Summer Gardening Tips for Seniors

As the weather warms and we spend more time outdoors, many people turn their attention to their gardens. If you're looking for summer gardening tips for seniors, you're in the right place.

Gardening is an activity enjoyed by all ages, from the young child planting a pea in a paper cup and watching it grow to the seasoned senior gardener having worked in their garden for decades.

Gardening provides health benefits, both physical and emotional. Maybe that's why gardeners tend to be so happy!

However, like seasons where weather changes can bring a new set of joys and challenges to your garden, each stage of life can also present unique challenges.

With careful planning, seniors often can continue gardening for many years. Understanding your abilities and limitations, or those of your loved one, will make time spent in the garden safe and enjoyable.

Let's turn the months of pouring over seed catalogs, garden planning, and long-awaited dreams of digging in the dirt into reality!

Summer Gardening Tips for Seniors

Start with a Plan

First, take realistic stock of your ability to garden or your loved one's ability. Ask the following questions:

  • Has anything changed this year from prior years?
  • Any changes in health status?
  • Are there any new physical limitations not present last year that could change how you or your loved one gardens?
  • Is the garden already well established, or has there been a recent move that means starting from scratch? (i.e., putting in a whole new garden)
  • Will help be needed for lifting, planting, weeding, or watering, and is this help readily available?
  • How much time do you (or your loved one) want to spend working in the garden, and what do you want to plant?
  • Has your household size changed?

Take Time of Day into Consideration

As we age, our ability to regulate body temperature diminishes, which can lead to heat exhaustion and even heat stroke.

Try to get gardening chores done early in the morning or after the sun goes down. Remember that at the height of summer, working even in the early morning hours can dehydrate you.

Stay hydrated by bringing a water bottle and taking regular breaks to drink. If the heat is excessive, consider adding a packet of electrolyte powder to your water bottle.

If you start to feel hot, get out of the sun and seek shelter in the shade.

Also, take your cell phone or an emergency GPS device to the garden in case of an emergency.

Dress Appropriately

Wear wide-brimmed hats, sunglasses, light-colored cotton or breathable fabric, long-sleeved shirts and pants to prevent sunburn, insect bites, and injury from thorns.

If you are prone to sunburn, apply sunscreen before heading out. Remember that skin cancer is the most common type of cancer in the United States. Therefore, it is vital to know how to recognize the signs of skin cancer and methods to prevent skin cancer for aging adults.

Well-fitting and supportive shoes will help you navigate the uneven ground of your garden and avoid ankle injuries and falls.

Don't wear flip-flops or sandals in the garden. These types of shoes can catch on rocks and roots and cause a fall.

Wear gardening gloves to protect your hands from cuts and blisters. If you have any health condition, such as diabetes or another condition that impacts sensation, be sure to check your extremities (hands and feet) after every garden session for injury.

Ensure Correct Body Mechanics

If you are moving heavy objects, be sure to use the correct posture. Bend at the knees, keep your back upright, let your legs do the work, and keep items close to your body. Don't overreach or hold heavy objects away from your body.

When kneeling, keep one knee bent in front of you and the other on the ground, alternating between the two to reduce strain on your dominant leg. Avoid twisting by working directly in front of you.

Know Your Limitations

To avoid injury, stretch before you head out to the garden, take frequent breaks, and use correct body mechanics.

Hire or enlist help for any strenuous or labor-intensive projects.

Be especially mindful of any recent changes in strength, mobility, or balance, as these could impact safety.

Remember, ladders can be especially dangerous for seniors and should be avoided whenever balance is impaired.

Use Tools to Make Gardening Easier for Seniors

A four-wheel garden cart is one of the most useful tools in a gardener's toolbelt. These are more stable and much easier to handle than a wheelbarrow and can easily carry everything you need to get to your destination.

Timers installed on garden hoses can automatically water plants to limit time spent working outside after the sun has begun to set, a time when visibility is reduced for many seniors.

Kneeling pads can protect knees, and lightweight hoses and tools with larger grips can help seniors with arthritis and limited strength.

Be sure to place tools in a designated area. A little organization will prevent tripping over tools in walkways, and knowing where the correct tool is can help reduce frustration.

Consider Alternate Planting Methods

Tower Gardens: Tower gardens are gaining popularity for good reason. These space-saving and back-saving towers enable those with limited space or mobility to work in the dirt without the intense physical labor of managing a traditional garden plot.

Once they are set up, you can grow a wide variety of vegetables in them. In fact, some set these up on balconies and even indoors, where they garden year-round. They also require less water and are weed-free.

Raised or Elevated Planter Boxes:Summer Gardening Tip for Seniors: Use Raised Elevated Planters to Make Gardening Easier for Seniors Elevated planter boxes bring plants up off the ground, which can be a huge benefit for wheelchair users or anyone with limited mobility.

By reducing the need to bend or kneel, gardens can become safer and more accessible for older adults.

Make Gardening a Fun, Community Event

Gardening can be a fun way to connect with loved ones and make new friends. Ask family members for help or share gardening tasks with your neighbors. The promise of fresh produce at the end of the season can be a powerful motivator to get the gardening help you need.

Gardening has enjoyed a rise in interest and popularity over the past few years. However, many have never gardened and need help figuring out where to start.

Consider being a garden mentor. This kind of role could benefit both you and your student. They reap the reward of hands-on gardening skills, and you could benefit by getting help with the higher intensity chores, such as digging, lifting, and overall garden maintenance.

Brooke worked as a home health and hospice nurse for many years. During her time working with patients and families, she saw the pressures and strain of what caregivers went through while caring for loved ones. Lack of resources to help caregivers prompted her to start a support group for caregivers in her area. Since then Brooke has turned to writing courses for nurses and content writing. In her spare time, she enjoys time with family, her dog and travel.