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A garden is the best alternative therapy.

~Leo Buscaglia~

Gardening is for Everyone

There is little doubt that gardening provides a myriad of mental and physical benefits. Like any kind of exercise, gardening helps relieve stress in a purely physical way, but as avid gardeners know, the mental benefits of planting and caring for plants cannot be discounted. Horticultural Therapy programs in hospitals and rehabilitation centers across the country, gardens and greenhouses at schools and even agricultural programs in prisons have shown tremendous results. Gardening is therapeutic.

However, if you face physical limitations, the very idea of grabbing a shovel might be intimidating or even outside the realm of possibility. Although many of us over-do it in the garden sometimes, the goal is not to suffer or endure pain. If you would like to grow a couple of tomato plants or a few flowers but have conditions that make doing digging, planting and weeding painful or uncomfortable, here are some suggestions that could put gardening back within easy reach.

Container gardening is great for people with limited space and also good for folks with limited physical abilities. Once your containers are set up and filled with soil, no heavy lifting is involved. Your containers can be on tables or benches or raised in some other way to make bending and reaching unnecessary. You shouldn't have to do any weeding when you are gardening in containers.

Raised beds offer another option that makes planting, weeding and caring for a garden physically easier. With a raised bed, the environment is controlled, the soil doesn't get compacted and difficult to dig and it's possible to keep weeds to a minimum. Just about any kind of material can be used to construct a raised bed: planks or boards, concrete blocks, rocks...or just about anything you have on hand that could be used to contain soil. The problem is that if planting and weeding is difficult for you, constructing a raised bed will certainly present significant challenges.

There are other creative methods for gardening when you can't or don't want to plow and sow in the traditional way. Straw bales are a good height for planting, and in 2006 Kent Rogers of Wake Forest wrote an interesting summary about how to grow a nice garden in straw bales.  Once you have the straw bales placed where you want them, you will need little other than a water hose, some fertilizer and some ammonia nitrate.

Hanging baskets are another way of making gardening more accessible. If the planters are hanging at a convenient height watering and harvesting are easier for people who have trouble bending. Adding a pulley so that baskets can be lowered and raised easily is another option. If you are gardening on a porch or balcony, take advantage of the railing as it provides a built in trellis for climbing plants.

People with arthritis may have trouble holding and using gardening tools. There are lightweight types of tools and sometimes cheaper, plastic versions are best if you have trouble lifting or holding them. Gloves can help with gripping tools. Tying a string or attaching a strap to the handles of spades and other small tools is useful when you drop them.

Even spending a few minutes in the garden can ease your mind and change the way you feel. A few seeds in a pot that you plant and care for can be far more rewarding than the most lush landscaping installed by a professional landscaping company. It doesn't make any difference if you choose to grow flowers, herbs or vegetables just get your hands a little dirty and enjoy watching something grow.

Click here to see an article about us in our local paper and go on a tour of our greenhouse.


June 21 is Father's Day

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