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Need Gardening Suggestions

lisa burekllisa burek Posts: 855
edited 06/11/2012 - 8:34 AM in Chronic Pain
Hi Spineys,

As I am working on accepting my current and future limitations I have come to the very sad decision that my raised bed (1 1/2 ft high) vegetable garden has to go. Planting and tending to the garden is just way too much on my back. I know I can continue to do pots, large and small, however, there is still bending and reaching involved. Have any of you gardeners had success with making modifications to your gardens? If so, what did you do? My husband is willing to do anything, he knows how much it means to me.
I have seen handicapped garden beds for those in wheelchairs and think this might be my best option. Thanks for any suggestions.


  • I have found that having extra large rows in between the plants, allows me to sit on a mat on my non generator side (I have an SCS generator in my backside). I don't have my garden in yet, but I have been working through multiple large flower beds around my house and assisting the neighbor with their garden. I can keep my legs out of the way and move them when necessary. I have to take breaks because my one wrist takes a lot of abuse from leaning on it, but it works.

  • I am never going to stop gardening. I am going to find those old 1960 kitchen tables, paint the legs with green rust proof paint, and put window boxes all around with plants that hang down to the ground, in the centre I will put pots and even one on a pedestal in the centre. You can use a watering wand with a feeder attached at the hose to feed them.
  • I find that sitting on a small stool allows me to work in my flower beds and I use it when I plant pots and containers, too. You have to figure out a system for where you will put your tools, flats of plants, etc. or you are still bending over a lot. I keep a wheelbarrow near me. When I weed or dead head or whatever, I throw everything in there and my husband empties it at the end of my session.

    Even sitting on the stool, I need to limit the amount of time and take breaks. I guess this wouldn't work for those who cannot stand to be seated. My pain goes away when seated, so it works for me.

    I do have to tamp down my enthusiasm each Spring though and keep what I plant to something manageable. And I cannot carry sprinkling cans full of water, so I limit planting to areas where the hose can reach.
  • Thanks for your suggestions. As for why I need to make changes: I have had a 2 level lumbar fusion with another 2 level fusion below it to be done soon, so my mobility and bending will be greatly reduced. Like you guys, I don't think I can ever give up gardening, I just would like ideas that have worked for others.
    Kinewah, I like you table sugggstion, and Gwennie, I need to start using a stool/rolling seat. The problem is that my beds are currently at least 3 feet deep, so even sitting there would be uncomfortable reaching.
    Maybe if we make more shallow beds and combine that with tables and pots I can be happy. Common sense needs to prevail, not what I wish to it be! Thanks again for your suggestions. This is one of the hardest adjustments for me to make.
    Be well everyone.
  • sunny1966ssunny1966 VIRGINIAPosts: 1,385
    I love gardening also. Flowers, veggies..anything really.
    I walked by my flower beds yesterday and I felt so bad. There are weeds growing everywhere. The flowers haven't been deadheaded like they should. It makes me feel so bad that I've let it get like that lately. I will get it done. I will. It's just a matter of time. lol. (I sound like the little engine that could, I think I can, I think I can)
    I hope you can find an easy way for you to garden. It's great therapy. That's why I love summertime. I'd rather be outside any time.
    Hope you're having a good day.

  • I bought a garden kneeler from Gardener's Supply. You can use it as a stool, or you can flip it over and use it as a kneeler. It helps you get down to the ground, and then you can get back up by using the legs as a support to push yourself up. I would not be able to garden at all without mine. Once you have one of those, as Lisa said, if you put in large rows, you should be able to sit and scoot along, or use this gizmo to get up and down. I hope you find something that will work for you.


    3 level spinal fusion, L3/4, L4/5, L5/S1, November 2008. Stiff, but I can walk.
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,875
    I've always loved to be in the dirt... I think I remember talking to Sunny1996 (Debbie) and both of us love to be like pig pen... hands in the dirt , the move the better.
    As my spinal conditions started to deteriorate, I realized I couldnt do as much as I used to... My wife and my son and daughter decided to plant our back patio and part of our garden area with herbs. They used containers for most of them. Large, small and medium urns. I was able to do all of that without any problems with my spine. As time went on, I've had my good times and rough times... When my good times are here, I get on my hands and knees and take care of shrubs, flowers, etc... Granted at the end of the day, I am sore, but it feels soo good.
    But I would have to say, what saved me the most was container gardens. Now, its only herbs, but only is when I mean about 20 different herbs growing. So, we can reach walk out our door, grab a handful of fresh herbs and add it to our cooking.. Nothing is better than that.
    We have tried to model our backyard as if it was in Tuscany, Italy. We are close.
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • Please forgive me if this is a bit off topic, but I know of a fantastic hint for growing herbs that I just HAVE to share with you guys.

    If you want to grow herbs in pots, get a terra-cotta pot and some chalkboard paint. Paint the top 1" rim of the pot with the chalkboard paint. Then, when you plant something in it, write in chalk what it is on the chalkboard-painted rim. When you change it next year or whenever, erase the writing with an eraser and write again whatever you want. It can live on forever, no matter what you plant in it!

    Cool, huh? LOL
  • :H Well, I agree with everyone's suggestions above. And now that you said you have a deep planting bed, I understand the issue with reaching.

    I just finished weeding my front beds today. I am most comfortable sitting on the ground so I use one of my exercise mats. It cushions my tush and I just sort of scoot it along. I take care not to get in a position that makes anything feel strained. I make little piles of weeds along the way. When I'm finished, I use the broom or rake to push it into one big pile. Another good tip -- make friends with some little kids in your area. I live on a cul de sac and the kids know I have a bad back so that always offer to help me (very cute and sweet of them). I pay them back with popsicles and fudgesicles I keep in my freezer in the garage.

