The Lifelong Gardener: Book Review and Giveaway

When I'm asked to teach about reducing garden maintenance and making things easier to manage,  I begin by asking "What do you love most about gardening? What brings you joy?"

I believe that adaptive gardening, whether due to physical challenges or simply getting older shouldn't be about giving things up, but rather about ensuring that we continue to enjoy a high quality of life and finding ways to do what we love the most.

Author Toni Gattone agrees and shares proven methods and simple solutions in her latest book The Lifelong Gardener: Garden with Ease & Joy at Any Age (Timber Press, 2019), based on her own needs and experiences.

The objectives of adaptive gardening:

  1. To raise awareness of adaptive techniques that enable gardeners to re-think how and when they garden for greater ease.
  2. To describe ways gardens can be changed or modified to ensure the safety and comfort of the gardener.
  3. To modify favorite tools to increase their usability or to replace them with more ergonomic options.

How this book is written

The author enjoys harvesting from her raised beds

To that end, The Lifelong Gardener is divided into three sections: You & Your Body, Your Garden, and Your Tools, each containing a wealth of tips, juicy photos, and practical advice. Here are a few of my favorite nuggets:

  • Take cues from someone who is already resilient and start a conversation with them. Ask them how they got past their health issues. Let go of negative people, and make room for positive ones in your life. (Emphasis mine!)
  • Carry your cell phone with you when you're in the garden, just in case.
  • Wear a back brace to remind you of your back so you don't do something you're not supposed to do. (Emphasis mine – if I could add an eye roll emoji I would!)
  • Add secure latches that are easy to open and close, especially if you have arthritis or decreased muscle strength in your hands (I would add to this – place the latches where you can reach them without over-stretching your shoulder. I can't tell you how many clients have tall gates that I virtually have to stand on tiptoe to reach over the top in order to release the latch!)

Reading this book is like having coffee with a friend. Toni gives no-nonsense advice. She doesn't pander to your various aches and pains but rather acknowledges them while swiftly moving on to talk about solutions. And many of these solutions are so simple and inexpensive you'll wonder why you had never thought of them before. For example, how often have you lost sight of your trowel in the long grass? Or composted your pruners? Found your rake in the vegetable garden – a week later? "The solution is to change the color of your tools' grips [handles] to make them easier to find," comments Toni. Well duh… I have some bright orange, plastic landscape tape that I could tie around the wooden handles of my tools – that would be a good start, but Toni also mentions an interesting product called Plasti-Dip. This is an air-dry, liquid. plasticized rubber coating for your tools that leaves them softer, rubberized, non-slip, and COLORFUL!

The multi-purpose soil scoop by Garden Works

The chapter on garden tools is excellent – what to look for and what to avoid, with some specific recommendations for brands. I appreciated the section on multi-use tools, not least of all because I have to use a wheelbarrow simply to carry all the tools I need around my large garden – so a few less to transport would be a good idea. For example her Garden Works Soil Scoop can be used to dig holes (like a trowel), weed (like a hoe), and make tiny seed furrows (like a dibber). The serrated edge can be used for opening bags of soil (instead of scissors) and of course it is a good medium sized scoop for its intended purpose as well! The handle is comfortable, bright red for visibility and has been approved by Seniors Select, an organization that approves tools that truly benefit seniors. (Hmmm – I think that's going on my Christmas list – and I'm not a "senior" yet!)

What are you waiting for?

Toni and I both agree that the long arm Haw's watering cans are superior.

Frankly I think you should stop reading and order a copy for yourself, your parents, and your neighbors – and keep a spare one to give as a hostess gift over the Holidays. I wasn't expecting to be so impressed – but I am. And to be honest I'm not sure that I want to give away my review copy – but I will. Here's how to win:

Enter to Win a Copy

Leave a comment below telling me why you would like to win The Lifelong Gardener (Timber Press, 2019).

