As a senior gardener, you may not have thought about how you spend time on garden tasks.
You may still be strong and limber. But with aging, you may be surprised to discover one spring that you are more easily exhausted or have bruises on your shins due to occasional bumps on skin that’s now thinning.
Here’s a checklist to plan ahead so you can handle landscape chores comfortably and enjoyably!
Warm up before tackling outdoor tasks – every time:
- Squeeze a soft ball for a few minutes to loosen your hands. As a reminder, keep that soft ball near your gardening tools.
- When you first go outside, stand on tiptoes and rock up and down a few times to loosen feet and ankles and warm up your calf muscles.
- Gently stretch your body. Swing your arms, one at a time, then swing each leg. It’s helpful to have a fence or sturdy bench to stretch against or hold onto.
Plan for the work:
- Clean and sharpen your tools. Replacing the blade in your pruning saw can make all the difference in your sense of satisfaction with the work.
- Look for new tools if necessary. Get rid of those old rusty ones that have such good memories of previous gardens but could break with the pressure of digging in a flower bed. Newer tools on the market for older gardeners include many with long, lightweight handles to reduce bending and stooping.
- Test your equipment. Tighten the ladder’s screws so it’s sturdy; oil the wheels on the cart or wheelbarrow.
- Check with your doctor about a tetanus shot. Tetanus lives in the soil and can get into your body through a cut or scrape from a tool’s sharp edge or the thorns on a shrub. Adults should get a booster shot every 10 years.
Put on your “barn clothes”:
- Gloves, of course, to protect your hands. Look for flexible neoprene gloves for hand work like setting out plants or working with containers, and get tough leather gloves for rough work hauling branches or trimming trees.
- Rugged shoes that stay on your feet for support and protection – no flipflops that can trip you up or cause you to stumble, possibly breaking a hip.
- Socks, of course, to absorb moisture and reduce or eliminate blisters. Try tan or brown sox – make a fashion statement by matching the soil in your yard!
- Long pants and long-sleeved shirts are a must to keep down the bug bites, to pad knees and elbows a bit, and to protect skin on your arms and legs.
- A hat, both to protect the head and face from sun but also to better manage the glare your older eyes now notice more often.
Make it easy to listen to your body:
- Put a lightweight stool or lawn chair near the area where you’ll be working. This makes it easy to stop for a quick rest when you tire. Store the bug spray and sunscreen close at hand to reapply if needed.
- Place a bottle of water and a snack nearby. A covered container with an apple, celery and peanut butter, or a few nuts and dried fruit can keep you hydrated and energetic.
- Know your limits if you’re taking medication that makes you drowsy or slows your reaction time. Plan your work to allow your mind and body full control, such as a bit of careful pruning first, followed by more flexible tasks like weeding or sweeping.
- Gardening isn’t a marathon. Allow yourself to stop to rest, drink or eat, or to quit when you’re tired.
Previous blog posts you might like: