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