Gardening tools to help keep you active

by Nan Sterman

After a long, hard day of gardening, my body often aches with what I call a "good hurt." I'm lucky, because for many people, pain gets in the way of gardening. Arthritic joints, worn out knees and hips, unstable backs and other physical issues prevent people from doing what they love outdoors.

Fortunately, there are tools, technologies and techniques to help many gardeners keep on gardening, despite their physical limitations.

The National Arthritis Foundation has given an "Ease of Use" commendation to Fiskars for its PowerGear line of ergonomic pruning tools. PowerGear tools are designed to require far less squeeze to make a cut. These lightweight tools have handles that roll as you clench them, which helps reduce hand stress and fatigue.

If wrist strength is your issue, consider the Peta (UK) Ltd. Easy-Grip line of ergonomic gardening tools. Hand trowels, weeders and cultivators have a cushioned, full-hand grip that keeps your wrist and hand at their natural angle.

Peta also manufactures a series of long-handled forks, trowels and other tools with cuff supports that allow you to draw upon the strength of your entire forearm. The company is based in England; to find the nearest retailer on this side of the pond, e-mail

Dragging long, heavy hoses is difficult enough for the able-bodied. It's even more challenging for those with back issues or limited arm strength.

Cut down or eliminate the need to water with a product called DriWater. DriWater is 98 percent water mixed with 2 percent food-grade cellulose that makes it gel. A gel pac fits into a plastic tube set in any pot or alongside a root ball in the ground. The gel releases water slowly to keep roots moist from one to three months. When the gel breaks down, just refill each tube with a new pack.

To further eliminate backbreaking work, consider raised beds. They bring the garden to you, rather than your bending down to get to it and are one of the most convenient and comfortable ways to grow plants.

Raised beds can be built of wood, stone, brick or other materials. The taller the bed, the less stress on your back. Make raised beds no more than 4 feet wide. At that width, the center of each bed is easy to reach. Three-and-a-half-foot-wide beds work for people who have difficulty reaching as well as for children.

For wheelchair gardeners, the Green Thumb Garden is a portable planting box on legs. Each 24-inch by 32-inch garden box is 8-1/2 inches deep and comes with a special growing system. It divides the space into planting pockets that allow you to grow a surprising number of plants in a small space.

These options are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Ask any highly rated gardening professional from the List for more ways to garden with a "good hurt.

Nan Sterman is author of "California Gardener's Guide Volume II." She's a gardening expert, communicator and designer who has long grown an organic garden of plants that both feed her family and beautify her yard.

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