Gardening tools for arthritic people

by Nathan Wei, MD, FACP, FACR

Nathan Wei is a nationally known board-certified rheumatologist and author of the Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit. It's available exclusively at this website... not available in stores.

Click here: Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

Gardening is one the most popular hobbies. It can be enjoyed by almost everyone.

Tips from the Arthritis Foundation and Arthritis Today

Gardening can be a vigorous activity or a sedentary one. Gardens and tools may be modified to help ease stress and strain on joints and allow you to continue to participate in one of the best leisure activities.

Looking after your garden can be a problem if you have arthritis or rheumatism. You may find bending difficult or you might not be able to get around too well or just suffer from general pain and stiffness.

Pain in the joints and weakness of the muscles make it difficult to garden in the conventional way. But there are a number of ways to overcome it. You can use different gardening methods, change the layout of paths and beds, select plants carefully and choose the right tools. It is important to use lightweight implements or ones which have extended handles. There are a wide variety of garden tools designed to make cultivation, weeding, pruning and tidying up easier. It may be important to handle tools before buying, so that you can test them for lightness and balance. If possible, try them out on the soil to make sure they feel right and that you can manage them properly.

Arthritis is actually a term that refers to many different conditions and it may vary in severity and extent. Therefore, all the suggestions offered cannot be appropriate for everyone. A gardener whose stiff knee gives minor discomfort when s/he is digging will change his/her techniques to place less strain on the knee. Someone with generalized arthritis, however, may have to work from a wheelchair or a stool. One has to accept much greater limitations than the other – yet both can enjoy gardening to the full. On some days you feel much better than on others and this affects your attitude to gardening as well as to everything else.

Gardening provides plenty of opportunities for healthy exercise in the fresh air and in pleasant surroundings. But overdoing things leads to more swelling and pain, making it necessary to rest completely until the flare subsides. The aim is to stay mobile and independent by gently exercising arthritic joints without subjecting them to too much stress. The amount of exercise will vary from one person to another. Prolonged activity of a repetitive nature is not a good idea. Your own experience will tell you how to get the balance right.

By changing jobs frequently you can exercise different sets of muscles. For example, a short spell of hoeing weeds on the vegetable plot should be followed by something gentler like pricking out seedlings while sitting at a bench in the greenhouse. It is tempting to carry on with one job until it is completed, but it is sensible to switch from one to another with rest periods in-between.

The small joints of the hand are damaged by too much stress and pressure. When carrying things try to spread the load by using both hands and arms, rather than taking the load with the fingers only. When lifting a tray of seedlings, pick it up with both hands and rest it on your palms. Better still, carry it on your forearms and keep your elbows tucked in to your ribs to reduce the strain on shoulders and elbows.

Raised beds, boxes, or containers enable gardeners with limited space or limited ability to continue growing flowers and vegetables. The ideal height for a bed for seated or wheelchair gardeners is two feet; the width can also be two feet if it is accessible from one side only, or can be increased to four feet so you will be able to work from both sides. For those who are unsteady but ambulatory, a height of 12” to 18” gives added support.

Raised beds can be constructed from many different materials. Some that are frequently used are railroad ties, stones, concrete, brick, pressure-treated lumber, and stacked tires.

Large containers also allow for vertical gardening and require less space for areas such as patios and balconies. Flue tile, drainage pipes, oak whiskey barrels and stacked tires are all containers which can be used for gardening.

When selecting containers for gardening, consider their durability, stability, size, cost and adaptability. They should be a comfortable working height, allowing for sitting, standing, or leaning gardeners. Also consider the overall design of your garden and the cost of materials.

Finally, don’t forget window boxes. They are an easy way for many people to enjoy gardening while brightening up their homes, and there is a large selection available at most gardening centers and nurseries.

Gripping a rake or hoe tightly for any length of time can cause pain and swelling of the knuckles. By slipping a sponge rubber sleeve over the shaft of the tool you can hold it less tightly. This will also absorb any jarring. Plastic or rubber foam insulation sleeving used for domestic central heating pipes and available at home maintenance stores can be used for many tools.

