Did winter seem longer than usual this year? Maybe a bit more somber and wearisome than it normally is? With COVID restrictions limiting our activities indoors and inclement weather limiting them outdoors, it felt like spring would never get here! But now as the days get longer and the thermometer slowly inches upwards, the excitement of spring is in the air. Lucky for us, gardening is an activity with easy social distancing so we can quarantine and putter without worry.

Just a few steps into the garden and we can see the work that needs to be done. First for me is to tidy up. Because I like to leave much of my garden as-is during the winter months, the blanket of leaves that served to insulate plants and allowed critters to winter over looks pretty sad now.

Gathering the wet, heavy, leaves not only improves the look of my beds but allows the plants to breathe and stretch out. I like to haul the semi-decayed leaves to a secluded spot where they can finish their decomposing so I can use them for mulch later on. I’m also cutting back dead growth on last year’s perennials, being careful not to cut the new leaves emerging from the ground. These two jobs, along with a little weed-pulling really improve the look of my gardens.

After a full day in the garden, my body surely feels it. While I soak in the tub, I like to evaluate my day and consider ways to improve my garden and my methods.

A few years ago in June, I shared with you Patty Cassidy’s helpful book, The Illustrated Practical Guide to Gardening for Seniors: How to Maintain a Beautiful Outside Space with Ease and Safety in Later Years. Filled with clever ideas and resources for active gardening seniors, it is still relevant for anyone looking for ways to make gardening easier and safer.

I really like Ms. Cassidy’s practical advice, such as acknowledging your limitations. Better to choose garden tasks you enjoy and that don’t deplete your energy. Then, if you can afford it, hire a handyman to do the more difficult tasks such as tree or shrub pruning and heavy lifting. If you can’t afford it, perhaps a batch of cookies or a nice meal would make that helper happy.

Come to find out, Ms. Cassidy has authored a follow-up book titled, The Age-Proof Garden: 101 Practical Ideas and Projects for Stress-Free, Low-Maintenance Senior Gardening, Shown Step by Step in More Than 500 Photographs. This book is filled with project ideas for seniors, such as creating a potted patio garden where plants are up close and easier to manage. Advice on growing vegetables and fruit trees in pots is detailed, and the colorful photos make me swoon. There are lots of ideas for combining plants in raised beds. One such bed grows a columnar apple tree, a fig tree and several fruiting currant plants. Also, read about projects for vertical gardening of both edibles and flowers which raises plants to eye-level and reduces the need for bending.

Whatever your projects may be this spring, doing them safely and carefully will make for a happy gardening season.

A few quick tips:

• For watering, use lightweight hoses or use an automatic watering system

• Make sure pathways are flat and free of tripping hazards

• Have seating close by for times when you need a break

• With COVID restrictions, take advantage of online gardening communities

• Use the largest pots possible. The bigger the pot, the less often it needs watering

• If possible, create your garden so you can see it from indoors

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