Pain and the gardener

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Pain killers

Gardeners are typically an older crowd (PDF link).  Older folks have aches and pains, and if you are gardening with an eye toward the bottom line, there’s a good chance you are living on a fixed or limited income, and that may mean you are retired or disabled.

Gardening is generally categorized as mild exercise, and except for some days hauling manure and compost, I’d agree.  But if you are dealing with arthritis or injuries, even mild exercise can be out of reach if it’s the wrong kind.  Yours truly is currently writing by the wonders of voice dictation in lieu of painfully pecking away at the keyboard.  And while I’d like to get out in the garden and reduce the weeds before they produce any more seed this fall, my hands are not quite cooperating at the moment.  It’ll wait.  If you keep your garden maintained most of the time, the times when you can’t are not calamitous.

The proper tools can help overcome pain or mobility issues, and now is the time to look for good deals on tools as gardeners clean out their sheds at the end of the season or items go on clearance.  (If indeed they haven’t already been replaced by Christmas trees.)  If you can’t bend over, put your plants in pots.  If that’s not an option or the garden is too large, a stirrup hoe can weed effectively standing up, although I warn you it doesn’t help much or creeping/running weeds like bermuda grass and creeping charlie.  If you are temporarily or permanently limited to one hand, look for tools which have an arm brace or a right-angled handle, and emphasize lightweight over sturdy.

While looking for good pictures of tools that weren’t overt advertisements (the lack of pictures will show you I failed), I found this site in the UK on adaptive gardening: http://www.carryongardening.org.uk/default.aspx which has a lot of good ideas for all sorts of situations.

Don’t let pain keep you from growing your own food.  If you suspect you may have greater limitations in the future, now is the time to plan for how you can continue while you are able to make the changes needed.  If you can’t make the modifications yourself, seek our help in your community and send any helpers home with fresh, seasonal produce.

(By Nicole Castle)

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