By planning gardening jobs carefully you can avoid unnecessary effort. If problems with your hips, knees and ankles mean walking is difficult try to avoid too many trips up and down the garden. Take all you need in one trip. On the other hand, if you need to protect your shoulders, elbows and wrists it is better to make several trips carrying a small amount each time.

There may be ways to reduce effort simply by looking at the job in a different way. For instance, instead of filling a large watering can from a tap outside the back door and carrying it to the bottom of the garden, why not have one or two open-topped tanks placed in the garden where you need them most? You can fill them from time to time with a hosepipe.

Plants can be watered using a small plastic can dipped into the nearest tank. To make the tanks less visible you can 'hide' them by surrounding them with suitable plants.

There are times when you need help with some of the heavier work, but be careful not to let your assistant take on more than is really necessary. It is too easy for an enthusiastic friend to be too willing to help, with the result that you become a spectator. You do not want to lose the pleasure and satisfaction of doing your own gardening. Decide how much you can do yourself and how much you need to delegate – for example, you may be glad of help with heavy digging but you can manage the raking and seed-sowing or planting on your own.

By all means seek help when it comes to shifting heavy loads such as bags of compost – especially when lifting them out of the boot of a car. You can probably find help at a garden store, but if you are on your own when you get home, buy two small bags instead of one large one, even though they will probably cost more.

There may be times when you just don't feel up to gardening for a while. At these times the garden has to grow without you. This is where it pays to plan ahead, choosing plants which will thrive during your absence.

A garden filled with carefully selected shrubs and herbaceous perennials needs less attention than one consisting of a variety of annual bedding plants. In the first instance the bare soil is effectively covered, excluding light and preventing weed growth.

Plants like bergenias, cranesbill, lavender and periwinkle backed by shrubs such as berberis, escallonia, Senecio 'Sunshine' and Viburnum tinus can take care of themselves for long periods once their roots are deep into the soil. It is important to water them well during their first summer after planting. There are many low-maintenance plants which you can discover by consulting a good gardening manual or by seeking advice from your local garden center.

Lawns need mowing regularly throughout the summer, so if you are frequently away from home and have no reliable help it may be worth replacing the lawn with a paved area. You can leave spaces here and there between slabs for growing suitable plants.

Working in the garden can be much easier if you give some thought to the layout. Ideally there should be firm paths alongside the beds and borders, so that most of the cultivation can be done without having to step onto the soil. This is important if you have difficulty keeping your balance on uneven ground. To achieve this, the beds should be quite narrow. If you can get to the bed from both sides it should be no more than 4 feet wide, so that the middle can be reached comfortably without stretching. Non-slip paving slabs make safe paths; they can also be used for shallow steps where the ground level changes. Wooden handrails alongside steps are also helpful.

If you find it difficult to bend to ground level or work from a wheelchair a raised bed would be helpful. It would also be more interesting than a one-level garden. Raised beds can be expensive to build and you will need extra soil to fill them. However, if your garden soil is heavy clay a raised bed gives you the opportunity to create an easily managed area by bringing in good topsoil.

If you have a sloping garden you can make a terrace by building a low retaining wall alongside a level path and backfilling with soil, which has the effect of making a raised bed. Even raising the soil level a small amount makes management much easier. After all, getting down to the last foot is the most difficult.

A wide range of containers can be used for working at a convenient height. These look attractive on a patio and are easy to look after because they are near the house. Annual bedding plants, heathers, herbs, spring bulbs and even fruit trees can be grown in this way, creating varied interest throughout the season. Heavy tubs can be mounted on castors should you need to move them around.

An herbaceous border requires a lot of attention at different times of the year – staking, pruning, dividing, dead-heading and weeding – so give careful thought before making one. You can reduce the need for staking taller plants by choosing those that are self-supporting, for instance lupins, phlox, achillea and Japanese anemones.