One winner will be drawn on Sunday November 24th 2019, 8pm PDT, by a random number generator and notified by email.


Rules (aka the not-so-small-print)

  • Only USA residents may enter to win (sorry!)
  • The winner has 48 hours to respond after which time a new name will be drawn.
  • Only comments left in this thread will be included in the drawing. Comments on images or on social media will not be entered.

The Winner is…

Entrant number 1: congratulations JOAN BRASIER!

All images courtesy of author and Timber Press

Disclaimer ; this post contains affiliate links

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  1. Joan Brasier on November 12, 2019 at 3:58 am

    This looks like such a useful book. I have a small to mid sized garden of mostly native plants and tend to overdo in the garden. Suggestions for how I might change things to make it more likely I will be able to manage by myself as I continue to age would be most welcome. My rheumatologist has made suggestions for my hands and understanding the tools available to work with and where to find them would be great as well. It always seems like common sense would guide us but how many of us gardeners, once we are out there just keep at it until the work we see or the project we adopt is done, failing to listen to our own bodies until after the damage is done. Any help I can get in this area would be much appreciated.

    • Karen Chapman on November 12, 2019 at 2:33 pm

      Good luck Joan! I try to make myself have a cup of tea every two hours in order to STOP!! Maybe being British helps 🙂

      • Joan Brasier on November 12, 2019 at 2:55 pm

        I am also British. Maybe it’s a thing!

  2. Cathi L on November 12, 2019 at 6:43 am

    I think about this all the time for myself and others. I initially started thinking seriously about this topic when I studied horticultural therapy. I also had an "aha" moment when I read Sydney Eddison's book, Gardening for a Lifetime. Not only did she address practical ways to simplify your garden, but she addressed the reasons why we keep gardening. It was an eye-opener. As a Master Gardener, I incorporate suggestions for adapting your garden and yourself in order to keep gardening in all my talks. This book is on my Christmas list! It would be lovely to receive it either here or under the tree.

    • Karen Chapman on November 12, 2019 at 9:31 pm

      Being able to empower others is key

  3. JoAnn Clark on November 12, 2019 at 7:19 am

    I hope to be a LifeLong Gardener. I would enjoy reading this book and picking up tips for being suscessful.

    • Karen Chapman on November 12, 2019 at 2:34 pm

      Good luck JoAnn. My grandad gardened until he was 100 – I hope to do the same!

  4. Mimi on November 12, 2019 at 8:05 am

    This is exciting for those of us who are passionate about our gardening but can’t quite do what we used to.

    • Karen Chapman on November 12, 2019 at 2:35 pm

      The first step is admitting that, right?!

  5. Sylvia Susan Smith on November 12, 2019 at 8:18 am

    This sounds like a book full of ideas, who's time has come! I find myself relearning alot of gardening chores, to make up for my aging body. I'd love to see some new ideas to keep me out of trouble in the garden.
    I wonder if theres a personal safety chapter…

    • Karen Chapman on November 12, 2019 at 2:36 pm

      There are good tips about personal safety throughout the book Sylvia!

  6. Maxine Kulhanek on November 12, 2019 at 9:09 am

    In reading some of the comments it looks like a lot of us have taken our gardening a little more serious as we have aged. Raising a family and working for so many years taking care of a yard was a chore rather than a pleasant experience. So many of us worked hard all of our lives to make a living and raise our Children with values and compassion and work ethics so that left little time for gardening but it was a life we loved and we were dedicated to our families. We can only hope and pray our Children's lives will come together and grow stronger just like the beautiful flowers and plants we so strongly care for. Life is so short so take that next step to happiness and get your hands in the dirt and your hearts full of love and laughter and fun. Plant something, watch it grow, and take that family picture standing on a rock! Now we relish the days we have left to be able to spend the time in the yard and enjoying every minute although we have to limit those minutes more and more as we grow and our bodies are not quite what they use to be. I love the books I have purchased from La jardinet. As I read them they give me hope my garden and pots will turn out looking like I have some sense when it comes to planting and arranging for a more professional look. The big rewards are seeing people stop to take pictures and receiving such compliments from family and friends.

