If you have ever worked with a personal trainer, joined a gym or had a physical by a medical practitioner, then it is likely you have had an assessment of your health and where, if any, changes or improvements could be made in order to improve your quality of life. When was the last time you assessed your gardening abilities? If you have completed an assessment, then you are enjoying every minute in the garden and you are enjoying both adaptive tools and garden design that are suited for you and your capabilities. Hence, there is no need for you to read this article. If you have experienced a temporary or permanent change to your health, however, then read on.
There are three considerations, time, mobility and ability, as discussed by Gene Rothert, registered horticultural therapist and manager of Urban Horticulture at the Chicago Botanic Garden and designer of the Enabling Garden for people with disabilities. How much time you have available to garden and the time any task will take you will affect every decision you make going forward.
I worked as a corporate fitness consultant for many years, designing workout programs for employees. Time was limited for these individuals who had abilities and restrictions (of every kind) on the broad spectrum. The personal exercise programs I designed had to take into account the time available for an employee to exercise safely and without risk.
The second consideration is time and mobility. Are you free to move about in any garden space layout?
Can you reach, stand, walk, carry, tow, lift, push and pull freely? Do you have limitations? Do you have knee, back, hip problems, arthritis, a broken limb, or are you in a wheelchair? Are you recovering from a recent operation?
Are you on medications that limit your sun exposure? A frank reality check will tell you what you can and cannot do. If you have severe mobility restrictions, you may consider having a garden closer to your abode so all of your energy isn’t used getting to and from your garden.
Individuals with orthopedic, neck and back limitations, for example, can still garden by staging large pots on and off the deck and patio. A lightweight cart with wheels can be used for transportation and placement of materials. Planting can be done from a comfortable standing or seated position.
Consider a lightweight, cushioned portable stool on which to sit to finish the planting and a lightweight watering can and hose for ease of handling and carrying.
The third consideration is ability. In Part 2, I will discuss determining your ability to help you make judgments about basic garden components and types of equipment. Determining your ability will help determine what type of gardening is practical and safe. Laura DePrado, horticultural therapy practitioner and horticultural specialist, can be reached at laura@finaltouchplantscaping or 908-872-8387.
By Laura DePrado
Published in the Somerville Courier News 06/18/2013, Page B03, Healthwise series
Editor’s note: Laura DePrado’s column will appear as part of our Healthwise series on the third Tuesday of every month. This debut column is the first in a two-part installment.