Gardening is exercise. Gardening is hard work. Gardening can produce all of the aches and pains associated with both exercising and hard work. Stretching and strength building exercises will help get you in shape for gardening, but Valerie Easton (www.valeaston.com) reminds us that it takes more than fitness to enjoy the fine art of gardening well into our senior years.
My husband and I put together and planted several small raised garden beds this weekend. We haven’t gardened in years. Still, there is something magical about watching things grow and worth at least one more try. The growing season in the Pacific Northwest is shorter than in many areas of the country so it will be challenging to say the least. A friend of mine on the east coast just waves a few seeds over her sun warmed garden beds and has a garden a few weeks later, or so it seems to me. Well, it probably isn’t that easy but I am jealous that she already has fresh produce on her table. To make up for a late start, and a little less sunshine, we bought sturdy looking seedlings. If you are a purist you will probably do this step in your own greenhouse or on a warm window sill, but we will take baby steps. We haven’t gardened since the 40s and 50s (the years not our age) so I am looking at the whole process as experiment. The beds are fairly low but I should be able to perch on the edge to pluck the weeds without doing too much damage to myself or to the plants (let’s see, is that a weed or is that one or our plants?).
I get stiff and sore but don’t think I will have any trouble sitting on the ground or kneeling to tend my plants. However, I know that the day will come when it might take a little more effort. I am so optimistic that my plants will grow that I am already thinking about having a real raised garden at some point in the future. You are probably wondering what I by “real raised garden.” I never would have thought of building a table high raised garden on my own. An article with pictures by Valerie Easton in the Pacific NW Fitness 2012 insert of the Seattle Times (June 10, 2012) has me thinking though. It is pretty obvious that a counter height garden would be both time and labor intensive, and would cut down on many of the aches and pains associated with traditional gardening. Older people (who still garden more than most others) will enjoy the high rise raised garden beds because it will mean less bending, and allow them to sit as much as possible as they work their way around the grow patch. If you don’t have that luxury don’t forget to kit out your tool shed with knee pads and easy grip tools (ergonomic) to take some of the stress off from your muscles and joints. It isn’t cheating to use time and body saving devices as much as you can. Mother Nature will not tell on you.
Start small. Make your beds (in ground or raised high) less than 4 feet across so that you can reach the middle from either side without undue stretching or leaning. Isn’t it amazing that you don’t have to give up gardening just because your body doesn’t work quite as well as it used to? You can even go so far as to make your garden area wheelchair and walker accessible. Gardening is good for people of all ages. I don’t have a green thumb so I may be banned from my garden early on, but I am optimistic that a few things might grow despite my efforts (if I stick to the weeding part I just might be able to do this)!