    • Karen Chapman on November 12, 2019 at 2:36 pm

      Thanks for your kind words Maxine and good luck!

  7. Luanne Whitaker on November 12, 2019 at 2:16 pm

    I'd love to win this book because I live in a 55+ community and we have started a new Garden Club. Our club has put together a Garden to Table library that has gardening books and cookbooks. This book would be a wonderful addition to our library for an age group that needs to learn more about adaptive gardening!

    • Karen Chapman on November 12, 2019 at 9:32 pm

      What a lovely idea!

  8. Sue Montgomery on November 12, 2019 at 8:57 pm

    I got a good chuckle from your comment about tea time every two hours! This past couple of years I found myself doing the same thing- it only seemed like yesterday that I went non-stop for hours and hours in the yard! When did this happen?! Alas, rethinking and reframing graciously arrive to a gardeners mind so to be able to fill the lifelong gardening heart they hold. ♥️🌱

    • Karen Chapman on November 12, 2019 at 9:34 pm

      I'm not sure I do any of it graciously – more pure stubbornness on my part!!

  9. Janet Hedrick on November 13, 2019 at 6:04 am

    I recently broke my knee–thankfully, most of my fall gardening chores were finished!–so this book would be a great addition to my library. Looks like it's time for me to learn some adaptive skills so I can continue with my gardens despite some curve balls that aging throws!

    • Karen Chapman on November 14, 2019 at 11:06 am

      Wishing you a speedy recovery!

  10. Clarice on November 14, 2019 at 1:06 pm

    This is just where my Mom is in her gardening journey. It would make a nice Christmas gift for her. I love your blog!

    • Karen Chapman on November 15, 2019 at 8:47 am

      Thanks so much Clarice!

  11. Belinda on November 15, 2019 at 6:33 am

    Thank you for profiling this new book on your excellent blog. The book looks very interesting and full of ideas for older gardeners.

    • Karen Chapman on November 15, 2019 at 8:52 am

      Thanks for entering to win Belinda!

  12. Lois liere on November 17, 2019 at 2:57 pm

    Hello Karen,
    Such a lovely and timely gardening book for all of us that truly relish and love the gardening life! My older sister, a Karen also, a master gardener, is an inspiration and a wonder to me, her knowledge, ideas, and occasional mishaps in her her garden, encourage me to just keep on
    as I age with some projects that are often successful with changing and adapting gardening habits.
    Thank you for bringing this book to light!

    • Karen Chapman on November 17, 2019 at 6:19 pm

      My pleasure Lois – good luck in the drawing!

  13. Michelle Sumner on November 22, 2019 at 7:06 am

    I have found that I need to pick a section of the garden and stop after that section for a break so I dont keep going for too long and end up exhausted!! Lol! I just keep telling myself that its ok to leave some things undone for another day! My garden is never complete! Always evolving!! Im excited to see all the tips you have! Thanks!

    • Karen Chapman on November 22, 2019 at 5:25 pm

      Thanks for entering the giveaway Michelle!

  14. Kathy on November 24, 2019 at 12:00 pm

    Karen, I found your wonderful website this summer. We had just purchased a home on Camano Island (looking forward to retirement) and our requirement was to have property (not too much!) that we could make beautiful. The property would also serve as our physical and mental health therapy as both my husband and I navigate the new challenges that our age have brought us. There are few things we need at our age, but I had already put your book on my Christmas wish list and will now add Toni's as well. Thanks for all you have learned and now share with us.
    PS I had been looking for ways to live with deer as our city home in Longview, WA has given us delightful (and frustrating ) visits by our "deer" friends in the summer.

    • Karen Chapman on November 24, 2019 at 8:57 pm

      Good luck Kathy!

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