Gardening for Senior Citizens – Making It Easier

This is the second in my series on gardening for senior citizens. 

I wrote about my grandparents gardening in an earlier article, Gardening For Senior Citizens – Thoughts of Grandparents In Their Gardens. I didn’t mention it at the time, but they mostly cultivated traditional gardens planted in native soil and laid out in rows. But, in their last few years they began thinking there must be easier ways. I remember well some of their books and magazines that promised just that. Ruth Stout’s books on “no-till” gardening, as well as their Organic Gardening and Farming magazines were among their collection.

I’ve always been a fan of raised bed and “square foot” gardening. But as I’m now seeing a trail of years behind me, I’m thinking about how we can make future gardening activities easier on ourselves. My thoughts on the subject might be useful to others.

Start small.

Face it; sometimes desire is greater than ability. It’s kind of like when the eyes are bigger than the stomach. We can put more on our plates than we can actually eat. Big ideas might lead us to attempt too much, so start with a few pots or window boxes of select bush-type vegetables and herbs. City-dwellers might be limited to a just a few containers, anyway.

Suitable vegetables might include chard, mustard greens, leaf lettuce, bush beans, compact tomato varieties, radishes, beets, peppers, garlic, chives, green onions and such. Herbs might include thyme, basil, rosemary, and oregano, for example.

Choose containers that are easy to move about. Size matters. Obviously, larger ones will be heavier. But materials will also make a difference. Terracotta will require greater strength to move than plastics or fiberglass. Those that might need to be moved about for winter protection or for a change of scenery should be lightweight.

If ability and space allow, add more pots, larger boxes, or even a few raised beds.

Make it accessible.

Mobility and flexibility will be limited as we age. Distances can be harder to travel, so gardens should be as close to living quarters as possible. Working outward from windowsills, container gardens can be placed on porches or patios, closer in the yard or along walkways.

“Low-hanging fruit” might become too difficult to bend over to reach, so raised beds or table gardens could fill the bill. Raised garden beds as tall as 32” are now on the market. They’ll undoubtedly make gardening much easier for folks with limited flexibility.

Choose crops that are easy to grow.

What might they be? How about plants that are well-suited to the climate, adaptable to available sun or the limitations of shade, drought-tolerant, disease and insect resistant? This will require some research. If published material isn’t available, or too difficult to access, contact your nearest Cooperative Extension Service office for help. Your tax dollars are supporting it. Use it.

Select tools that are easy to use.

First of all, shop for tools that are of good quality and well-made. This means you’ll probably spend more for them in the beginning, but you’ll spend far more replacing flimsy, broken implements over time.

Tools and gloves should fit the hands that will use them and be relatively lightweight. Test secateurs to see if they’re easy enough to squeeze. Buy no-kink water hoses that retract or can be easily coiled, hung or reeled to avoid tripping hazards.

Success is only as good as the soil.

Purchase the best potting or garden soils as you can afford. These will be peat-based and possibly contain perlite or vermiculite. Some might boast water-retentive and fertilizer additives. Buy them.

Bagged fertilizers should be in smaller, lightweight bags for easy use. Water-soluble fertilizers should come with measuring spoons. Provide wide-mouth soft plastic cups and watering cans.

With these few tips in mind, the benefits of gardening can be enjoyed for many more years.

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