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Garden of Delights: Making a Favorite Pastime Easy on Your Joints

  [ 309 votes ]   [ Discuss This Article ] • July 21, 2003

Gardening is an enjoyable and fulfilling pastime for many arthritis patients, but building and maintaining your garden may be difficult if your joints hurt. Whether it is your knees, back or fingers, moving about without general pain or stiffness while you work is difficult. The following article will outline some basic tips and plans that you can do to help minimize the strain on your body for a fulfilling gardening experience.

Listen to Your Body & Keep it Simple

There are many opportunities to exercise while you tend to your garden, but while you work always pay close attention to your body and how you feel. Overdoing things can lead to a flare up of swelling and pain, so be sure to rest and take breaks. The purpose of activity is to exercise and loosen stiff joints without subjecting them to large amounts of stress. You will want to try and avoid repetitive motions for long periods of time, and try to keep a balance of different activities that will get various parts of your body moving.

Start by assessing your situation and deciding which gardening tasks cause you pain or stress on your joints, how much you can bend and lift, and how long you can work before getting tired. Then design a garden or routine to suit your situation. By planning gardening jobs carefully you can avoid excessive effort.

Keep things simple, if your knees and hips bother you most, try not to make many trips across the garden to the house or tool shed. Try to take everything you need in one go; however, if your shoulders or arms are what bother you the most, trying to haul everything at once can be burdensome. So many smaller trips may be appropriate. Also, you can always enlist some help. Have a good friend or the kids give you a hand with the more laborious tasks like carrying bags of soil or compost. Having others around to help also makes gardening more fun.

Layout and Accessibility

Sound planning can make getting around in your garden much easier and enjoyable. When designing your garden, you will want to have large firm paths along side the plant beds so that you can do most of your work without having to step or kneel on unstable soil. With this layout you will also want the beds to be narrower so you can reach each part of the bed without having to stretch or strain yourself. For additional safety, you may also want to consider installing non slip paving slabs and handrails around your beds.

An alternative to kneeling to tend plants on the ground is to build a raised plant bed. These plant boxes can be a couple of feet high for easier management and allow you to work more comfortably. Raised beds however are more expensive to build and require large amounts of soil to fill. A wide range of large containers can also be used for working at a convenient height. Which ever way you go, keep your comfort in mind when you choose.

Tools of the Trade

Having the right tools can make all the difference for the joints in your hands while you work in your plant beds. Here are some handy tools and ideas you can use to help minimize the stress on your body:

* A border spade has a smaller blade than a normal digging spade and is lighter, easier to carry and handle. Spades are also available with long handles that provide extra leverage when lifting up tough soil.

* Try to find ergonomically designed garden tools with cushioned handles and non-slip grips that are easy on stiff joints.

* A watering wand is a long metal rod that attaches to your garden hose that can water large flowerbeds and hanging baskets so you do not have to frequently bend or reach while watering.

* A push-pull hoe can make weeding less of a chore. With its thin sharp blades, this tool skims the surface of the soil while chopping off the weeds at ground level.

* Use a small stool to sit on rather than kneeling. Or when you do kneel, a pad can provide a comfortable cushion when you are on your knees, and gives you something to sit on when you feel you need a break.

The important thing about gardening is to enjoy your self. Remember, gardening should be pleasurable not painful, and most of all take the time to enjoy the fruits of your toil. A beautiful garden can be very relaxing place to enjoy life. Happy gardening!

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