If you cannot reach the back of the border easily, it is better to plant shrubs which require less attention. Euphorbia wulfenii, Euonymus fortunei, Aucuba japonica, Potentilla fruticosa and Choisya ternata are good examples. They form a pleasant background for lower-growing species at the front. Small annuals such as pansies and marigolds can be planted near the path, but an edging of pinks or lady's mantle is just as effective and will create less work.

You can buy fruit trees that have been grafted onto dwarfing rootstocks. This restricts their growth, making the fruit easy to reach. They also bear fruit early, so you do not have to wait more than a year or two for your first harvest. You can grow fruit trees in a variety of forms – such as slanting rows, and espaliers and fans against a wall or fence. You restrict their height to whatever suits you by pruning in August.

Gooseberry plants can be grown on a 'leg' – a single clear stem 2–3 feet high. This saves you bending down to pick them. Strawberries grown through holes in a barrel are easier to gather and they are less likely to be spoiled by slugs or mold.

Growbags that have been used for tomatoes and cucumbers in the greenhouse can be used again the following year for salad crops such as lettuce, radishes, spring onions and beetroot. They all do well in these second-hand bags, which can be placed on an old table or bench if it is more convenient to reach them. You can, of course, also grow tomatoes outside in the garden in growbags if your garden soil is unsuitable, but these must be in fresh compost.

If you need a labor-saving way of growing vegetables you could try the deep bed method. In this method the plot is divided into strips 4 feet wide, separated by paved paths. The ground should be well dug over, incorporating a generous amount of manure, peat or well-made garden compost into each trench. Do not walk on the soil after this stage. All cultivation, planting, weeding, feeding and harvesting is done from the paths using tools long enough to reach to the center.

Because the soil is not compacted, sowings of root crops can be spread more densely than normal over the whole surface, because the growing plants push each other sideways in the easily crumbled soil. There is no need to sow in rows. Such dense planting reduces the competition from weeds and results in crops which are at least as high as conventional methods, despite the extra space devoted to paths. The following autumn you lay a fresh supply of manure on the surface. This works down into the soil by the action of worms and by the effects of weather during the winter. A little light cultivation the following spring will make sure it is completely mixed in. No further digging is necessary for several years.

The initial digging of the plot may be difficult, but if you can get help at this stage the deep bed method of growing vegetables has much to commend it. The fact that the soil is loose and crumbly in the bed raises it a few inches above the level of the paths. This makes it easier to reach; it also means it warms up quickly in spring, improving germination. A gardener with arthritis can sit at a stool on the path and reach the middle of the bed easily with suitable tools. If your reach is very limited the width of the bed should be reduced accordingly. Do not make each bed too long, because you will have to walk all round it to get to the other side.

While the lawn is a traditional feature of garden design, if you find it difficult to look after there is no real reason to feel you have to have one. You could substitute narrow beds separated by paths, or pave the area, leaving spaces in which to plant shrubs or annuals.

Some people increase the size of their lawn to reduce the area of cultivated borders, but this may be a case of solving one problem and creating another. A lawn needs regular attention throughout the season if it is to look attractive. It can be expensive to maintain, taking into account the cost and maintenance of a lawnmower and the price of lawn dressings.

Island beds in lawns are fashionable but they do make mowing more complicated. It is easier to maneuver the lawnmower if the shape is simple and the edges are straight.

For someone who suffers from arthritis the most difficult part of mowing the lawn can be getting the machine out in the first place. Store your mower somewhere accessible, avoiding steps and tight corners.

If you need buildings such as a greenhouse, potting shed, and tool shed, try to place them near each other. Clustering buildings helps to avoid carrying pots, compost and seedtrays unnecessarily. If possible the greenhouse should be near the house for quick access in unfavorable weather. This applies also to the compost bin and the dustbin.

