Gardening is one of the great joys in life.  As I age, it is one of the things I want to look forward to until I can no longer get my body out into the yard.  I know folks who can't haul soil or chop trees or carry logs, but they continue to love growing their food and flowers and trees, and still love digging in the dirt.

I think gardening keeps the mind alive, gives joy, and nourishes.  Some of the physical challenges come from arthritis, slowing down, and less ambition.

Here's some links about gardening as the body ages. various ideas  on raised beds  tips and techniques for the elderly gardener  on gardening therapy.

Commenters, please feel free to add comments and links.

All of the photos below are public domain, from

As for myself, I like to think I'm a pretty rugged guy.  In the past year,  I've dug and hauled hauled 200 pound trees to new locations, and built raised beds and filled with manually hauled wheelbarrows of soil and compost.  But I already know it wont last, and I tire more easily than I did at 30 or 40.  In addition, when healing form cancer surgery this spring, I was glad I had some tasks that could be easily done without hard physical labor.

I may not live that long, but I'd hate to be older and regret not preparing myself.  So I keep that in mind.  Some of the gardening work involves learning options that I hope will make it easier as I get old.  Some day I might write an essay, "When I am an old man, I will..." but meanwhile, here are some thoughts.

I planted dwarf fruit trees.  Some are "mini dwarf".  A good mail order nursery for those is raintree.  Fruit trees are good because the gardener doesn't need to get down to soil level, and can maintain soil with a good mulch of straw or dried grass clippings.  Once growing, fruit trees don't need a lot of digging or weeding.  The dwarf sizes mean no ladders are needed.  There is also espalier, which keeps the trees to a workable size and is amenable to puttering.

File:DSCN3598 espalieredpeartree e.JPG

I'm working on grape arbor that will be pruned at 3 to 7 feet tall, similar reasons.

File:Grape vines.jpg

I've been building raised beds.  The current height is 1 foot.  It makes a surprising difference.  They may go up to 18 inches later.  The walk between the beds is lawn, easy to maintain.  I'm not a stickler for pure grass lawn, it's just mowed. Later, they may give way to wood chip walkways, but meanwhile the grass is OK.

The softer soil in the raised beds, not tromped on, means they don't need had laborious digging, so also easier.  I may need to install a watering system so I don't have to haul a hose around.    Not this year.

File:Raised vegetable beds for disabled access - - 1411061.jpg

Gardening with animal life keeps my mood good.  I'll have to think of the next generation hen house, for easy maintenance.  Beekeeping is a new hobby for me.  By luck, the type of hive I use does not require heavy lifting and is easy to work on in a comfortable position.  The apiary garden will be a work in progress, with emphasis on shrubs and trees that provide nectar and pollen, with a lot in a small area, and low maintenance as a goal.  


A chicken tractor - enclosed but mobile cage - is a good way to concentrate them in an area to remove grass weeds and bugs.  Four hens can clear out a 25 square foot area in a few weeks.

File:Close-up, three chicks in a coop.jpg

Other plant choices, bush beans may be easier than pole beans.   Although pole beans can be picked without bending over.  Bush zucchini is easier to maintain than long vining types.  Multigraft trees give longer yield time for less maintenance and space, although the faster growing grafts need pruning back to let the slower growing grafts grow.

I am working on container designs that are somewhat light, easier to move - maybe wheels - do not require as frequent watering.  Wood is better that way than plastic, but lined with plastic so they don't rot so fast.

So that's a few thoughts.  Feel free to comment.

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Replies to This Discussion

Excellent discussion topic. May I share it with my family & friends on Facebook?

I agree with everything you say! Thanks. 

Joan, go ahead and share.  I'd be honored.  Thinking of you inspired some of this - your ongoing enthusiasm and raised beds.

You are so much more ambitious than I, so many projects. The first landscaping we did when we bought this house was to have raised beds put in the front. They're much deeper than the ones in the photo, with stone walls. I had step stones to step into the beds for work, but they disappeared within a decade, and I eventually gave up trying to keep them above ground and clear. The fine gravel washed out from between the stones, so now the cracks are too big and air dries out the garden too much, especially at the corners, in hot dry weather. I tuck small stones in the biggest cracks, but they wash back out. *sigh* Still, it is easier to weed.

I have so much less energy than I did 2 decades ago, so I rely mostly on perennials now.

Thanks for all of the links.

Ruth, it's a beautiful raised bed!  You did a great job!

One day if it needs maintenance, you could retroactively line the sides with plastic.  That might help with some of the issues. 

It's all a learning process.  I feel like everything I do, I could have done better.  And next time will try to do so.  And then, will feel like I did it wrong again.

I was under the impression that plastic would cause water pressure to build up behind the wall during a deluge and push the stones out.

That would be a mess!  Maybe have some drain holes or drain pipe at the bottom?

Good idea, with proper engineering of drain holes spaces throughout. 

Yes, that would be a problem. 

I didn't make the raised bed, just designed it. We paid a landscaper to do the stone work.

The soil does stay light and not compressed, but the heavy showers, more frequent here in the east with Climate Change, wash soil off more easily, including between the stones.

Now that I'm arthritic, I'm glad we invested in a raised bed. Maintenance is mostly weeding as I walk by to the car. I stopped adding annuals and new bulbs, going to plants that self-maintain. It seemed un-green to fly bulbs from Holland every year, etc. I mulch with chopped up leaves in Fall, instead of buying commercial mulch.

Ruth, I think you can buy a cloth type fabric to line it with if you ever want to bother.
Like you I've gone to perennials and started downsizing many of my beds. The few new things I've added are milkweed and butterfly weed.

Kathy, I used to pull out all the milkweed that chanced into my garden. Now I treasure it, encourage it, spread it hither and yon. 

The common milkweed is Asclepias syriaca, a bit wild looking that I like.

Butterfly weed is Asclepias tuberosa, a good garden variety.

Swamp milkweed is Asclepias incarnata, for wetlands.

Prairie milkweed is Asclepias sullivantii, native to the prairies.

They all attract butterflies. By all means, plant them, as many as you can. Whether they volunteer or you plant them they take care of themselves. 

Raised beds are wonderful. I haven't bought an annual or bulb in at least 20 years. I don't like replacing plants. If something does' thrive, I yank it out and try another perennial, or use groundcover plants, or use mulch. Remember nature abhors bare soil. 

Chopped up leaves work perfectly. No need to buy commercial mulch. 




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