arthritis-friendly gardening hacks

Gardening Hacks

Love fall gardening, but find it painful with arthritis? Try these hacks to avoid straining joints.

If You Can’t Crouch Down

Hack: Go vertical. Wall gardens are easy to tend while you’re standing or sitting up. Buy one ready-made or make your own by hanging plastic pots on a wall. “Keep the plants between waist and shoulder height,” says Julia Henderson-Kalb, an occupational therapist at Saint Louis University in Missouri. 

If Gripping is Painful

Hack: Get tools with a soft, wide grip, or wrap handles with foam pipe insulation for extra padding.

If Pots are Too Heavy to Lift

Hack: Choose containers made of lightweight foam or plastic, says Amy Wagenfeld, PhD, an assistant professor of occupational therapy at Western Michigan University. Move them around easily using a wheeled cart.

If Reaching is Difficult

Hack: Use a planter that you can tend standing or sitting, like an elevated box with legs, or place plants on a raised bench, table or windowsill.

Advice from a Gardening Pro

Avid gardener Judy Abelove Shemtob’s osteoarthritis makes gardening more difficult and painful than it used to be, but the Scarsdale, New York, writer found these waysto make her garden grow.

  • I changed my approach and let family and friends help. A local gardener turns my soil and adds fertilizer. My son redesigned the fence for easier access. My husband waters twice a day.
  • I ignore “must-do” dates. While May 15 is the date Northeasterners put plants in the soil, I start some crops earlier and some later.
  • I don’t rush to put all my seedlings in the soil at once. I put in three plants at a time. Rest. Then I put in three more.
  • The end of harvest means a well-earned vacation from gardening. I keep a journal and plan for next year’s garden.


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