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  Gardening Forever

EASY GARDENING

Gardening for People of All Ages, Abilities and Lifestyles

    Most gardeners want to continue gardening as long as they can. Lifestyle changes, age, physical limitations, and location all have an impact on our ability to garden. Many gardeners have found ways to continue gardening, overcoming health problems and physical challenges.
    You may have come up with a useful tool or technique that enables you to garden easier, garden smarter. I hope you will share those tips as we look for practical ideas, useful tools and ways that will allow us to keep gardening forever.
    Along the garden path of experience, I've come across a few ideas to make gardening easier and less strenuous. Here are some ideas that have worked for me.


PERENNIALS ARE YOUR OLDEST AND
BEST GARDEN FRIENDS


    Perennials will bloom faithfully where they are planted, if they are planted where they will bloom. Plant the right perennial recommended for your zone and it will reward you for years to come.
     Zones are the USDA Plant Hardiness Map rating system devised by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. There are eleven zones assigned to North America. Zones are based on the average annual minimum temperature for a specific area. The coldest zone, farthest north, is Zone 1. The Missouri area is generally considered Zone 5 or 6.
    Spring bulbs, peonies, and lilacs are favorites that will reward you with spring visits for years to come with minimum maintenance. The first garden bounties of the season will be up and blooming well before the ground is warm enough or dry enough for you to get out in the garden or get your gardening tools out of storage.
    Many indoor plants, such as a Ficus or rubber tree, will benefit from a summer trip to the apartment balcony or the deck. The Norfolk Island pine that soaks up the sun on the deck all summer moves back into the house to serve as a table top Christmas tree in the winter. By December, the dry winter indoor heat and lack of good light create a tree similar to Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. In Missouri, a Norfolk Pine is a perennial only if you bring it indoors for the winter.
    On a recent trip to California, I saw Norfolk Island pines as tall as a two-story building. I took a picture of several of these outdoor trees and brought them home to show my shrimpy little slow-growing Norfolk pine in its pretty Martha Stewart container. This did not impress my potted pine that needs to be brought inside to simply survive the winter.box


 
SPECIAL DELIVERY
    Do you wear yourself out just walking from the garden back to the tool shed to collect the tool you need?
    Provide a place for tool storage close to the garden, either a small shed or a large sealable waterproof tub (like Rubbermaid) on the edge of a garden bed. Another popular idea is to place a large mailbox mounted on the fence or a post in the garden. A mail box will serve as handy garden storage. Keep an extra pair of pruners, a spade or gloves handy in the nearby mailbox. Wear a tool pouch or big-pocketed apron or hang it from a wheelchair or walker. Leave a sealed container near the edges of raised beds to keep seeds and hand tools close.
    A plastic trash can with wheels is easy to roll into the garden and can carry multiple long-handled garden tools. Tools with long handles are a good choice if you have a bad back.
    If gardening is a lifelong hobby, my best advice is to spend the money and buy good tools. Ease arthritic pain, weak wrists, and tired backs by using hand tools with long handles or telescoping handles. Tender wrists and fragile hands benefit by holding fat-handled tools and resting your wrist on the extra-long handles as you dig.
    When working in the yard or garden, you may consider carrying a cell phone. If you don't want to be that connected, wear a whistle. It will be easy to blow an alert if you need help. People, especially police, coaches and lifeguards, have been trained to pay attention to whistles. Whistles tend to get attention quicker than a weak or tired cry for help.


CONTAIN YOURSELF
    My garden is on my back porch. For folks like me with multiple sclerosis, who find it hard to get around, container gardening will get you growing again. I have several containers that look like they’re made of clay, but are made of much lighter, easier to carry material. A half barrel, a five-gallon plastic bucket, or just a bag of potting soil (this really works!) will allow you to grow a tomato plant on a sunny driveway or back porch.
    By the time it's warm enough to plant tomatoes, you can reuse the same container that you used earlier for the cool-season lettuce, radishes, and green onions. Start with containers large enough to support the root system of the plants you want to grow. Buy a good potting soil mix. It's much lighter and easier to work with than the heavy clay soil from your yard.
    I lighten up containers, conserve potting soil and improve drainage by using Better Than Rocks in the bottum of all my containers and pots.
    The larger the container, the more moisture it will hold, and the less watering you will have to do. Keep in mind that Missouri summers may require you to water hanging baskets
every day. Consider installing pulleys on your hanging baskets so you can lower them for watering and easier access.


GET HELP
 
Gardens for Everybody from the University Of Missouri.
Gardens for Every Body, shows gardeners with arthritis or any disability how to keep on gardening, despite mobility or other limitations.

Arthritis Insight, created by and for people with arthritis special section on gardening tips

Providing information about activities that benefit people with arthritis is part of the mission of the Missouri Arthritis Rehabilitation Research and Training Center (MARRTC).

The Enabling Garden Bookshelf. Do you have difficulty deciding which new books to add to your garden and nature study library? If so, please let these reviews be your guide to deciding which of the many books now available to purchase for your personal library.


Playing in the Dirt
An excerpt from Dr. Allan Armitage’s essay in the fall 2006 Wayside Gardens catalog.

     “So what should you know to become a better gardener? First, relax and enjoy yourself and your garden. You will never get rid of every weed, so do the best you can and live with it. You will never get rid of every disease or bug, and if there are some plants that are always infected with or eaten by something, throw them in the compost heap; there are far too many other beautiful plants to try. Gardening is frustrating enough when it snows in April, or floods in August, so why put in plants that make it even worse. Don’t work so hard in the garden that you never have time to enjoy it. Believe it or not, benches are not only there for ornamental value. Sit down, enjoy your wine or julep, and take a deep breath. Life is good when you can play in the dirt.”


 

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