The lids of some glazed cold frames are very heavy to lift. A raised frame with a hinged lid wrapped with lightweight corrugated plastic sheeting and connected to a pulley and counterbalance weight is much safer and easier to manage.

A greenhouse shelters plants from wind and frost and provides pleasant working conditions for the gardener during bad weather. It should be in good light but not necessarily placed where it receives full sun all day, otherwise it will become too hot in summer. A south-west aspect is ideal. Some shade from nearby trees in the middle of the day helps keep it cool.

'Coolglass', a special white paint, can be sprayed or painted onto the roof glass in early summer to reflect the sun's rays and reduce the temperature. Although rain will not affect it, it nevertheless wipes off easily in autumn when you no longer need it.

The staging should be at a convenient height. You should be able to work comfortably while sitting on a stool with a back support. You may prefer to rest your elbows and forearms on the staging while pricking out seedlings. If all the staging is at the same height it is easy to slide trays along without lifting them. It is fortunate that modern composts, pots and seedtrays are much lighter than they were in the “old days.”

Plants in the greenhouse depend largely on the grower for the right environment in regard to temperature, ventilation, light and moisture. Nowadays thermostatically controlled fan heaters, automatic vent openers and capillary watering systems go a long way to providing these conditions with a minimum of effort on the part of the gardener. By using growbags to grow tomatoes and cucumbers you can even avoid digging the border soil.

If you need to do your gardening from a wheelchair you should choose your greenhouse with care. The doorways on many greenhouses are too narrow and the sills too high for wheelchair access. Greenhouses with double door width and an unobstructed threshold are available.

Even slow-growing hedges like yew need trimming once a year, but hand shears tend to hurt arthritic joints. An electric hedge trimmer is not much better; it is quite heavy and the vibration does not help. Try to keep your hedges low so you do not need to stretch too much. Lavender and box make good low hedges for dividing up the garden. A row of fruit trees grown as rows makes a decorative 'hedge', perhaps to separate an ornamental garden from the vegetable plot. A properly erected wooden fence treated with preservative will last for many years without attention and can be used as a support for climbing plants.

During the middle of the day in summer, shade is welcome. Bear this in mind when deciding where to plant trees. Perhaps the shady part of the garden would be a good place to have a garden seat.

Make sure the one you buy is not too low and has a comfortable backrest to provide adequate support. Trees and hedges reduce the strength of the wind, making the garden more sheltered and private. This encourages birds, butterflies and other beneficial insects to visit your garden.

The key to making soil cultivation easier is to improve the quality of the soil itself. Heavy clay can be lightened by mixing in manure or garden compost to improve its structure and drainage. The addition of sand or grit allows air into the soil, making it easier for roots to penetrate. It also makes it easier to dig in the future.

Turning the soil over in autumn exposes it to winter frosts and makes it easier to break down, ready for sowing the following season. Organic matter added to light sandy soil helps feed plants and retains moisture in hot weather. It is important to turn as much of your garden waste into compost as you can; fresh stable manure or high quality compost may be expensive and hard to come by.

A border spade has a smaller blade than a digging spade so you will not be tempted to dig large spadefuls. It is lighter and easier to handle and, anyway, you should take small bites at the soil. Soil tends to cling to ordinary carbon steel spades, which adds weight, so stainless steel is better if you can afford it. It is also easier to clean afterwards. Spades with extra-long handles, which give greater leverage and reduce the need to bend, are now available.

If your soil is light and crumbly use a border fork instead of a spade because it is lighter and penetrates the soil more easily. If bending is a problem try clamping an auxiliary handle part-way down the shaft of your spade or fork. This saves you leaning over too far and provides a comfortable grip for your lower hand without twisting your wrist. If the soil is light and sandy you may not need to dig at all. A deep trench for seed-sowing and planting can be created with a soil tiller. This long-handled tool has four star-wheels which break down the soil into fine particles as you move it backwards and forwards. Well-rotted farmyard manure spread over the surface can be incorporated into the soil with the soil tiller. This is a good tool for use with a deep bed system.

