East Penn Press

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Happiness grows in my garden

Thursday, July 19, 2018 by The Press in Opinion

Since childhood I have loved to play in the dirt. Mud pies were my specialty back then.

So one can only imagine how excited I am each spring to get out in the yard and start planning and planting.

This season threw me a curveball, however.

From overuse and advancing age, I managed to tear the meniscus in my left knee.

Pain made bending and kneeling, not to mention walking and standing, almost unbearable.

Then, to add to my woes, I learned I have a rare lung infection and need to avoid getting too close to soil, mulch, compost and all that messy stuff I like running my fingers through.

Now what? Never one to give up, I was determined to adapt.

I even learned to ask for help. A little.

Horticulture is an activity that lends itself beautifully to adaptation.

With a little imagination, limitations can become merely challenges, not obstacles.

Out came the face masks (miserably hot) and the cushioned kneeler that converts to a stool when I turn it upside down.

Portable containers also made my gardening chores much easier.

Herbs, which I enjoy growing and later harvesting for the kitchen, are especially suited for pots, planters and boxes because they don’t require a lot of space and can tolerate hot and dry conditions.

This year my herbs are in a raised wicker planter, so I need not stoop or kneel to tend them.

Many other plants are in containers this year. In fact, I had to make multiple shopping excursions to buy more pots this season. What fun!

Plants that were better suited for growing directly in the ground were planted there, but most of the physical labor was done by someone else, under my watchful eye.

A helpful neighbor picked up the heavy bags of potting mix I needed when he went to the garden center for his own supplies.

Since I cannot easily bend down to trim, I bought a long-handled scissors-like trimmer that allows me to stand upright and still get the job done.

I could no longer handle the beloved old-fashioned iron reel mower, since I had to carry it out of the garage, so I purchased a three-pound battery-operated string trimmer for the very small patch of grass still remaining.

Each year I convert more grass to native perennials, so eventually I won’t have to mow at all.

Despite arthritic bodies and numerous aches and pains, seniors who enjoy gardening as a hobby or as natural therapy can find easier methods and a variety of versatile tools and adaptations to make the activity more pleasurable.

Look for garden tools that turn and swivel. Some gadgets have handles for two-handed use.

Extenders can be snapped onto hoes, shovels and rakes to extend reach.

Many tools today feature soft grips that are easier on the hand. Stools and little seats on wheels make planting and weeding easier.

Plastic watering containers are far lighter than their metal ancestors.

Trellises and raised beds don’t cost a lot to buy or build, and they allow gardeners of all abilities to indulge their passion without the pain of getting down on the ground.

When it comes to the pleasures of the soil — fresh air, low-impact exercise and tasty or gorgeous results — we need not let our infirmities stand in the way.

Whatever works to make gardening tasks simpler and easier is the right choice for me. And for you.