For many on the West Coast, gardening is a true labour of love. There’s nothing more satisfying than watching their garden burst into colour - but for people living with arthritis, this leisure time activity can pose some challenges.
The Arthritis Society offers a few simple tips to overcome the frustrations and limitations imposed by arthritis to recapture the joy of gardening. As with any activity, be sure to consult your doctor or physiotherapist for any precautions you should take.
- Assess and adapt your garden to make maintenance easier. Consider using ramps or gently sloping paths, and install paving stones or other materials that have a rough surface for traction. Raised beds will reduce stress on joints like knees and backs, and keeping the width of beds to two feet or less (60 cm) will minimize stretching.
- In the garden itself, choose plants and shrubs that are lower maintenance. Most shrubs, herbaceous and perennial plants require no deadheading and minimal pruning. Raised containers are ideal for more colourful annuals (geraniums, impatiens and petunias) that do require more care. There are pulley systems available for hanging baskets for ease of watering.
- Pace yourself by planning rest areas or using a low stool to minimize the need to bend as often, and weed a bit every day rather than trying to tackle all the weeding in one day.
- Be selective with your garden tools. Gardening gloves with good grips will decrease stress on your hands. Choose tools that are lightweight and that come with longer handles. Use duct tape or pipe insulation to make grips on tools larger and more comfortable to use.
- Use a wheelbarrow to reduce stress on your back and arms. It can also be used to transport a watering can or other heavy items to remote areas of the garden.
Each spring, The Arthritis Society holds Gardening with Arthritis workshops throughout the province to help educate people living with arthritis on how they can enjoy this popular leisure activity without putting additional stress on their joints. Topics include learning about:
- How to plan your garden so that great results are easily achievable as well as maintainable.
- How to make your garden accessible and relaxing.
- How to care for your garden, including lawn-care, weeding and watering techniques.
- How to assess yourself and learn to set realistic goals for creating your garden – you will see examples of low, medium and high maintenance gardens.
- How to protect your joints while gardening, using equipment modification and gardening techniques designed to minimize stress on the joints.
To find out more about upcoming Gardening with Arthritis workshops in your community, or to get further information about arthritis, please call The Arthritis Answers Line toll free at 1.800.321.1433, or visit the society’s website at www.arthritis.ca.
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