Perennial weeds like dandelions and couch grass should be carefully forked out without breaking their roots. As a last resort, bad infestation can be treated with a weedkiller.

Annual weeds should be hoed while they are young and easy to deal with. They should not be given the chance to set seeds. Use a hoe that skims the soil surface back and forth, chopping off the weeds at ground level. The push-pull hoe has thin sharp blades which do this job with minimum effort. Like the spade, the push-pull hoe can be fitted with an extra-long handle to make it easier to use; the implement rests on the soil surface all the time.

The draw hoe requires more effort since it has to be continually lifted and put down again. It is tempting to use it with a chopping action, but this causes jarring of the joints. The continuous jabbing action required by the Dutch hoe has a similar effect, and so should be avoided.

Weeding by hand is tiring if you cannot reach easily down to ground level. The 'Baronet' weed puller has a steel blade which is pushed into the ground alongside the weed. The weed is gripped and pulled out by closing the handle; it can then be transferred to a bucket or barrow. Although this implement only deals with one weed at a time and may seem slow compared with hoeing, it saves having to rake together all the weeds and picking them up afterwards. It is also easy to use sitting down. An effective way of controlling annual weeds on an established flower border is to cover the soil with a 2-inch layer of shredded bark. This excludes light from the soil and suppresses weed germination. An alternative method using the same principle is to cover the prepared bed with black polythene, then plant through slits cut in the sheeting. A layer of gravel scattered over the top holds down the polythene and improves the border's appearance. This method is also effective against perennial weeds.

The Wolf seed drill enables you to sow rows of vegetable seeds without bending down to ground level. The loaded tool is pushed along the drill, distributing seed evenly and accurately as it goes along. It is suitable for most vegetables except peas and beans, but these can be sown by dropping them into the trench down a 3-foot length of PVC waste pipe 2 inches in diameter. A lightweight mini-rake can be used to draw a shallow layer of soil over the trench to cover the seeds.

Planting out summer bedding plants is another job involving a lot of bending. You can avoid this problem altogether by growing only shrubs and herbaceous perennials in the borders. However, sitting at the edge of the bed you can take out a hole with a long-handled trowel, place a small plant on the trowel and lower it carefully into the hole. Pot-grown plants are the most suitable for this technique.

Ideally a main water supply should be laid to a central point so that a short length of hosepipe will easily reach any part of the garden. Carrying water in cans and buckets is very tiring and time-consuming. Besides keeping one or two tanks in the garden which you fill periodically with a hosepipe, you can collect rainwater in water containers connected to the roof of the greenhouse or garage.

In a dry summer when drought ban is likely, repetitive watering by hand may be a really serious problem. Free-draining borders in full sun are best used for growing drought-resistant plants such as wallflowers, rosemary, broom and santolina. These come to no harm if they dry out for a few days.

If you sink a flowerpot to the rim in the ground alongside a plant and fill it from a small watering-can the water will be directed straight to the roots without wastage. Mulching with shredded bark reduces evaporation, but it should only be applied to soil which is already moist. One advantage of dry soil is that the weeds do not germinate so quickly.

Hanging-baskets retain their moisture longer in light shade, and happily some of the most popular basket plants like fuchsias, ivy-leafed geraniums, trailing lobelias and busy Lizzies thrive in these conditions. A hanging-basket sprayer is useful for watering a basket too high to reach with a watering-can. You can buy special hanging-basket compost containing moisture-retentive crystals so you don't have to water so often. These crystals are also available separately for mixing in standard compost.

The CK ratchet pruner requires less effort to cut through twigs than most other implements. Instead of one big squeeze it takes up to four 'bites' to make the cut, considerably reducing the strain on the knuckles. It has a sharp blade and makes a very clean cut.

A two-handed cutter will give good leverage without much effort and can be held lightly against the palms and wrists, protecting the finger joints from strain. A long-handled cutter enables you to cut out branches low down in the centre of rose bushes without scratching your hands and arms. Fiskars makes a very lightweight plastic pruner, but there are other models available.

