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How to Garden and Avoid Traction

The British garden writer Beverley Nichols said – we’re paraphrasing – one of the reasons we garden is because it makes us slow down. He said, “…time seems almost to stand still, slowing down to the gentle ticking of the Clock of the Universe.”

As Mr. Nichols also knew, gardening is one of the activities that change as we get older and less agile.

If we’re 60+ we might not be quite as flexible or physically strong as we used to be. In younger days we might have been able to sling 20-lb bags of potting soil across our shoulders, or stay on our knees pulling out tough weeds for hours at a time. Today – not so much. (Brenda says her dream of replacing every blade of grass with plants seemed like a good idea until she started having to use a shovel to pull herself up.)

Now that the grass has finally turned green, and the days are longer, many of us are starting to venture out into our yards. Here are some ideas to enjoy growing plants while avoiding ice packs, or worse:

In-Ground Gardening

Get someone else to do the heavy work. Whether it’s a gardening/landscaping company or neighborhood kids, hire out the tough jobs – buying potting soils, heavy weeding, mulching, re-edging beds, digging out overgrown or unwanted plants and shrubs. (Basically, anything you don’t want to do.)

Plant perennials. Annual plants like impatiens, spider plants, marigolds and sunflowers are pretty, but you have to replant them every year. If you’re planting in the ground, consider using perennials instead. Plants including Daisies, Black-eyed Susan, Daylilies, Phlox, Salvia, Liatris, Hosta, Lavender, Coreopsis, and Bee Balm will come back every year. They can also attract butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden. And you can ask the people who do all your heavy lifting to weed them.

Avoid Roses. There is no such thing as a low maintenance rose, no matter what the tag says. But if you really must have a rose, choose a hybrid tea rose with guaranteed fragrance. That way the spraying, pruning and worry over the dozen diseases roses can get will be worth it. Or plant “Knockout” roses that grow more like a shrub and are relatively disease free. Just remember not to go near a rose without gardening gloves.

Use knee pads or a foam kneeling pad. If you’re going to weed or plant, protect your knees. You can get inexpensive knee pads or kneelers made of thick foam at most garden centers.

Wear a hat, gloves, long sleeves and sunscreen, and drink up! Even if you think you’re only going to be in the garden for a few minutes, cover yourself up. You’ll probably be out there longer than you planned, so be protected. Lands’ End has an entire section of sun protection clothing at good prices. And stay hydrated! Coffee, tea or Martinis don’t count. Think water, or a sports drink.

Mad Dogs and Englishmen… Noel Coward wrote a song about how only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. He wasn’t being complimentary. If you’re going to be gardening outside, do it before 10am or after 2pm to avoid the sun at its strongest.

Container Gardening

If you don’t have an in-ground garden, as long as you have a sunny spot like a patio, porch or a window you can enjoy plants. It’s easy to plant herbs and annuals like Marigolds, Geraniums, Pansies and Cosmos in pots or other containers. And if you’d like a ready-made mini garden, most garden centers sell already-potted selections of herbs and annuals. You can buy large plastic saucers at the garden center to protect your floors or rugs – some even have wheels to make it easy to move plants and indoor trees.

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