The Able Gardener

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Gardening is not for pansies! It is a strenuous activity and none of us are getting any younger. Here are a few tips to make your chores easier and more comfortable to do.

Assess the situation. Just how much can you lift and how far can you bend? What chores are painful or put too much stress on your already sore parts? How long can you work before tiring? Remember gardening is supposed to be fun!

  • Stretch and warm up first before throwing yourself into the day's chores. As with any form of exercise, to avoid unnecessary injuries, you need to warm up those muscles first.
  • Pace yourself. Take frequent breaks. Divide tasks into manageable sections. Do a little each day instead of holding a marathon gardening weekend. 
  • Alternate tasks that use different muscle groups or require different body positions. Rake while standing then sit and weed for a while. Fifteen-minute intervals will prevent one muscle group from becoming stressed. 
  • Raised beds are great for the plants and for the gardener. They lessen the distance you have to bend and depending on the design, can be high enough to eliminate bending altogether!
  • Drip irrigation or soaker hoses will do away with the need to lug water or drag an unwieldy hose around the garden.
  • Mulch cuts down on watering and weeding. It worked well for Ruth Stout who gardened into her 90's and wrote about it in Gardening Without Work and How to Have a Green Thumb Without an Aching Back.
  • Look for ergonomically designed tools. Fat handles are good if your grip has weakened. Long-handled tools enable you to stand up fairly straight and lessen the strain on your back. Slip-on D-grips can be added to long-handles tools to increase leverage. 


Slip a piece of pipe insulation over tool handles to cushion the grip.

  • If you are able to kneel, try using a padded mat to cushion your knees. Kneeling is actually easier on your back than squatting. If both positions are too painful, bring a stool out to the garden to sit on or sit on the ground.
  • Add more seating to your landscape. It never hurts to take a break! Ruth Stout was rumored to have put an old couch in her garden so she could lie down between chores!
  • To lessen trips for forgotten tools, seeds, etc., wear a fishing vest or an apron with lots of pockets. Better yet, put the apron on a sturdy 5-gallon bucket. (Hardware stores sell an apron made especially for this purpose.) The pockets can hold whatever you need and you can carry transplants, produce, weeds, or your lunch in the bucket. With the top on, it makes a handy portable seat.


  • Be realistic. Instead of planting a huge vegetable garden, scale back to just a few raised beds of your favorites. Planting more than you can care for is frustrating. 
  • Don't be afraid to change things—the way you garden, what you grow, where you grow it, or the tools you use. Adapt your gardening style to fit your circumstances.
  • Be kind to your body, it has to last a lifetime!
About The Author

Robin Sweetser

Robin has been a contributor to The Old Farmer’s Almanac and the All-Seasons Garden Guide for many years. Read More from Robin Sweetser

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