I LOVE gardening.  It’s in my blood.  Growing up in a small town in Canada, it was rare to see a home that did NOT have both a vegetable and a cutting flower garden in the backyard.  When I moved to California, we didn’t have room for the veggies, but we did have all kinds of fruit trees.  And now that I have moved to the country again (really, I don’t move that often), I have been able to get back to the soil.  When my father was with me, he too enjoyed putzing around in the garden and advising me on which vegetables were his favorite.  We ALWAYS had peas and beets.

This year, we had to do a little rearranging of the garden because the chickens figured out how to get over the fence and were eating up the seedlings, the raspberry chutes and any trace of rhubarb they could find.  Well, we now have them fenced off in the orchard so that the garden is safe from those feathery friends.

The article below was written by Barbara Friesner of AgeWiseLiving and as a gardener, of course, it resonated with me.  I was also happy to read more about container gardens and raised-bed gardens because I have both.  But let me just note that her weather must be much better than mine here, because we’ve had an enormous amount of rain and a late start to our gardening.
“It’s only the beginning of June but with this year’s weather, we are well into gardening season. For so many Seniors, having their garden is a very big reason they want to stay in their home.  Not only does a garden look pretty and give an enormous sense of satisfaction, (and attract birds and butterflies) but it’s also a great exercise and promotes flexibility and strength which also helps prevent osteoporosis and reduce stress.
Clearly there are lots of really good reasons to have a garden.  However, some people can have too much garden, and for them, the garden can be overwhelming.  They can easily get it under control by reducing the size of the garden to what they can easily manage and then hiring a gardener or a neighbor kid to take care of the rest.

Conversely, some people want a garden but have only a little bit of space – or none at all.  For  those with no space at all, container gardens are a great solution. (So you can have a garden in an apartment, too.)  They can be inside or out and you can plant anything in them (fruits, vegetables, flowers, shrubs, trees).  Plus they can be any size, shape or height you want. Check out ContainerGardening for more pictures of container gardens.
If you have any outdoor space at all, I am a huge proponent of raised garden beds.  They are great for seniors and anyone who can’t, or doesn’t want, to spend hours on their knees, killing their back!   According to raised-garden-beds.com, there are other great reasons for raised bed gardening, too.

1.  Plant roots need air.  In an ordinary garden, you can’t avoid stepping in the garden bed occasionally when doing your everyday gardening.  With the raised garden, you garden from the path and not pack down the soil.
2.  Raised beds tend to drain away excess moisture better than ordinary garden beds.  This is another advantage that helps the plant roots to breath.  In areas that have saturated soil like Florida and many areas of the South, raised beds may be the only way you can grow many types of plants.
3.  Soil conditions and types can be controlled more efficiently in a raised bed and they can be varied easily from bed to bed.  Raised beds are the answer when topsoil is thin.
4.  Water, fertilizer, compost, mulch, etc. can be applied more carefully because they only need to be applied to the garden beds.
5.  Various studies have shown that raised garden beds produce 1.4 to 2 times as much vegetables and flowers per square foot as ordinary beds, due mainly to the above advantages so you can have a smaller and more manageable garden and still produce more.
But as the years go by, even container and/or raised gardens can be tough on the body.  So here is some advice from gardening expert, Rebecca Kolls,  on how to keep the strain to the body to a minimum.
*Warm up by doing a few stretches before starting any gardening activities and working with your garden tools. Doing this will help reduce any muscle soreness you may experience later on.
*Drink plenty of liquids (avoiding alcohol), to keep your body well hydrated.
Be sure to take care of cuts, bruises scrapes and insect bites right away to help avoid infection.
*Work in the garden early in the morning or late in the day to avoid blazing midday sun and heat which can make even the healthiest senior ill or weary.
*Wear comfortable clothes and shoes.
*Wear a hat and gloves to cover exposed skin and use sunscreen to protect against sunburn and sun damage.
*When you start to feel fatigued, take a break for a few moments.
*Rotate your gardening tasks every half hour or so.
*Avoid using tools that will put you in awkward body positions. If possible, take advantage of the new breed of ergonomic garden tools which are designed to reduce strain and injury because they work in conjunction with your body movements.

Check out the Today Show’s Home & Garden segment about gadgets that will help keep seniors in the garden.  (There are so many great new gardening tools out there, it almost makes me wish I were a gardener!)
*Keep your tools sharp, well oiled and in good working condition. This will help avoid resistance when using them and cut down on the manpower needed to execute certain tasks. Remember that proper body positioning will minimize muscle soreness and fatigue.
Now that you have all this great information . . . go play in the dirt!”

© Copyright  AgeWiseLiving™  2010   Barbara E. Friesner, Generational Coach and adjunct professor at Cornell University, is creator of  “The Ultimate Caregiver’s Success System”™, the ultimate eldercare instruction manual that shows you exactly how to resolve your eldercare issues by choice, not crisis.  To get your F.R.E.E. downloadable MP3 and receive Barbara’s weekly eldercare success articles, visit www.AgeWiseLiving.com.


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