We all know that gardening is good for our health and wellbeing but what if painful, arthritic joints, swollen fingers and wrists or just general stiffness start to hamper your activities?
Change your tools
If your joints are starting to ache one of the first things to consider is changing your tools.
Try to go for lightweight implements with extended handles. A wide variety is available, all designed to make cultivation, weeding, pruning and tidying up easier.
Test them out for lightness and balance before buying and if possible try them out in the soil to make sure they feel right and you can manage them properly.
Low maintenance plants
The time may come when you just don't feel like gardening or you may have to spend some time resting or maybe in hospital. This is another occasion where it pays to plan ahead, choosing plants that will thrive without you.
Carefully selected shrubs and herbaceous perennials, for example, need less looking after than a lot of annual bedding plants.
Plants such as bergenias, cranesbill, lavender and periwinkle backed by shrubs such as berberis, senecio and viburnum tinus need little looking after once they have rooted deeply.
There are many other low-maintenance plants worth investigating. Your local garden centre should be able to help or there are plenty of gardening manuals which could give you more inspiration.
Lawns need regular mowing in summer so if you are away a lot or don''t have reliable help to call on it may be worth paving over the grass. You can leave spaces between the slabs for growing suitable plants.
If mowing is still an option remember to house the mower somewhere accessible, avoiding steps and tight corners.
Planting in containers makes sense because it means you can work at a comfortable height, especially if you find bending difficult. They also look attractive on a patio and are easy to maintain.
Annual bedding plants, heathers, herbs, spring bulbs and even fruit trees can be grown in this way, creating varied interest throughout the season. Heavy tubs can be mounted on castors if you need to move them around.
Buildings such as a greenhouse, potting shed, tool shed or cold frame should be sited as close as possible to each other. Grouping them together saves carrying pots, compost and seed trays over long distances. If possible, the greenhouse should be near the house for quick access in bad weather.
The lids of some cold frames can be very heavy to lift. Go for a raised frame with a hinged lid clad with lightweight corrugated plastic sheeting and connected to a pulley and counter balance weight. It will be safer and easier to manage.
Get the right greenhouse
Make sure that the staging is at a convenient height. You should be able to work comfortably while sitting on a stool with a back support. You may prefer to rest your elbows and forearms on the staging while pricking out seedlings.
Having the staging all at the same height also makes it easier to slide trays along without lifting them.
If you do your gardening from a wheelchair you need to choose your greenhouse carefully. Many have doorways that are too narrow and sills that are too high for wheelchair access.