Gardening with a bad back.

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Ideas to help gardeners with a bad back and structural changes to make access, walking and working in the garden easier if you have a painful back.

Back pain can cause problems for gardeners, taking away the pleasure and benefits of gardening. Ignoring the condition when working in the garden, can actually make the pain worse.

Taking a few simple precautions like using the correct tools and changing your garden layout, can take the pain out of most gardening tasks and bring back the pleasure of gardening, providing exercise that can be beneficial to back pain sufferers. 

A few tips,that could help gardeners with a bad back.

Making a few simple changes to the way you carry out gardening tasks can make all the difference to whether you enjoy or avoid gardening, weeding, sowing seeds, growing and reaping the harvest. 
Not only the fresh produce but the feeling of well being you get from being outside, away from the television doing something you enjoy. There's a bonus too, careful  exercise can help improve bad backs.

Warming up for a few minutes by stretching before starting work will help loosen up and get blood flowing through your muscles, Just like the sub coming off the bench..

Correct posture when walking, lifting and bending over is important.

  • Bend at the knees,
  • lean over from the hips,
  • keep your back straight when bending.  
  • Your doctor may recommend you wear a back brace for extra support, 
  • wearing the correct shoes that cushion your feet and provide support for your arches will help.
  • Use a wheel barrow to move heavy stuff.

Take breaks to rest and have a stretch.

Not staying in one position for too long, especially when leaning or bending down  helps, So alter your position regularly as you dig, weed or plant.

Using adapted gardening tools with the right size handles that are lightweight and avoiding using heavy watering cans lesson the strain on your back  More about adapted gardening tools on my page tools for the disabled.

Adapting your garden layout with special attention to access, getting around easily and gardening tasks.

Bare patches encourage weeds to grow, mulching the surface of the soil with bark, compost from your bin or well rotted manure shuts out the weeds and helps to retain the soils moisture, saving on watering. Planting ground cover plants or laying a weed suppressant material and planting through it also helps to keep borders weed free.

Raising flower and vegetable beds reduces a lot of bending down, especially if they are raised to waist level. I have included a lot more information on my raised garden page.  Keeping the beds narrow reduces stretching and bending across to work. Even the most basic raised bed made from old car tyres can dramatically reduce back strain as you won't need to bend over your garden for long periods.

Lawns even small ones, are high maintenance needing regular mowing during spring summer and autumn. Wildflower lawns need less maintenance and can be interesting and fun.

Steep steps can put a lot of strain on your back, consider adapting them to have more steps with lower rises or even a gently rising ramp. Bear in mind the more steps you build the further the steps will need to run. Its better to build the steps backwards into the border rather than forward, causing a trip hazard. If adapting the steps isn't feasible adding handrails could help take the strain of your back. 

More about garden layout on my elderly garden design page.

Adapted gardening tools for working with a bad back.

Where possible use tools with long handles that reduce your need to stretch. Most tools can be extended by fitting specially designed extensions or telescopic arms.
Keep smaller tools in a holster on your belt to save bending down to pick them up.
Loppers and pruners with a ratchet mechanism and blades that are kept sharp help reduce the strain on your back.
You can have a look at a selection of  specially adopted gardening tools for gardening with a painful back here tools for the disabled. 

Digging my garden is painful.

No dig gardening is ideal for gardeners with bad backs, its also better for the soil and can produce better results than the old fashioned double dig method. It takes a bit of hard work setting up but if you have a painful back its well worth getting someone in to do the hard work for you.  All the information you or your helper will need is on my  gardening without digging page.

Planting with a bad back.

Slow growing shrubs are easy to maintain but if you are using easy to access, raised beds try a few  annuals and herbaceous perennials for interest and colour.

Use containers that are easy to reach for growing vegetables like courgettes, potatoes and lettuce. Try to group them in one spot as they will need more watering than border grown plants. container growing.

Fruit trees grown on dwarf root-stock or trained along trellis to keep them low so you can pick the fruit at a comfortable height. are a good idea and minimise back strain.

Use ground cover plants to reduce weeding and add colour and variety.

Try to make your garden as accessible as you can,  bear in mind the stuff we have discussed on this and other pages and you can plant almost anything. 

Planting tips and advice can be found by selecting the page from the menu top left, some pages lead to others. 

 Summary of Caring for your back in the garden tips. 

  • It's important to warm up before gardening. If it's cold wrap up warm. 
  • Avoid repetitive garden work by changing your position every now and then and taking regular breaks to avoid straining your back in your garden.
  • Garden layout is important for enjoyable gardening if you have a disability or bad back that makes bending difficult, This includes access, hard surfaces, raised beds, handrails and I have included measurements, materials and tips on the layout page. 
  • Avoid bare patches that encourage weeds to grow in your garden and use chipped bark or well rotted manure and compost to mulch the surface.This will greatly reduce the weeding needed in your garden. 
  • Raising flower and vegetable beds will reduce the need to bend down. Keeping flower and vegetable beds narrow will mean less stretching when you are weeding, planting and harvesting your fruit and vegetables.
  • Using adapted tools with long handles, such as forks and trowels and tools with extensions means less stretching.  
  • Pruning tools that have a ratchet system make cutting easier and saves putting pressure on the back. They are especially helpful in the garden if you have a weak grip or disability that makes squeezing painful.
  • Organise your garden and tools to be tidy. keep all cutting tools sharp. Keeping smaller gardening tools in a holster attached to your belt saves bending down to pick them up. Only half fill heavy watering cans. 
  • Leave a watering hose stretched out to areas of your garden that need a lot of watering. But make sure it's tucked into the edge of pathways so you don't trip over it. And remember, a good soaking is better than a sprinkle over the surface and saves time watering every day.
  • Digging the garden. You don't need to dig the garden over every year. Once the garden has been dug over to remove weeds just add a good helping of manure or garden compost in the Autumn and sprinkle some more over the garden through the year as it becomes ready from  your compost heap, or consider gardening without digging.
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We design and build gardens for disabled and wheelchair access, for the elderly, wheelchair users and gardeners with a disability.

 

This Wheeled gardening seat is a great gardening aid if you suffer from a bad back that makes bending difficult it reduces the stooping and bending associated with weeding and planting etc.

The swivel tractor-type seat lets you sit and work up to 23" above the ground and roll around on four large 10" diameter pneumatic tires.The tray under the seat is handy to carry your gardeners tools along with you..

  • Adjustable-height,45cm – 54cm. 360ºswivel tractor seat
  • Durable under-seat tray
  • Heavy-duty, weather-resistant, powder coated steel frame
  • Big 10" pneumatic tires
  • 300 lb. capacity
  • Overall dimensions: 33" L x 17-1/2" W x 23" H
  • Maximum weight capacity of 10kg (17st 4lb).
  • Comes complete with instructions for Home assembl