Growing Things: Don’t let sore knees keep you from getting dirty

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Q I’m a senior who has loved gardening for many years. I find that as I age gardening has become more difficult. I’m having trouble kneeling. Actually, I can kneel I just can’t get up! My knees are bothersome and painful after gardening as well. I don’t want to spend a lot of money from my limited budget to make modifications to my garden. I was hoping that you might have a few tips for me so I can continue to enjoy my love.

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A You don’t have to be a senior to experience the soreness and aches and pains that can come with gardening. Part of the solution is to be an adaptive gardener. That simply means to adapt your garden and gardening habits to accommodate your changing capabilities. You don’t have to spend a lot to make these adjustments either.

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Many gardeners suffer from sore muscles and joints due to overexertion when working in the yard or garden. These aches and pains are even more of a problem in the spring when muscles that are not normally used in the winter months are called into use again during the beginning of gardening season. Even simple activities such as kneeling to pull weeds can result in a sore back the next day. This is due to gardeners rarely taking the time to stretch and properly prepare for their gardening activities.

I decided to consult a good friend of mine who works as a personal trainer. He recommended stretching before gardening and this will go a long way to preventing those sore muscles that can take the fun out of gardening. Stretching also develops better flexibility that will help with getting up. There’s a good video I’ve included online of physiotherapists at Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Centre demonstrating ideal stretches for gardeners, but a word of caution — before you begin any exercise or stretching program please consult your family physician.

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We apologize, but this video has failed to load.

You can also do something as simple as using a five-gallon pail as an assist to get up from a kneeling position. Or, use it as a seat. I bought a tool holder for my five-gallon pail so now I have a seat, all my tools and something to hold as I get up.

Something as simple as strap-on knee pads can help those that have knee issues as well, and they’re a relatively inexpensive assist, but my favourite knee protector is a kneeling pad.

When it comes to budget-friendly modifications to your garden, I have a few suggestions. Consider using raised beds, which offer a number of benefits such as the pressure off your back by bringing the garden up to a comfortable level.

Get rid of your heavy ceramic pots and replace them with lightweight containers. Cast resin pots weigh very little, are easy to move and are attractive. When you purchase your plants keep them in the nursery containers or transplant them into one-gallon pots and then put the one-gallon pots into your decorative container. No muss or fuss lifting heavy pots with plants. You can easily arrange your plantings as well.

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I will share one of my favourite stories. Years ago while judging commercial gardens in a competition, I was exposed to the power of gardening. In a home for patients with dementia, I saw firsthand what gardening means to those who were gardeners. Patients who sat motionless all day staring into space would come to life when a garden trowel was put into their hands. They would weed and cultivate and even plant all the while smiling. It was a truly emotional experience for me and shows what an important impact gardening can have on us all.

It’s appropriate to finish today’s column with a quote from Audrey Hepburn: “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.” While another anonymous quote, and one of my favourites is, “Gardening adds years to your life, and life to your years.”

Learn more by emailing your questions to me, reading past columns at edmontonjournal.com or my book Just Ask Jerry. You can also follow me on Twitter @justaskjerry01.

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