There is an old adage, “Work smarter, not harder.” Fortunately, this ideal of don't work hard and work smart is shared by manufacturers of gardening tools and equipment and many have expanded their product lines to meet the needs of "golden gardeners" and those with physical limitations.
From pruning shears to ergonomic shovels, from raised beds to planter boxes, there are numerous ways for gardeners to enjoy growing and taking care of yards, even when limitations arise. Just because gardening is a labor of love doesn't mean it has to be laborious or taxing, especially to the point of risking stress or injury.
Pruning shears come in two styles: anvil cut and scissor action. A good pair of scissor-action shears will have a high carbon steel or titanium blade that maintains its edge after many cuts. Those with an ergonomic rotating handle will also help to reduce stress and hand strain. As a cut is made, the pulley that connects the two arms will increase the pressure of the cut, but reduce the force needed to be applied. These pruners, prized by professionals, can cut woody material up to ¾” in diameter.
Felco 10 Ergonomic Pruners have a non-slip grip and natural feel and the steel blades maintain their edge.
Elevate the Beds
Raised garden beds might incorporate wood, rock, or other materials to raise the soil level a foot or so above the ground. Elevated beds, usually made of wood or other durable material, sit high enough off the ground to accommodate wheelchairs or a standing individual. If, like many gardeners, you loathe the idea of wasted space, consider adding shelves attached underneath or to the sides to facilitate easy access to tools and supplies for your yard. DIY gardeners can get creative, incorporating recycled sinks, water troughs or other containers to use as planters.
Loppers and Shovels
Larger tools may be difficult for some to use. Fiskars is one noted company that makes a lopper with telescoping handles and a gear-based technology that makes cutting limbs easier than traditional loppers. Ergonomic handles provide a soft and comfortable gripping surface while the cutting technology reduces the need to exert a lot of force to cut through a limb.
Even the good old-fashioned shovel has seen technological advances with rounded, eyelet type handles and wider shelves for stepping on. The Radius Garden 202 Pro Ergonomic Steel Shovel has a unique design to minimize hand strain and provide leverage while digging.
For those with arthritis or hand strength issues, it's not just hefty equipment like shovels that make it difficult to use your gardening equipment. It's very possible hand tools with ergonomic handles might be the answer. Lightweight die-cast aluminum is combined with thermoplastic, curved handles to provide a more natural grip and lighter tool. Radius Garden makes a set of ergonomic hand tools called the NRGSET that includes trowels, cultivators, and weeders in a variety of colors. Tested and recommended by the National Home Gardening Club. Hand tools are essential in the garden and can be used with other components of gardening, i.e. watering the soil prior to digging to make it more pliable.
Tools also are available with extended handles, providing additional reach. Even from a sitting position, these lightweight tools can be wielded for weeding or raking. The Peta Easi-Grip Long Reach Garden Tools feature an arm support cuff for added stability.
If the squeeze trigger on a traditional nozzle is too difficult, consider a watering wand that has a ratcheting trigger with a self-locking mechanism. A DIY gardener could rig up a tubular sleeve attached to their elevated bed which holds the wand while watering.
Hip, knee, and other lower joints may make kneeling or sitting on the ground difficult. Selecting a sit upon that is comfortable and stable helps take some of the stress off of these joints. Rolling carts with a seating deck, a small tripod collapsible chair, or even an upturned container, may be just the ticket. The cart or container with a lid (like a 5-gallon container), can also be used to store tools, seeds, bulbs, or cuttings. Some gardeners who don’t mind kneeling, find a soft kneeling pad sufficient to use. Some garden kneelers come with a frame that can be inverted and used as a seat to give the knees a break and can also be accessorized with pouches to store items.
Aprons and Belts
Carpenters, blacksmiths and other craftsmen use them, so why not gardeners? Tool belts with pockets and tool loops or aprons with front pockets are a great way to carry small items and to minimize bending over. Garden belts may buckle in the front, then be rotated around so that the pockets are in the front. Aprons also do extra duty by keeping dirt and debris off of clothing.
Tired of wielding an unsteady wheelbarrow? Ergonomic handles, double wheels, and collapsible carriers have revolutionized the handy hauler. And why not let a battery do the heavy moving with the self-propelled Greenworks Cordless Garden Cart? The rechargeable 40-volt battery and quick-release dumping lever highlight this walk-behind unit.
Look for the Label
The Arthritis Foundation developed an Ease of Use commendation label for products that meet their testing requirements by and for folks suffering from arthritis or dealing with other physical issues. Independently tested and evaluated, this seal of approval may be found on the garden and household items.
Local garden centers and nurseries are also a great source of information and product availability which has kept up with the demand. There is no need to suffer through doing something one loves and many gardeners know that gardening is a love of labor with many benefits – minus the stress and strain.