The 'Baronet' flower gatherer is good for light pruning where you have to reach a long way. It has a long handle and the cut stem is gripped in the jaws so that it does not fall to the ground. This 'cut and hold' action is also a feature of some Wolf tools.

Light trimming after flowering of heathers and lavender can conveniently be done with trimming shears, developed from sheep shears. This very sharp, lightweight implement is operated one-handed with a gentle squeezing action and requires minimal finger movement.

Prolonged gripping and squeezing of all these pruning tools hurts finger joints and wrists and should therefore be done only for brief periods of time.

There are still a few manual lawnmowers and these have special handles enabling you to do most of the pushing with your stomach, thereby protecting your arms and wrists.

Most mowers now have power-driven blades and include electric models (e.g. Black & Decker) which are fairly light to push. You should always use a circuit-breaker with electrical equipment in the garden to guard against serious accident. Cordless battery-operated mowers are now available; these can be easier to maneuver, but some models have heavy batteries. Gasoline mowers are not recommended for people with arthritis because they are so heavy. Mowers with gas engines are also sometimes difficult to start.

It is not essential to collect the grass cuttings. In dry weather especially it is better to leave them on the lawn. Reduce the weight you have to push by leaving off the grasscatcher.

The appearance of the lawn is improved if the edges are neatly trimmed with edging shears. Some companies make lightweight shears with aluminum handles which are well padded to give a comfortable grip and absorb jarring. Their long handles make it unnecessary to stoop. If you prefer to use a nylon cord trimmer, Allen Power Equipment has a model which operates vertically for lawn edging. You simply walk along holding it against the edge of the lawn.

Annual weeds, leaves and soft prunings should be picked up regularly to keep the garden tidy. They should be properly composted and eventually returned to the soil to restore its nutrient content. The composting of garden waste is greatly accelerated by feeding it through an electric shredder. The shredded material is then stacked in a compost bin where, in just a few weeks, it heats up rapidly and breaks down to produce valuable compost. There are several makes of shredder.

You can easily collect small quantities of weeds in a bucket or bag but if you have a large garden you may need a wheelbarrow.

A wheelbarrow with two wheels and a single handle can be helpful. The weight of the contents is placed mainly on the axle rather than on your arms. This type of wheelbarrow can be maneuverable and easy to empty without the need to bend down or twist. There are newwheel barrows coming on the market all the time. An increasing number are made of plastic and are easy to use.

A rake can be fitted with a smaller head for raking between plants in the border. Leaves and weeds can be picked up without bending by using a special garden grab.

Sitting down to garden really is worth a try. There are several advantages to gardening while sitting; in particular, the weight on load-bearing joints is reduced. It is not as tiring, so you can work longer without discomfort. If your balance is not good, sitting provides stability. If you normally walk with a stick, sitting leaves both hands free; and because you are near the ground you can use shorter, and lighter, tools.

Sitting does, of course, limit your mobility and reach, but it is surprising how big an area can be tended from one position. However, you are restricted to whatever you can comfortably reach from the edge of the lawn or path; it is risky to place a stool on uneven ground. The width of the border should be carefully considered when planning your garden layout. The border should not be wider than 4 feet and considerably less if your reach is restricted. A very wide border will be made more accessible by putting in an extra path on the other side.

There are several good garden stools available. Some are made of lightweight plastic, and don't go rusty if left out in the rain. There is also a tubular steel model available – this has a higher seat making it easier to get up from. They all have runners along the base, rather than four separate feet, so are less likely to sink in soft ground. They come with padded comfortable seats.

Whether you sit down or stand up to garden, the important thing is to enjoy yourself. Gardening should be a pleasure, not a pain. If you keep that perspective and help yourself, you can still reap a tremendous amount of enjoyment.

