Adaptive gardening: have you heard that term yet?
It’s a concept that’s getting a lot more attention now that baby boomers accept they need some new ways to maintain their activity in the garden. It’s an idea we can all get behind regardless of our age. Adaptive gardening was first coined to describe how we change the garden and gardening process to deal with physical challenges. Think cushioned handles for those with joint issues, a garden seat with wheels to improve mobility, or a battery-powered wheelbarrow to help scale hilly sites. My first exposure to adaptive gardening was a 2010 book by Sydney Eddison, Gardening for a Lifetime.
Sydney shared her personal challenges and wrote about how she altered her gardening habits and garden to manage a change in her life circumstances. That started me on the road to a different mindset and approach to maintaining my own garden. Now there is recently released book written by Toni Gattone titled The Lifelong Gardener: Garden With Ease and Joy at Any Age that adds to the body of knowledge with updated information. I especially appreciated Toni’s use of lists and “How-Tos,” not to mention the helpful photos and illustrations. I found the gardener vignettes enlightening and inspirational. The best part for me was the chapter on tools.
There are a vast array of options for tools to help you get the job done. I have been using the award winning
Radius Garden Ergonomic Hand Tools
for several years and have found them to be functionally superb. . The Radius design provides extra leverage and reduces hand and wrist stress. They are made with an ultra-lightweight, die-cast aluminum blade that’s rust-proof and stronger than steel. Best of all, they come with a lifetime guarantee. I like tools with extendable handles that can do double duty. Those extendable handles let you get into your beds easily with one tool, whether your target is near or deep into the bed. Corona Tools offers several well-made telescoping models, among them a cultivator and weeder. The Extendable Handle
Cultivator, for instance, has a strong and lightweight steel handle and comfortable textured grip. Besides their extendable models, Corona Tools also manufactures e-Grip ergonomic gardening tools and a variety of adaptive gardening tools.
CORDLESS POWER TOOLS
Consider cordless power tools. A cordless clipper is a real time and work saver. It’s sometimes listed as “grass shears”. I use mine all season long to deadhead, trim wayward perennials mid-season and even cut some things down that annoy me (bad plant choices). It will cost you about $45 and save you hours of work and significant arm and hand discomfort. I can say the same for a cordless blower that acts as a broom for quick cleanups. It converts to an edger, leaving a nice trim look where you need it. My favorite cordless tool is the electric mulching mower
It’s small and light and hums along for about 90 minutes on a charge, enough to take care of the grass paths early in the morning when it’s just me and the birds – so quiet that no one hears us. I prize it most for its ability to get into my beds for fall and spring cleanup, creating garden mulch as it goes along.
A WHEELED GARDEN SEAT
I find that it’s easier to garden sitting down these days. Look at getting a wheeled garden seat. The most useful ones have a storage compartment for tools, seeds, etc. You’ll be scooting around the garden in no time.
GARDEN DESIGN IMPROVEMENTS
The first thing to consider is the size of your beds. Keep flower beds and borders no wider than three feet so you can easily reach the plants and soil. Then there are raised beds. I love them! I mean REALLY raised beds, like about 3 feet up. This will save you from all that kneeling and bending, a real asset for bad knees, backs, etc. Plus you can sit on the edges to take care of the bed. The other raised bed option is to use one that is elevated.
They come in all sizes, styles, and shapes and are usually small enough for patios, porches, terraces, etc. You can get ones made from plastic, wood, and man-made modern materials. Some even come fitted with watering systems, pest barriers, and winter cold frame set-ups.
THEN THERE ARE THE PLANTS
This new mindset means changing your plant selection criteria. Besides drought tolerance, steer clear of perennials that demand regular dividing (think German bearded irises). Opt for perennials that need very little deadheading (use self-cleaning plants) or staking to keep them looking good and performing well. At all costs, avoid plants that drop seeds all over the place. Plants that are touted as “self sowing” means you will be pulling up all those volunteers at some time when they show up where they are not supposed to be. Or you will need to deadhead the flowers before they drop seed. Either way, it’s what my husband and I call “The Big M” (Maintenance). We have reached the stage in our garden where our overriding thought process is to design/buy with maintenance in mind. Remember to mulch to keep the weeds down and moisture in. Coast of Maine has a variety of mulches
to suit your soil and plant needs. Want to avoid powdery mildew on your bee balm, phlox and veggies? Switch out those disease-prone dogs for the newer disease-resistant varieties. Boom! Problem solved. All of this is just the tip of the iceberg to spark your thinking about how you will manage your garden next season. Now is the time to make your plan so you can execute some aspects of it before the season closes and be ready for phase two in 2020.
Written by Lorraine Ballato, author of Success With Hydrangeas, A Gardener’s Guide