There's at least one thing all home and property owners have in common. None of us are getting any younger. In fact, a 1/3rd of gardeners we interviewed for a study, revealed they have some physical ailment that prevents them from doing gardening activities. Recently, I had the privilege of discussing how gardeners can still go about enjoying their garden at any age, in a GILN podcast interview with Toni Gattone, author of The Lifelong Gardener: Garden with Ease and Joy At Any Age. She explained how to approach working outdoors as you age, adapting the layout of your garden to suit your lifestyle, using tools that can help get the job done and provided some excellent tips and how-tos to enjoy your space as you age. If you ever get tired or sore from working outdoors, keep reading and get more by listening to this great episode.
Your Mind and Body
If life has taught me anything, it's that I cannot do the same things I did when I was younger. While I still enjoy working outdoors, it takes longer to recover in between. A sore back from bending. Removing tree branches. Weeding and raking up leaves. Pruning back roses. It all needs to be done but with each passing season, it gets a little harder to do. In her interview, Toni stressed it's important to recognize you can't do it all but having a great positive attitude goes a long way. Gardening itself help reduce stress and anxiety. It's also important to stay connected and engaging with others, in person. While social media has its benefits, it has actually made us feel more disconnected than ever before. To help stay socially active, she suggests joining a garden club, getting a plot at a community garden, or become a master gardener. And just as important and having a sounds mind, it's equally important to keep moving. Gardening activities help us bend and stretch our range of motion.
Warm it Up and Switch it Up
Like any physical activity, it's important to do some warm-up exercises before you get started. Everything from stretching to dancing to your favorite rock and roll music. This is a step I tend to forget before gardening. The idea of jamming to my favorite play list sounds like a great way to get the body moving. After warming up, Toni says it's important to switch it up and use different muscles. If you have raking to do, go for 20 minutes and switch to another gardening activity like pruning or weeding. The main thing is to avoid long periods of repetitive motion.
What is Adaptive Gardening
Adaptive gardening is a term that may sound a bit confusing but it's really the ability to garden and taking into account one's physical capabilities. In Toni's book, she references tools to help get the job done, even if a person has sore knees, a bad back, limited dexterity or all the above. The main point that she makes is that adaptive garden means you don't have to throw in the "trowel" and give up working in the garden and landscape. One key point she makes in the interview, is regardless of your age and physical limitations, even a new gardener can apply some of these same principles that help with gardening as they age. Planning ahead in your garden design so you can manage and enjoy it for a lifetime make good sense for new home buyers.
Adaptive Gardening Rules to Live By
Save time, save money, save energy and save space, with the most important being saving your energy. Anticipate the tools you will need and save trips back and forth to the tool shed. One thing I would add to that after years of speaking to gardeners, I often hear even experienced gardeners using the wrong tool in an effort to save a trip back to the shed. In reality, using the wrong tool can exert more energy trying to get the job done. Save time and money planting perennials and flowering shrubs rather than annuals that need to be replaced every year. Putting the right plant in the right spot can also save time and money. Toni also recommends getting help when you need it by inviting others over that can get the project done. A nice lunch and garden party, helps encourage family and friends to come over and help.
Coping with Adaptive Gardening
The first step in the process is accepting your physical limitations. This will help you reach a level where you can do the activities with easy and joy. That means finding easier ways to get things done. As Toni points out, done is better than perfect! Garden smarter and you'll save time so you can enjoy it more. This will also help to work quicker and more efficiently, with more comfort and safety. Combined it gives you more time to enjoy your garden and landscape instead of always working in it.
Image courtesy of Toni Gattone
Traits of a Accessible Garden Design
Those flagstone paths with emerald moss growing between the stone is very aesthetically pleasing however they can also present tripping hazards for the mature unsteady gardener. She recommends replacing these kinds of paths with wide, even surfaces like interlocking pavers or concrete. Many gardeners grow in raised beds on top of the soil. She recommends raising the garden beds to be waist-high to prevent excessive bending. Another accessible option is growing vertically with a vertical planter. There are many options now that attach to a wall, and a growing tower or even containers that rest on an outdoor railing work well too.
Image courtesy of Toni Gattone
Tools for Adaptive Gardening
If you are going to work out in the garden and landscape, having the right tools is essential. Toni shared that the most important thing to keep in mind is comfort. When buying a tool like a hand pruner, go to the store and try it out to see which one feels best. Safety is another important consideration. Replace older rusty tools that don't work or won't close properly. You can also be creative or invent something that works for you. I especially like Toni's PVC pipe seed planting tool. It eliminates bending to plant seeds and places them right where they need to go! This is a great idea for planting for gardeners of all ages.
Inspiration to Get Out There at Any Age
It was quite an experience learning about adaptive gardening from Toni. She has an infectious enthusiasm about her and that comes across not only in this podcast, but in her book as well. I received a copy ahead of the interview and the well thought-out concepts for enjoying your garden at any age is one of the best garden books I've read. It focuses on ways to enjoy your garden without the basics of how to garden. There are stories of other gardeners throughout the book that are inspirational. It's great to know, as we age, we're not alone! It's a fantastic read and you can find it at Amazon or check out the other links in the podcast notes.
Hear the Interview on the Green Industry Leaders Network Podcast
Whether you are an advanced gardener and homeowner or just beginning your gardening journey, Toni Gattone shares some great insights from her latest book on this episode. It's a great discussion that can change how you look at your landscape design. You can listen to the our complete interview and helpful information, 24/7 on the Green Industry Leaders Network podcast.