Getting older does not mean that the love of gardening has to be abandoned. Don’t let pain stop you from your favorite hobby. These 12 tips for gardening with arthritis may be just the thing that you need, too, to keep enjoying your time in the garden this summer.
Everyone who reads my blog knows that I LOVE to garden. I learned the basics of gardening from my mother who was always outside digging in her garden beds.
But lately, I have had to deal with the pain of arthritis in my right knee and left shoulder, and this can sometimes make gardening a chore. Over time, I have learned what works and what doesn’t, and that means that arthritis won’t stop me from my favorite hobby.
Years ago, I fell with all my weight on both knees on my front door step when I tripped. I hit the door with my shoulder and really hit my right knee hard when I fell.
At the time, I thought “I bet that I will have arthritis in my shoulder and knee later in life because of this!” How little did I know, at the time, that this would be SO TRUE today.
Kneeling is particularly hard for me, since my weight is right on the area where the arthritis is located. So, for me, some workarounds are necessary, since there is NO WAY that I am going to give up my love of gardening.
Did you know that May is National Arthritis Month? Since arthritis affects 53 million Americans in some way or another, and since so many people with arthritis also love to garden like I do, these tips for gardening with arthritis may bring more awareness to this issue.
Hopefully, they will also help you to keep going in your gardening chores in spite of having arthritis.
Read of for 12 Tips for Gardening with Arthritis
1. Change your routine.
Gardening with arthritis requires a bit of common sense! Even the most healthy gardener will suffer from pain if they do the same routine day after day, hour after hour.
So, switch it up. For me, that means weeding for a few hours, and then getting up and stretching by walking around the garden and pruning plants and shrubs that are taller. Pruning roses is a much different task from kneeling and weeding.
Changing my routine gives my back and knees a break from bending over, and stretches the muscles and joints that hurt.
2. Use a garden seat.
I have the most wonderful garden seat that changes from a kneeler to a seat with just a flip.
It has pockets on the side to hold my garden tools and is nicely padded to help protect my knees. This allows me to switch between sitting and kneeling with just the flip of the padding and really helps my knees.
3. Use pain medication if needed.
In spite of following these tips and the ones below, I still find that there are days when the pain in my knee from arthritis requires some additional help in the form of a pain reliever.
Carrying on when I am in pain is counter productive, so I rely on over the counter pain relievers. I have tried many pain relieving products, but none of them compare to Advil, in my opinion.
And it would appear that most doctors agree with me. Based on a survey of monthly doctor recommendations, the medicine in Advil is the one that doctors recommend most for joint pain.
4. Use watering wands.
Trying to get water to the root of plants can involve a lot of bending over. And watering hanging baskets in my trees means raising my shoulder so that it hurts.
To help with these issues, I use long armed watering wands. These great products extend the length of your arm, by design, and make watering a pain free chore.
5. Ice works wonders.
Much of the pain of arthritis is caused by inflammation, and ice works wonders to ease this. Just fill a large zip lock baggie with ice and surround it with a soft cloth.
Place the wrapped bag on the area of your body which suffers from arthritis for a while before you go out into the garden. It will help to alleviate the inflammation for the time being.
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
My husband loves to LOOK at my gardening results, but is not fond of all the chores involved in maintaining the gardens. But there are some gardening tasks that I just can’t manage without some help from him.
Be sure to ask a loved one to help for those tasks that would give you a lot of pain if you tried to do them yourself.
Heavy digging or aerating the lawn is something I always ask my husband to help me with and, (as long as I don’t give him a day of it on a honey do list,) he is more than happy to help me out.
7. Stay hydrated.
Did you know that not drinking enough water can make joint pain worse? Drinking water allows for the right amount of blood volume so that nutrients can move through your blood and into your joints.
Plus, working outside in the sun means that you need extra fluids to deal with the heat, anyway. So, stay hydrated!
Your joints will love you for it! My daughter Jess gave me a Brita water pitcher last Christmas and I have used it outside all summer long!
8. Use the right garden tools.
Gardening with arthritis means being smart about your choice of tools.
There are many gardening tools designed for those who have arthritis, but my biggest tip is to choose those that have rubberized handles.
This makes gripping and using them is much easier on your hands.
9. Avoid overhead work.
The arthritis in my shoulder means that constantly reaching over my head puts a lot of strain on that joint and causes me pain.
When I need to do overhead work, I either stand on a stool, or use loppers with longer handles to make it easier on my body.
10. Use Raised Beds.
Raised garden beds or planters that are raised are easier on the back. You can sit, rather than kneel, to tend them and some are high enough to garden at hip height.
This saves pain in the back and knees. I have a row of planters with strawberries in them all around the edge of my deck.Watering them is a breeze and pulling weeds is much easier than if I had to kneel to tend to them.
I also recycled some cement blocks recently to make a cement blocks raised garden bed. It was finished and planted in a few hours and is so easy to tend now.
This planter was used just for succulents the first year I made it, but them I enlarged the planter, added another and sealed them both.
It also allowed me to situate the planters in a large flower garden so the vegetable planters blends in nicely. And the harvesting is so much easier in elevated beds!
Doing this gave me a raised bed vegetable garden that allows me to grow an entire season of vegetable in one small space.
11. Keep often used garden tools handy.
I have an old mailbox in my garden that is left over from a mailbox project that I did last summer. It makes the perfect place to store my tools.
This saves of having to do a lot of extra walking and I know that the tools I need will be nearby.
12. Know when to stop.
This is perhaps the most important tip for gardening with arthritis! I sometimes get going on my gardening tasks and want to do “just another 1/2 hour” to finish the task.”
Every time I make a decision to carry on, I regret it the next day. The weeds will still be there tomorrow and 30 minutes then will be much easier on my body than another 30 minutes now after several hours of gardening.
Sometimes, it is just a good idea to know when to stop and smell the roses! (or daylilies, irises and rhododendron flowers, since that is what is flowering for me right now!)
And for lots of gardening tips and inspiration, be sure to check out my Pinterest gardening board.