If, after reading my last post, you’ve weighed the pros and cons of downsizing and decided to stay put, there are a few things you can do to age in place comfortably. Call your local home builders association and ask about builders who are Certified Aging-In-Place Specialists (CAPS) for any indoor modifications you need to make to your house. For yard and garden help, read on.
Your goal outside should be to make gardening easier and more pleasant. It’s called Adaptive Gardening and involves adapting your landscape and garden design, as well as your plant palette and gardening techniques to your changing physical and mental capabilities. The challenge is to garden smarter, not harder. At the end of the day, your goal is to feel a sense of accomplishment rather than a sense of pain.
One of the first things to consider is reducing the amount of space you have under cultivation. Do you use all of your back yard? Many people have nothing but grass growing all the way to the back lot line but never use it for anything. Yet, you have to mow the lawn every week and keep it weeded.
One way to reduce the cultivated area of your yard is to plant trees and shrubs in the unused area, cut a wandering path through it and then let it grow naturally. Nature will fill in the bare spaces. I did this with the hill at the back of my property and now get more compliments than I got when I was cultivating it. The cultivated photo is on the left and the natural photo is on the right.
If you prefer lower, more colorful plants in that area, consider a wildflower garden. Initially, you prepare the soil and plant it much like you would a lawn. Instead of having to mow every week, you can sit back and enjoy the flowers. You only have to mow the wildflowers once a year, in the fall. The seeds, dropped by the flowers, will germinate and grow next season. One word of caution: I’ve heard complaints that some packages of mixed wildflower seeds that you see advertised may contain many weed seeds. With that in mind, you may want to buy the various seeds and mix them yourself. A horticulturist at your garden center can help you select the right seeds. Also, if you hire someone to mow your yard, be sure they’re willing to mow the wildflowers, and put it in the contract or you may be stuck with the job.
Speaking of mowing, when you add up the time or money necessary to mow the lawn, not to mention the fertilizer and weed and insect control that might be necessary, you’ll probably find that the lawn is a bigger drain on your time, energy and budget than any other gardening activity. That’s why many senior gardeners are replacing all or part of their lawns with low maintenance ground cover.
Here are two other aging-in-place gardening tips. Replace your perennials with shrubs. You don’t have to dig up shrubs periodically and split them to keep them within bounds. You only have to prune them occasionally. The second tip is to plant all your annuals in containers. Buy the plants in nursery pots and just slip them into lightweight decorative containers. This makes it easy to change them out when they’re through flowering and you can easily move the containers wherever they’re needed.
Adaptive Gardening while aging-in-place is covered in more detail in my book, The Geriatric Gardener: Adaptive Gardening Advice For Seniors. To order your copy, visit https://thepancoastconcern.com/the_geriatric_gardener.