YARD AND GARDEN: Gardening made easier for seniors and disabled persons | Home & Garden

I have recently read or reviewed five books regarding the subject of gardening made easier for senior and disabled persons. Unfortunately, in many cases, I felt the books only made for harder gardening as they totally replaced present gardens or made new gardens.

However, downsizing your present garden was perhaps the most intelligent suggestion from Sydney Eddison’s book “Gardening For A Lifetime.” It is basically her autobiography about gardening a huge area.

She made a good point of downsizing perennials that are time-consuming and made specific suggestions for perennials that require less maintenance.

In many cases, suggestions were made to eliminate lawn areas by replacing the grass with a groundcover. My opinion is I wouldn’t live long enough to see the ground cover do so in my life and finding someone to mow my lawn at a reasonable cost seems to be the preferred route to go.

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Another book entitled “The Able Gardener – Gardening for Life” by Kathleen Yeomans, R.N., included dozens of suggestions for adapting tools, managing garden tasks; and creating accessible “barrier-free” yards. She included 20 imaginative garden ideas with some stimulating all the senses. This would be especially important to people who are losing their eyesight or have poorer eyesight but can identify plants by the smell.

While planning a new garden isn’t my idea of making gardening easier, the same ideas do apply to downsizing your present garden. The author’s point is to think twice, maybe three times, before setting out a plant. How will it look in ten years? How much care does it take? Will it drop fruit or blossoms on a patio or deck? Is it a water guzzler or a potential weed?

Think about your needs. If bending over is hard for you, design a garden with raised beds, built waist high so you can sit on the ledge while working. If you use a cane, a walker, or a wheelchair, plan a garden with wide, level paths, and easy turnaround areas. If you get short of breath when you exercise, locate the garden close to the house and have all your supplies within easy reach. Some exercise before starting to garden might be important for you as is wearing the right clothing.

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Your tools are important and making your own special tools for various problems is possible. If you have trouble making a fist, wrap the handles of hand tools, shovels, and the like with a soft fabric to enlarge the handles. The rubber handgrips made for crutches are great for doing this and available from pharmacies or medical suppliers.

If you have weak fingers try using a cup with a large handle as a digging tool and watering tool. People who cannot lift even the smallest watering utensil should be able to use a sponge dipped in water and dribble it on the plant.

If you have trouble reaching or bending use long-handled tools for pulling weeds, transplanting, or removing dead leaves from hard-to-reach places. Consider some type of stool to sit on while you work if possible. Be sure to use knee pads if you are able to kneel.

There are many tools specially made to save your back, wrist, knees, and the like. They can be found on mail order sites, in garden centers, and home improvement suppliers. Buy quality to get a well-designed tool.

If you are visually impaired, consider putting the outline of each tool on a pegboard that will show you where each tool belongs and save you time searching for it. Tools with bright colored handles are also recommended.

The most sensible suggestion, I thought, is to have raised bed gardens or container gardens. If you have hanging containers be sure they are not where you will hit your head and see if it can be lowered to be watered.

Each of the books I read is a very complete guide regarding design, soil, mulch, and compost, besides the planning and selection of the right plants.

Being practical and honest with yourself about what will keep you and your garden happy and healthy is really only a matter of making small adjustments to our routines and perhaps to your present garden. Energy and motivation are more important than youth when it comes to maintaining a garden you will still enjoy as you age.

If you have questions about your garden or landscape, contact a master gardener at the University of Illinois Extension office in Mattoon at 217-345-7034 or through our online hotline at https://forms.illinois.edu/sec/1523725. Be sure to visit U of I Extension’s horticulture website http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/ and like the Master Gardeners’ Facebook page www.facebook.com/ColesCountyMasterGardeners.

Illinois Extension leads public outreach for University of Illinois by translating research into action plans that allow Illinois families, businesses, and community leaders to solve problems, make informed decisions, and adapt to changes and opportunities.

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