Do you or your loved one have a green thumb or attempt to have a green thumb? Are you noticing that each year when spring rolls around, it is getting harder for you or your loved one to keep up with the gardening? New aches and pains seem to creep up that were not present the previous year. Do not be discouraged. Your gardening days do not have to be over!

Outdoor Gardening Tips

There are a variety of ways you can modify how you garden outdoors. It can be done safely with some accommodations for your loved one’s needs.

Raised Beds – There are gardening beds you can purchase that are raised off the ground at varying heights. For instance, there are some that can be at wheelchair or waist level. Raised planters can greatly reduce bending, stooping and straining. Make sure the raised beds are narrow enough, so then it does not require too much reaching to plant.

Vertical Gardening – There are a variety of vegetables that grow well on trellises, such as cucumbers, beans and squashes. Choosing plants that can grow vertically assist to alleviate the need to bend down.

Ergonomic Tools – To avoid either further aggravating a particular ailment or causing a problem, there are now various ergonomic gardening tools. An example is a shovel with a long handle, so you do not have to bend down as far. There are weeders or pruners with uniquely designed handles and comfortable grips to reduce strain on wrists or hands. Have you ever seen a kneeler/stool? It is a kneeler for ground-level work. It has a thick foam pad for your knees with long handles on either side that can be used to help yourself up. Then the kneeler can be flipped over and used as a bench too!

Dress Appropriately – We all need a little Vitamin D, but it is also smart to protect against the sun’s harmful rays. Therefore, have your loved one cover up in light-weight clothing as much as possible, but not so much that they overheat. It is also ideal to stay covered up to avoid getting scratched or pricked by various plants, especially if your loved one bruises easily or is on blood thinners.

Keep a Phone Nearby – Have your loved one either bring their cell phone or landline phone outside to be near them while gardening. If something were to happen while they were outside, they could call someone for help.

Avoid Hottest Part of the Day – Work in the garden earlier in the morning or in the early evening. This way, it is not during peak hours of the sun, which will lessen the possibility of dehydration, overheating, or sunburn.

Install an Irrigation System – It can be dangerous for your loved one to attempt to water with a hose or a heavy watering can, particularly if they are unsteady on their feet. If you are having a hard time keeping up with the watering, especially with all the other needs you are looking after, an irrigation system might be helpful.

Avoid Hanging Baskets – Although beautiful, hanging baskets tend to dry out quickly, and they are hard to reach up to water.

A small caveat, before your loved one begins gardening outdoors, please check with their physician to ensure this is something they can do with any of their possible pre-existing conditions.

Indoor Plant Options

If your loved one is less mobile, there are plenty of indoor gardening options. Even if your loved one is doing some outdoor gardening, it is still a good idea to have indoor plants as well. A number of indoor plants can not only increase oxygen, but also purify the air, not to mention add some atmosphere to the home.

The following are some examples of indoor plants for the home:

1.) Peace Lilly – It should not be sitting at ground level, as it can be toxic to pets. They need indirect sunlight, with the soil kept moist. The Peace Lilly is aesthetically pleasing and is a great air purifier.

2.) Chinese Evergreen – This is quite the sturdy plant and easy to grow. They thrive in medium to low-light conditions. Allow the plant to dry out between watering.

3.) Mother-in-Law’s Tongue (Snake Plant) – We won’t try to unpack the reason why this plant might be referred to as a snake plant. Name aside, this plant is nearly indestructible. It does best in indirect light. Let it dry out between watering. The plant only needs to be watered a couple of times during the winter months. It is also a great air purifier, but this one too is toxic for animals, so it should not be at ground level.

4.) Gerbera Daisy – They are a cheerful flower, with a variety of bright colors. However, it is not just a pretty flower. It is known for its ability to produce high levels of oxygen at night. If your loved one suffers from sleep apnea, this would be a great addition to their nightstand.[1]

5.) Succulents – They are the popular plant of the moment. The best succulents for indoors, will be the ones that are naturally green, and not the ones that are brightly colored. Do not water indoor succulents every day, as that will kill them. Place the succulent near a window that will get sunlight the majority of the day.

6.) Small Herb Garden – With enough sunlight, there are a variety of herbs that can be grown indoors. For instance, parsley, oregano, basil and thyme can all be grown indoors. Nothing beats fresh herbs added to any meal.

Health Benefits of Gardening

Researchers at Kansas State University found that when older adults participated in gardening tasks, it improved their self-esteem, as well as, their hand strength and overall physical health.[1] Research published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that gardening can cut the risk of a heart attack or stroke as much as 30% among those 60 years and older.[2] There have also been clinical trials where therapy gardens (Horticultural Therapy) are used in long-term care and rehabilitation settings. They found that exposure to nature can reduce pain, increase attention span, as well as, greatly reduce stress and anxiety levels. Other studies have found that access to therapeutic gardening can help dementia patients, by reducing agitation and falls, along with stimulating the senses, and decreasing medication.[3]

It is incredibly rewarding to watch vegetables form and flowers blossom. Gardening provides your loved one with an opportunity to take care of something, when so much of the time the focus is on how others have to help take care of them. It allows them to have a sense of responsibility again.

As one ages, it can mean a lot of lifestyle changes. Overtime, there are probably some hobbies that have had to be stopped. As changes accumulate, you may find your loved one feeling discouraged, bored or helpless. These things that once brought joy, purpose or even defined them in a way, are now gone. This is where gardening can give them a new hobby, or perhaps it is picking back up an old hobby they did not think they could do anymore. If you get a little push back from your loved one about gardening, just subtly add a plant here or there. Who can get mad looking over at a gerbera daisy? Sometimes we do not even know what is good for us, especially if we are in a funk. It is not necessary to add a whole terrarium or greenhouse for them to reap the benefits. At the very least, it can brighten up a room and add a little more oxygen or air purification. You might be surprised by the positive effects that can occur by introducing this into their life. Happy Gardening!

[1] https://lunginstitute.com/blog/top-5-plants-for-increasing-oxygen/

[2] https://www.epicgardening.com/elderly-gardening/

[3] https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/10/131028184948.htm

[4] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3372556/

Other References:

https://www.epicgardening.com/elderly-gardening/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/02/090203142517.htm