Gardening for a Lifetime

Gardening is one of those hobbies that you can do throughout your lifetime- but that doesn’t mean our bodies can go like they used to. Your muscles may get weaker and ache more readily. Falls can do more damage. Your energy and endurance may wane, and your skin may get thinner.

Gardening keeps you healthy in the mind and body, and can help prolong vitality better than most other activities. It’s been shown that gardening is excellent exercise that offers cardiovascular and muscular strengthening. The gentle, low impact physical stress that gardening offers is wonderful, especially for aging bodies.

There are some ways you can make gardening easier on your body as you age, which can help you avoid injury most importantly, but will also help you enjoy more- after all, you’ve earned it!


It’s important to keep in mind that the most important gardening tool we have is our body. Before you head out to the garden, spend 10 minutes warming up your muscles and get your heart pumping. Go for a brisk walk around the block and do a little stretching to get your body ready to go.

Paying a little more for well-made, ergonomically designed tools should be part of everyone’s retirement plan. There are many tools available that have been modified to make gardening tasks easier on your body, make sure you choose the proper tool for the task at hand. Try out tools before you buy because handle size, weight, and length of spindle are all key when it comes to using a tool properly.

Keep your tools sharp and clean for easier use. If your tools have wooden or metal handles, consider adding padded tape or pipe insulation foam for better grip.

Invest in a pair of really good gloves that you will keep on no matter what the task, cuts and abrasions in the skin of the hands are an invitation to infection. You should attend to any cuts, bruises or insect bites immediately. Wear long sleeves and sturdy pants to protect your skin from the sun and scratches.

Taking Precautions in the Heat

Extreme temperatures are dangerous for everyone, but as we age our bodies are less able to recover from heat stroke and dehydration as well as our bodies could when we were younger. The best time to work in the garden is in the morning and evening when it’s coolest. Make sure you take breaks as you feel necessary to prevent overheating and always bring a water bottle to prevent dehydration. A broad rimed hat can help keep you cool and don’t forget to apply sunscreen frequently.

Try to alternate sitting and standing positions at 30-minute intervals and take breaks in order for your body to rest from the repetitive movements, like digging. Rotate each gardening activity with ones that require different muscle groups and different body positions. If you have a cellphone, carry it with you any time you are outside the house in case you find yourself in a situation where you need to call for help.

Rethink the Landscape      

Choosing plants that are easy to maintain and able to withstand a variety of conditions is essential for an easy gardening experience. If possible, reduce the amount of high maintenance plants you have.

Container gardening can reduce your gardening stress, and the many different and attractive containers available add interesting focal points to your garden. You can also turn just about anything into a container garden. From teapots to milk jugs, wooden dressers to wine barrels, let your creativity run wild!

Consider installing raised beds that reduce bending over by allowing you to work in a standing or seated position. Raised beds can be constructed in many styles using a wide variety of materials. Various shapes and curves can be included to help blend the raised garden into your existing landscape, making it both attractive and functional.

Growing vegetables using vertical trellises reduces bending and picking. Many vegetables grow well when trellised like cucumbers, beans, squash, and melons.

Ask for Help 

Recruit help for heavy garden jobs and mowing. Trade your knowledge with a younger, beginning gardener or neighbor for those garden jobs that need a bit more strength. Your knowledge will help them garden better, and their help will save your back and aching joints.  Often family members are at a loss when it comes to gift ideas for that person that “has everything”. Make it easy for them by giving them a gardening tool wish list or ask for help in the garden as a gift.


Take your time doing things in the garden. Make lots of wonderful drinks to enjoy as you go along. Pet the cat, watch the butterflies and listen to the birds. This is what gardening is about!

If you have a gardening related question you can contact the UC Master Gardeners at 209-953-6112. More information can be found on our website:




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  • Blog Author

    Marcy Sousa

    Marcy Sousa is the San Joaquin County UC Master Gardener Program Coordinator. She is a Stockton native and enjoys teaching others about gardening. She has her bachelors from Stanislaus State in Permaculture. She has been with the program since 2007. Read Full
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