Further tips:

An important factor to consider when selecting an arthritis-friendly garden tool is how it feels in your hand. The pain of arthritis and hand deformity can make an enjoyable activity like gardening a challenge. A cushioned, non-slip, comfortable grip makes all the difference in your ability to control the tool.

Assess your own limitations prior to selecting arthritis-friendly garden tools. Also, assess the type of garden you have and the type of plants you need to care for. How far can you bend or reach? Is the tool long enough to compensate for your physical limitations?

A lightweight, easy-to-control garden tool is best. Since arthritis can sap your strength, choose a tool which feels manageable. A cumbersome, heavy tool defeats the purpose.

Make sure the garden tool is made of durable material. A long handle won't do you any good if it snaps in half! The material must be sturdy and long-lasting. Metal components with cushioned grips are ideal.

Since arthritis-friendly garden tools are designed with special features such as long handles and rubber grips, extra cost can be involved. Consider the added convenience and independence the product offers when deciding if it is worth the extra cost.

Ergonomic garden tools help you maintain your favorite outdoor hobby with ease and maximum joint protection.

1) Wrist-Easy Ergonomic Hand RakeErgonomic hand rake designed for maximum comfort and minimal strain on your wrist and joints.

2) Wrist-Easy Ergonomic TrowelErgonomic tool for digging designed to keep your arm straight while offering comfortable support and good leverage.

3) Wrist-Easy Ergonomic Hand HoeErgonomic tool designed to keep your arm straight while you weed and hoe for maximum joint protection.

4) Long-Neck Grass ShearsLong neck grass shears take the bending out of weeding and trimming.

5) Fiskars® Power-Lever Hedge Shears 10" full-hardened carbon steel blades. Durable steel handles with dual action comfort grip. Power lever cutting action. Self-sharpening blades.

6) 200 Foot Self-Winding Hose ReelSelf-winding reel winds up to 200 feet of hose.

7) Ace Garden Kneeler/Bench Includes high density foam pads on both sides, kneeler and seat. Legs fold flat for easy storage. Steel frame.

8) Fiskars® Pruning Stick 1.25 cutting capacity. Dual action. Powerstroke cutting action. Rotating cutting head for the best cutting position. Lightweight aluminum.

9) Self-Watering Raised BedsNow you can enjoy all the advantages of raised bed gardening, plus the added benefit of watering weekly instead of daily. Read the specifications.

10) Fist-Grip Garden Tools - CultivatorDesigned to relieve stress at the hand and wrist, the Fist-Grip garden tools will enable individuals with limited grasp, muscle weakness or arthritis to enjoy gardening. Trowel available too.

More general tips for gardening with arthritis.• Replace annuals with perennials or shrubs.
• Plant ground covers and mulch to keep weeds down.
• Lay paving stones throughout the garden so you don't have to reach too far.
• Install an automatic watering system.
• Raised beds built at a convenient height mean you can avoid the need to bend or kneel, and an edge just wide enough to sit on can also be useful. However, don't make the ledge so wide that it is difficult to lean over it.

Choose your time of day. If you're always stiff in the morning, plan to garden in the afternoon. Always do a few stretches before you start, to loosen and warm your muscles.

Switch activities, and rest between jobs. Avoid the temptation to complete one job, like weeding a whole section of the garden, in one spurt. Repetition of the same activity can lead to inflammation and pain, making it necessary to rest until the flare up settles.

Gripping or squeezing a tool tightly for any length of time is likely to hurt wrists and make the knuckles painful and swollen. This can be overcome by adding a sponge rubber sleeve to the handle of the tool. It will be much easier to grip and will also absorb jarring.

Try to use lightweight tools - aluminium and polymer are both extremely light. Stainless steel, while heavier, is also excellent because the soil tends to slide off, instead of sticking.

There are also special tools designed specifically to reduce muscular stress and fatigue. Two brands worth looking out for are the Peta Fist-Grip system from the UK and the Wolf Garten Multichange Light brand from Germany.

