Green Industry Resources
Hort Update- Seasonal Information for the Green Industry
Enabling Gardening Makes Gardening Easier on Your Body
Working with plants can promote emotional and physical well-being. Gardening offers an opportunity to nurture something, the plant, and offers a way to exercise. Being outdoors can stimulate all the senses, and gardening can reduce stress, increase endurance, encourage lifelong learning, generate positive emotions, and improve strength, range of motion and eye-hand coordination.
Those who face physical challenges due to aging, injury or disability may believe they cannot reap the benefits of gardening. However, certain gardening tools and techniques can keep people gardening long after they may think they no longer can.
To make it easier for someone to access the garden, bring the garden up to him or her. This can be done by gardening in containers or in permanent raised beds. A permanent raised bed is built to a height gardeners can work in from a seated or standing position. The outer, top sides can be widened, creating benches for the garden to sit on.
For people with arthritis or a weak grip, add pipe insulation or crutch handle grips to tool handles. They also can use spring loaded or ratchet handle tools. For people with some paralysis there are commercial tools which have arm cuffs. These tools can also easy wrist strain for those with carpal tunnel syndrome. To reduce trips to the garden shed or garage, gather tools together in one place, such as a wheeled cart, a child's sled or a heavy duty apron with many pockets.
To reduce bending and kneeling, select long handled tools or use a PVC pipe planter to plant large seeds, such as corn, peas or beans without kneeling down. Cut a 1 inch in diameter piece of PVC pipe so it is about as tall as the hips, then drop the large seeds through it to plant them in a furrow.
To reduce strain, select the right size and weight of the tool for the job and always use sharp tools. Adding leverage with commercially available D or T handles attached to hoe or rake handles can help reduce bending and strain as well.
For people with low vision, select tools with bright handles or paint them in bright colors. To make seeds easier to see and handle, use pelleted seeds or seed tapes. Seed tapes are paper tapes with seeds in them that are placed directly into soil furrows. The paper tape decomposes as seeds are watered. Placing tiny seeds in a recycled spice shaker or using commercial seeders can make them easier to handle. Also, mixing tiny seeds and colored sand together can make seed placement easier to see. Notched boards or knotted ropes can be used for blind gardeners. Place the notched board or knotted rope along a row. The notches or knots, spaced 3 to 6 inches apart, aid in spacing transplants or seeds while planting.
SOURCE: Kelly Feehan, UNL Extension Educator.