Back pain and knee injuries are most common among older gardeners, along with carpal tunnel syndrome and tennis elbow. To help keep your mom injury-free this summer, here are some tips and gardening equipment ideas that can make gardening a little easier.
With gardening, good form is very important as well as not overdoing any one activity. A common problem is that gardeners often kneel or squat, putting extra pressure on their knees. To spare their knees, they might stand and bend over for long stretches to weed, dig and plant, straining their back and spine.
To help your mom protect her body, she needs to warm up before beginning. Start by stretching, focusing on the legs and lower back. She should keep changing positions and activities. Don’t spend hours weeding a flower bed. After 15 minutes of weeding, she should stand up, stretch and switch to another activity like pruning the bushes or just take a break.
It’s also important that she recognizes her physical limitations and doesn’t try to do too much at once. When lifting heaver objects, she needs to remember to use her legs to preserve her back. She can do this by keeping the item close to her body and squatting to keep her back as vertical as possible.
The right gardening equipment can help too. Kneeling pads can protect knees, and garden seats or stools are both back and knee savers.
Lightweight garden carts can make hauling bags of mulch, dirt, plants or other heavy objects much easier. Long-handled gardening tools can help ease the strain on the back by keeping your mom in a standing upright position versus bent over.
There are also ergonomic gardening tools with fatter handles and other design features that can make lawn and garden activities a little easier.
The chore of carrying water or handling a heavy, awkward hose can also be difficult for older gardeners. Some helpful options include lightweight fabric hoses instead of heavy rubber hoses, soaker or drip hoses that can be snaked throughout the garden, thin coil hoses that can be used on the patio or small areas, a hose caddy and reel for easier hose transport around the yard and a self-winding hose chest that puts the hose up automatically.
There are also a variety of ergonomic watering wands that are lightweight, easy to grip and reach those hard to-get-to plants.
If your mom’s backyard garden has become too much for her to handle, she should consider elevated garden beds or container gardening using big pots, window boxes, hanging baskets, barrels or tub planters. This is a much easier way to garden because it eliminates much of the bend and strain of gardening but still gives her the pleasure of making things grow. Trellises are another nice option that would allow her to garden vertically instead of horizontally.