beginning of September and you’ll have some as early as October.
Spinach needs less than two months and prefers colder temperatures, so it is ideal for planting now. Turnips for the Christmas table can be planted now. Radishes are ready to eat in a couple of weeks, so, treat yourself with a few from your own garden, already mid October if you plant them now.
You’ll be harvesting your own garlic next summer if you plant it now. Stevia needs about three months from planting to harvesting, so you might have your own already in December, to sweeten your tea or coffee with this healthy, natural sugar substitute.
Herbs like coriander may be still planted and harvested in a couple of weeks. Strawberries are normally planted in August and September.
Daffodils, viola, pansies, peonies, asters, chrysanthemums, common snowdrop are planted in September and the majority of flower bulbs need to be planted not before September, even better later, all the way until just before the frost time.
The best time is when it is still comfortable to work outside, but the warm weather is highly unlikely to come back.
Anyway, do not give up on gardening, whether you are an experienced, but aging gardener or a senior who is yet about to find out the beauty and pleasure of connecting with nature and earth.
Now, that we discussed benefits, and ways to keep on digging, weeding, nourishing your garden, or your garden-to-be, I hope you are eager to go out and get your fingers (better your gloves) dirty, even if we are at the threshold of autumn.
I’d love to hear about your thoughts, your experience on gardening in general, and especially at older age, in the comments.
And, as, always, feel free to reach out should you have questions and I’ll be happy to answer to the best of my knowledge.
KerryanneWhen you buy something from this website, I may receive an affiliate commission, at no extra cost to you.