Gardening with RA

Do you love the idea of a garden but cringe when you think of the body ache inducing work it takes to create and maintain one?  If you could enjoy the fruits of your labors without the pain of the labor, would you?  Gardening, even with a body riddled with arthritis and prone to exhaustion, can be a relaxing and rewarding process.  A few changes to the way you approach the task can make it a (mostly) painless process.  As painless as anything with an angry body can be.

1.  Raise It!  Gardening on the ground means stooping, crouching, reaching, and bending, all things cranky joints hate to do.  Raising the height of your gardening efforts can greatly reduce the strain on your body.  Raised beds, hanging planters, and patio pots are all wonderful options to help reduce the strain of gardening.  Place patio planters on stands or overturned pots to raise them to an easier to reach height. 

Planters that are mounted on walls, railings, or fences are also a wonderful option. When you are working with bags of dirt or fertilizer, place them on a chair, cart, or other higher surface to make reaching them easier. If you cannot raise your garden, get on its level with a stool or garden seat.

2. Get the right tools for the job.  Using adapted tools can greatly improve your gardening experience.  Long handled tools that eliminate the need to hunch or crouch, chunky handled tools that are more friendly to arthritic hands, electric weeders and trimmers that take the labor out of the work, there are tools to fit just about every need.  Struggle to use rakes and shovels with straight handles?  Check out these amazing offset handles, which change the grip and give you leverage at the same time.  Amazing!

3.  Eliminate watering woes.  One of the biggest challenges of gardening can be keeping up with the needs of thirsty plants.  Watering used to require dragging heavy watering cans, wrestling with unruly hoses, squeezing spray handles and generally just a whole lot of challenges.  Thankfully, there are now many ways to take the struggle out of keeping plants hydrated.  Instead of wrestling with heavy, awkward hoses, invest in a collapsible hose, they are not only lighter but also much more flexible and easier to move around.  Ditch the more common squeeze trigger style spray handle for one with an easy to push lever handle.  Eliminate the need for hoses altogether by investing in an automated watering system.  There are many different types of irrigation systems on the market now. 

4. Get ahead of weed control.  Planning ahead will greatly reduce the number of hours you have to spend defending your garden from invaders, aka the dreaded weeds.  Using a commercial weed barrier is a great first line of defense. Mulching with bark, shredded paper, or placing cardboard or newspapers down as a weed barrier also work well. As an added bonus, mulches and paper barriers also help prevent water loss, meaning less watering for you.  Planting ground cover plants near taller plants is also a great strategy to edge out weeds.  The fuller your planters are with things you want, the less space there will be for things you don’t. 

5.  Start small.  It can be tempting to go all-in when it comes to gardening.  After all there are literally hundreds of plants you could grow.  Planting more than you can manage however, leads to failure and disappointment.  Starting with a small raised bed or a few pots on your patio is a wonderful way to ease into gardening and gauge your ability to keep up.  Keep in mind, each plant needs weeding, watering, fertilizing, perhaps occasional pruning, and a bit of love to thrive.  Growing one amazing tomato plant is far more rewarding than watching an acre of garden being swallowed by neglect.  Keep it simple, start small.

6.  Pace yourself!   Rome was not built in a day, nor were the gardens of Versailles.  Reaching your gardening visions will take time.  There is no reason to do it all at once.  Break the job down into smaller chunks.  Get the soil ready one day, plant another day.  (Or many other days.)  Mulching, weeding, even watering can be done some at a time.  Keep in mind that overdoing it today might take you down for several days, you will survive it, but your garden may not.  Plan for consistency by not biting off more than you can chew today. 

7. Last but never least, ASK FOR HELP!  I know you hate asking for help, especially with things you choose to do for entertainment or recreation.  The fact is, bags of dirt are heavy, sometimes things that should turn won’t turn, and you will just plain run into things you can’t do alone.  That is fine, there are other humans, ask them to give you a quick hand.  You can reward them with yummy veggies or pretty flowers later. 

With the right tools and a few adaptations gardening with RA and other physical challenges can be a rewarding and relaxing hobby. What tips and tools have you discovered that help make gardening more of a joy for you?

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