Choosing the Right Tool

You can purchase special gardening tools, but you can also adapt normal ones. If you adapt tools, keep these considerations in mind: 1) the length of the handle; 2) the weight of the tool; and 3) the special function or adaptability of the tool.

For most gardeners, long-handled and lightweight tools are preferable to those with short, thick, and heavy handles. The extra long handles and light weight reduce stress on weak backs, and enable you to work longer without tiring.

For some persons, however, short-handled tools can be preferable. Short-handled tools can provide leverage and practicality for wheelchair bound or seated gardeners, and extra thick handles can aid arthritic hands or hands with weak grips. An easy way to thicken the grip of a tool is to add foam padding or layers of tape to its handle.

For those with no hand grip, a universal cuff can be used. It attaches to the arm or forearm, and allows a lightweight tool to be attached. A double-handled grip can be purchased to add to your regular hoe or other tool, enabling you to use both hands and reduce pressure on your back.

Short-handled Swan Neck: lets you perform delicate weeding jobs with the precision and ease of a full-sized hoe; easy to maneuver in closely planted areas; great for raised beds and window boxes.

Kneeling Pad: prevents aching joints, wet knees, and compacted soil.

Hand tools with trigger-grip handles and rounded-out thumb rests: virtually indestructible; never rusts, bends, or breaks; rubberized coating makes them easier and more comfortable to hold; bright color makes them easy to locate.

Easy Wheeler: small enough to maneuver down short paths but strong enough to carry a bale of hay; sturdy handle offers support; weighs only 12 pounds.

Flower Gatherer: will cut flowers, remove thorns, and crush stems, for either right-or left-handed use.

Long-reach Pruner: trigger-grip action, very lightweight aluminum; five feet long; good for difficult-to-reach areas.

1. Contoured grips provide more control if you have a weak grip.
2. Larger diameter padded handles may be easier to hold if you have arthritis.
3. If you have problems with your wrist, pistol grip handles give the optimum safe grip especially when fitted with arm supports.
4. Stainless steel or polished aluminium is easy to clean and reduces soil adhesion. 5. Plastic and composite tools do not have the impact on the soil that metal provides. They vary in quality but the best ones are extremely strong and super-light. Best suited to lighter soil types.
6. Beware of cheaply-made, pressed steel tools. These are likely to bend, especially forks and longer handled trowels which do not have the strength to cope with the extra force that is often applied by people with poor balance or co-ordination.
7. Wrist straps and fingerguards may be useful if you have a weak grip to prevent you dropping the tool. The strap can also be used to hang the tools up in your shed, or on a trolley.

Garden Hose Shut Off Valves Grip

New garden hose shut off valves. Easy to turn grip slides on most 2 inch garden hose spigots. Improves leverage for easy turning of shut off valves. Ergonomic feel makes watering a pleasure again. Eliminates stress and pain in the hand caused by arthritis. EasyTurn valve shut off handle fits most water shut-off valves, propane tank valves, and water closet valves. Keep a number of them near all water shut-off valves and in your toolbox.

Get more information about gardening tools for arthritic people and related issues as well as...

• Insider arthritis tips that help you erase the pain and fatigue of rheumatoid arthritis almost overnight!

• Devastating ammunition against low back pain... discover 9 secrets!

• Ignored remedies that eliminate fibromyalgia symptoms quickly!

• Obsolete treatments for knee osteoarthritis that still are used... and may still work for you!

• The stiff penalties you face if you ignore this type of hip pain...

• 7 easy-to-implement neck pain remedies that work like a charm!

• And much more...

Click here Second Opinion Arthritis Treatment Kit

Return to arthritis home page.

Copyright (c) 2004 - All Rights Reserved

How to Beat Arthritis! Get our FREE monthly Ezine and get your life back!

Enter your E-mail Address
Enter your First Name (optional)

Don't worry — your e-mail address is totally secure.
I promise to use it only to send you Insider Arthritis Tips.