Aging well

Think about tucking more spots to rest a moment in or near your flower beds.

Think about tucking more spots to rest a moment in or near your flower beds.

It is important as we age to plan. I sound like a financial advisor, but it’s the truth. How we eat, exercise and live our daily lives evolves and changes as we age.

In my youth I used to sunbathe with a book and baby oil for hours. Now I don’t go out into my garden without a hat and a thick slathering of SPF 30 suntan lotion.

A former neighbor wrote a great book for Wisconsin gardeners – Marlyn’s Garden: Seasoned Advice for Achieving Spectacular Results in the Midwest – that I still go back to as a resource now and then. Intermixed with all of her ideas were suggestions on how to prepare to care for your garden as you age.

How much of your garden are annuals that require you kneel each spring to plant seeds or seedlings versus perennials that just come back on their own? Are your clumps of flowers so large that you must lean way over the flower mound to deadhead the far side? How organized are the stepping stones and paths through your flower bed; making it easier to get in to weed and care for that bed?

I’m not suggesting that you overhaul your gardens but I would encourage you begin a slow transition toward an age-friendly garden habitat. As summers pass and you make an alteration here and add something there, think about whether this is something you’ll be able to easily maintain as your physical abilities decline.

For me one of the most difficult is the watering. Our yard is about an acre with grass lawn, trees, shrubs and flower beds throughout. The water source is only at the highest point of our steep hill. Dragging hoses is heavy, back breaking work. Due to limited spigots, watering involves repeatedly moving sprinklers and weighty hoses every 20-30 minutes. After last summer’s drought it became painfully evident that I need to start saving my money to upgrade to additional water supply at the bottom of the hill or maybe even an in-ground watering system.

I built my first raised bed last summer and was thrilled with the reduction in “bend over time.” The earlier planting, fewer weeds and easier to reach advantages have me thinking of where else a raised beds would make sense.

We have several areas that are difficult to mow and/or trim the edges, so I’m mentally laying out plans to increase hardscaping in those areas. Pinterest has a wealth of stone, rock and pebble borders and walkway ideas that may help me address those issues. Hardscapes with wider, non-slippery surfaced paths with maybe a bench or other resting place are definitely in my long term plans. Last week, I bought beautiful calico limestone from Madison Block and Stone for a great price.

There are lots of great articles on what plants require less effort. But to point out the obvious a tree is easier than a bush, which is easier than a perennial flower. Any plant the greenhouse marks as “well worth the extra effort,” isn’t. There are many low maintenance plants that will make better sense for creaky joints. With a little investigation and research I’m sure you can find some beautiful options.


About Kary Beck

Mother and wife, gardener, wine enthusiast, avid online bargain hunter, and owner of two black-and-tan cocker spaniels.
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