As I move through my 80s and try to disregard the diabetes, shingles, etc., it becomes necessary to modify my gardening activities a little.
I am not planning on holding off on any of my plans, however. Maybe a little modification, but we who are seniors can keep right on gardening, just using some thought to make it possible.
One basic step is to
divide the work into tasks that can be performed in a short period, and still leave us with a feeling of accomplishment.
My vegetable garden is divided into 12 sections with paths between them, and
next year there will be 11 because I am paving over one section.
I grow a different crop in each plot. That way, I can go out into the grden and spade, hoe, weed, plant or harvest one plot. If I do not feel like doing any more, there still is a sense of accomplishment over the task completed.
Another way of coping is to have the proper tools and equipment ready. I am bad at finishing the gardening year by doing all those things I tell other people to do.
In all my years of gardening, I have never cleaned and oiled my hand tools properly; I just knocked off the mud and stuck them in a bucket of sand soaked with old motor oil. That seems to work, although a sharpening would help them to be useful longer.
With hand tools, you get what you pay for. While I am too cheap to buy the best, Santa Claus usually brings me something I have been hankering after.
Stainless steel is wonderful, and a good trowel, weeding fork and pruners, along with a stout kitchen knife carry me through the year. Until I lose them.
A great benefit to me as my knees grow creakier is my garden stool. I use it just about every day, either for sitting or kneeling, and haul it around in my other treasure, my garden cart. The legs of the stool become handles when it is reversed, and this helps with ups and downs.
Another help is to move from annuals to perennials in the flower garden. This cuts down on planting, and it is easier on the wallet.
There is no resisting at least a few annuals when the garden centers are a riot of color in April and May, but having most of the flower bed space filled with perennials is a help.
I save my geraniums every winter, just pulled up, trimmed off and stuck on a shelf under the workbench in my dark and musty basement. They survive the winter well, and by the end of January, are full of green shoots. They go into a bucket of water for a few days and then into pots in my cool bedroom window until it is time to plant them out. This is a real money-saver.
One final suggestion.
A garden journal is helpful when your memory is not at its sharpest. You need to know where you planted those bargain daffodil bulbs in the fall, or you will unfailingly chop them into pieces by accident. I take pictures of the flower beds in every season - just basic snapshots on my phone - and I also paste any seed packets into my journal so, in theory, I know where things are.
I find that book to be good reading in the winter months, when spring seems so far away.
All stages of life have pluses and minuses, just as the seasons of the year, and I find retirement to be one of the best. I have been retired for 18 years now, and enjoy each year in the garden to the fullest.
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program.
Contact her at