    My husband has a short stool on wheels he uses for his automobile and that also works great. I use that for potting plants. I also have two different size plastic stools that come in handy. I'm very careful not to lift anything too heavy or expend too much energy in pullin weeds, if it's tough to pull, I leave it for my husband to pull.

    Gardening is so good for the soul so I know that you will find a way to continue to work your garden. I'm so happy when I can see color and flowers in the yard.

    Best of luck to you and take care,


    PS Cath =great tip about the chalkboard paint on the herb planter!
  • Thanks all for your tips. Debbie, I know what you mean about the weeds. Here in NJ we have had a hideously wet summer which has been great for the weeds, and I have not been able (or smart enough) to kill my back pulling them all out. I used to have such beautiful perennial beds, oh well.
    Linda, I know exactly the kneeler you mean, I get a lot of my stuff from Gardener's Supply. I'll keep that one in mind.
    Ron, I have containers too. My latest tries are Figs, Lemon, Lime and blueberries. Herbs are great for pots and can't be beat for cooking with. Ah Tuscany....I was fortunate enough to get there last spring (travelling was killer, as was all the walking)but it is one of the most beautiful places I mhave ever been to.
    And Judy, I like your suggestion of neighborhood kids helping. I don't really have any. I do have a 4 and 7 year old but they have no interest in weeding, they wander off after 5 minutes!
    Thanks again for your posts, I know so many of us garden for the peace, serenity and therapy it gives us. Its good to hear from you.
  • I love to garden. I got one of the kneelers from this company and plan on getting the rolling garden seat this spring.


    Best wishes to you,

  • I too LOVE to garden but had to give it up for now because of my back pain and my legs. I also appreciate all the good suggestions.
    I can't get up off anything lower than a chair so I can no longer use my scooter with wheels that I use to use in my garden. If I fall I have to lay until someone comes along to help me up. My wonderful neighbors know to watch out for me.
    I had hoped to use my picnic table this year for containers but surgery prevented me from doing that.
    I am fortunate that my house sets on 3 large lots so i have a verity of fruit trees, gooseberries, grapes, rhubarb and a bed of asparagas. I also have some nut trees.
    The kneeler sounds like something I should be able to use for sure.

    Ron.....Your backyard sounds great. Anything like Tuscany has to be lovely in my opinion.

    I am not giving up on my gardening just as i am not giving up on life. I will have to live with pain but it will not rule my life. It will just have to take a back seat as I move forward.
    Sending a hug to all the gardeners out there. >:D<
    Patsy W
  • Just for anyone out there who would like to grow tomatoes and you are having issues in the garden. Grow them in the upside down containers. You can google upside down tomato and you will get a very inexpensive way to do this. All the things needed can be bought at your local hardware store and lots cheaper than the kit. Think I had maybe $10 in mine if that and it is all good for next year and enjoying some wonderful tomato this year. No bending twisting necessary. They are right at my height to pick from and to water have the wand as well. Those same websites have awesome ideas to make things easier as well. As cath said herbs can be grown in anything and what a wonderful smell as well.
  • I know that this may not be what you can afford or wish to do...but my experience has been wonderful. This is not promoting my company - just the general thought.

    I work for a large number of woman who from various reasons cannot take care of their own gardens. They are true gardeners and dislike that they are not able to do the majority of the own gardening. Because of the reasons they cannot gardening - when they try to - they pay the price. And then when they can't it becomes an irritation to look at.

    Gardens should put smiles on one someone face, never irritate. My suggestion to you is something I still do for my clients. I come and make a huge sweep thru their garden, sometimes on a monthly basis. In between my visits, they can then pudder as they wish. It is then more manageable for them. They don't have to sacrifice their body and pay with days of pain. But they can still do what they love. It doesn't become an eye sore and frustration...they get back to the love of what they love about gardening.

    My point is - if you can afford....bring someone in - who is a real, classic gardener to do all the heavy maintanence....make sure they love gardening like you - not the companies with college kids making 10 dollars an hour - a real gardener. Then you can enjoy the 'puddering' - It is an option. I get the most satisfaction from working for these ladies and men....they love the outdoors and the dirt, but just can't do the hard part....

    i am in the midst of trying to either fix me so I can continue of make some radical changes to my part in my own business....I cannot even imagine not doing this - but I guess I picture the day, that someone else does the hard part and then I can jsut do the ' puttering'.

    I hope this helps...patti
  • dilaurodilauro ConnecticutPosts: 9,875
    Patti, several neighbors in our community are trying to hook up with a professional landscaper to do just that. It would be a ala carte menu for different people. Some folks want everything taken care of, some want nothing and then there is the middle line.

    I love mowing my lawn, besides making it look nice, it gives me some exercise and about an hour and half to myself.

    But I could see myself having gardeners taking care of spring and fall cleanup, fertilizer , weed pulling. so that I am left with the things I really love to do outside
    Ron DiLauro Spine-Health System Administrator
    I am not a medical professional. I comment on personal experiences
    You can email me at: rdilauro@veritashealth.com
  • I was able to use my riding mower for the first time in about 4 years!! My pain Doc gave the OK.
    It was so good to be working outside in my lawn again!! Oh I know i was just riding around but to me it was woncerful.
    Like Lisa, I love to garden and work outside. I can't use my self propelled mower yet...but that day will come.
    It took me as long to climb onto the mower as it did to do the mowing coz of my weak legs but I did get on it and took off singing a happy tune.
    I am very tired and have savage back pain....but it's a good tired and a good pain.
    Patsy W
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