Documents: Special Interest: Horticultural Therapy:

Summer Gardening Tips Promise Less Pain, More Pleasure

Bloomin’ good times for people with arthritis
by The Arthritis Society, BC and Yukon Division
June 1, 2003

Don’t let painful joints keep you from donning dungarees and heading to the garden this summer.

It’s possible to weed out obstacles to gardening and to continue enjoying its pleasures and therapeutic benefits despite arthritis, says The Arthritis Society, BC and Yukon Division.

The Society offers the following techniques to overcome the frustrations and limitations imposed by arthritis to recapture the joy of gardening.

Top 10 Gardening Tips

  • Bring the garden to you
    Limit bending and stooping by using raised beds and containers. Rig hanging baskets with a pulley so they can be lowered for easier care and watering.

  • Be selective
    Bypass high-maintenance flowers in favor of attractive shrubs, tasty herbs and easy-care perennials.

  • Grow up, not out
    Plant climbers and creepers against fences or trellises that can also act as handholds. Train fruit trees to grow against a support or wall for easier harvesting and care.

  • Nurture your joints
    Take frequent rests, and use kneepads or a lightweight bench. Wear padded gloves to ease pain and improve your grip. Avoid heavy tasks by trading jobs with a neighbor.

  • Tailor your tools
    Attach a handle halfway down long-handled tools for improved leverage. Tie a cord on handles to make implements easier to retrieve when dropped. Use lightweight tools, and ensure pruners are well oiled and sharp.

  • Water wisely
    Mulch plants to help retain moisture. Use a child’s wagon to move your watering can around the garden. Place a soaker hose or a drip irrigator in large plots. Purchase a hose wand for hard-to-reach areas.

  • Maximize your access
    Use ramps or gently sloping paths if walking on uneven ground or hills is difficult. Pathways should be three feet wide to allow wheelchair access, and surfaces should be non-slip. Build handrails where possible.

  • Be creative
    Try using clothespins instead of twist ties to restrain plants. Use long-handled barbecue utensils to harvest fruits and vegetables.

  • Get organized
    Keep tools close to your work area. Replace “stoop and rummage” storage cupboards with more accessible hooks, shelves and counters. Carry hand tools in a pouch or carpenter’s apron.

  • Respect your pain
    If you’re hurting more than one hour after gardening, reduce the length of your next session, or increase your rest periods. Use a kitchen timer to remind you to take those breaks.


Source: The Arthritis Society, BC and Yukon Division - sent to for reprint with permission.

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