Gardening tips for seniors – and others too

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We all get older and as we get older we need to think about ways to garden that suit our health and age.

I was fortunate enough to live a long life and still have the means to garden although my 10 acres became too much for me, so I downsized when I was 79. Ironically, the previous owner sold me the place when she was 79. I now have two-thirds of an acre that I can almost handle. I really feel a lot better to have taken this step, even though I loved the lifestyle that I loved before.

Here are some tips that we, senior gardeners or those with older family members, can consider to make gardening a lifelong enjoyment.

For starters, there are a few things that apply to all gardeners during the hot summer. Work in the garden early in the morning before it gets hot. Preferably use sunscreen with zinc oxide as the main ingredient according to my dermatologist and stay hydrated by having water on hand. It is also advisable to wear protective clothing, such as long-sleeved work shirts and a wide-brimmed hat to avoid exposure to the sun.

Of course, gloves are an important protection especially when pruning roses to avoid stinging. A friend gave me some goatskin cuffed gloves years ago that I really treasure for the job. Regular gloves help keep blisters away during serious troweling or shoveling jobs.

It also helps to have a garden apron that will carry your tools, seeds, and whatever else you might need and keep it handy in your garden shed or porch. I’ve managed to do without it by using my pockets and belt over the years, but an apron is a better solution.

While it is recommended that older people have walkways that are not uneven, I would recommend it for everyone’s backyard. No one wants to trip or turn their ankles while visiting the garden, although this may be more of a problem for older people who may have balance issues.

One thing that improved my vegetable garden was landscaping fabric covered with wood chips that keeps weeds from falling on the paths and around my citrus and other fruit trees. This avoids a huge weeding that I would have to do without and I thank my brother-in-law for this idea and for its installation.

This kneeling pillow is great for saving your knees and helping you get on and off in the garden.

Some older people can have arthritis. The tools we buy and use should therefore have comfortable and easy-to-handle handles.

Garden tools that have large, easy-to-grip handles with non-slip material make gardening easier. Kneeling devices, benches or pads, are useful not only for the elderly, but also for all gardeners in order to preserve the knees from wear and tear.

Water lances or pistol grip nozzles with a variety of patterns attached to the hoses make it easier to water plants and can save water as well. Using drip irrigation with controllers to make irrigation automatic and easy to perform. I couldn’t garden without them.

It seems that when you are younger you have more time than money, but with age the reverse takes over, we can have more money than time. Therefore, it is good to hire people to help you with gardening tasks, especially the ones you don’t like to do.

As a child my job was to mow the lawn and when electric mowers became more available after WWII we increased the lawn area to be mowed on our farm. I haven’t liked mowing lawns since and have always hired him to do it when possible, along with leaf raking and other landscape maintenance tasks. I save my efforts for tasks that require knowledge and skills.

Another garden change that is good is to use raised beds and containers which are easier to plant, weed and maintain. If you have disability issues, such as the inability to bend over or be in a wheelchair, you may want to consider very high raised beds or tall containers that are more accessible without any bending being required.

Another thing to consider when container gardening is being able to move heavy containers more easily. This can be accomplished by purchasing plant carts that will easily roll your containers onto a patio or deck. You can also use non-ceramic containers that are lighter and easier to move.

Good gardening, seniors and juniors too.

If you have a gardening-related question, you can contact UC’s Master Gardeners at (209) 953-6112. You can find more information on our website: sjmastergardeners.ucanr.edu/CONTACT_US/.


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