20 May Get Gardening – It’s Good for You!
The long weekend is approaching and summer is finally in sight. If you are recovering from injury, illness or have limited mobility, the joys of gardening are still within your reach. Here are some tips to create a therapeutic gardening experience.
Set up your garden to best accommodate your particular abilities. For those of you with limited mobility or are wheelchair bound, a raised garden bed can be the perfect alternative to gardening in beds at ground level. This will allow you to tend to your plants with minimal bending at waist level and put things at easy reach so you can manage from a seated position.
Alternatively, you can have a container garden, where you plant in pots, placing them on a convenient table height, adjusted to your requirements. Hanging baskets of plants can be placed at varying heights from posts, fences or trees to encourage reaching and stretching of the arms.
Some of the initial preparation and set up of your garden space may require some heavy lifting. Enlist others to help you prepare this if you are not able to do this independently. If you are able to do it yourself, make sure to use proper lifting techniques for heavy items, and be aware of appropriate body ergonomics as you stretch, bend, twist, push, and pull. Divide larger, heavier items like bags of soil into smaller portions so you are not straining yourself unnecessarily. No rush, be sure to pace yourself and to take rest breaks.
Once your garden is prepared, you will need to maintain it using some smaller hand tools. Lightweight ergonomic hand tools such as shovels, rakes, trowels, etc. are available with padded handles for a more comfortable grip. Some have longer or extendable handles to assist in reaching, and reducing fatigue and strain. If your hands are sensitive, wearing gardening gloves may help.
Once your young plants or seeds are planted, you will need to maintain them. Watering can be done in several ways according to your abilities. Set up several different containers for watering so you will not have to lift a heavy, full watering can. This can consist of squeeze bottles, spray bottles, and various shapes and sizes of bottles that are easy for you to manipulate. Each of these will exercise different muscles in your hands to improve dexterity and fine motor skills. Including some fast growing flowers such as marigolds and petunias, which require deadheading to promote flowering, will oblige you to practice a pinch grip motion. Raking the soil in long flower boxes will encourage back and forth motion, gently exercising arm and shoulder motion. Choose an assortment of plants including vegetables that you will enjoy eating and flowers in your favourite colours. Some of these grow very quickly, and under the right conditions you will be able to see daily progress. This will give you purpose to continue your gardening activities as you will look forward to seeing the results of your continued efforts. Enjoy the fresh air, stretch and inhale deeply. Enjoy the sunshine, and see the birds and butterflies that your garden attracts.