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lower maintenance for older gardeners


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#1 shelley welch

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Posted 26 January 2012 - 03:23 PM

i am looking forward to working with my mom in her garden this year, helping her out where age or absence of my dad is noted. i have helped her little in the past, we have different perspectives on gardening. she likes to be in control of her own stuff, yet her garden now overwhelms her. mom and dad had dug wide beds along the entire back of their subdivision property that have been perennials, vegetables, and now many weeds. the soil has a lot of sand in it, so it warms up and drains quickly.(i think her natural community is dry-mesic southern forest-john R and square lake). they have no trees in the back and the trees they once had grew little and finally died. my mom is constantly dividing her perennials because they multiply so well. my dad built many wooden toys that currently decorate their yard, an arbor like mine, maybe the windmill is still there, and things to make squirrels fall on their heads!!! there is also a mary statue that is important to my mom and the garden around it is haphazard. i am trying to work into conversation a casual request to take some photos and copy the mortgage survey. i have already tripped myself up suggesting that we'll trim up her spirea in the front yard properly this year. i would appreciate any and all of your thoughts on this delicate subject!!!
shelley

#2 suej

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 11:13 AM

As I am in my 60s and an aging gardener, I have looked at my large back beds that now overwhelm me. I have decided to plant more 3 season flowering shrubs, conifers, and easy care grasses with some easy care perennials here and there. There are native plants and shrubs that can be used along with non-natives. I am also planning on increasing my use of ground covers to cut down on the weeds this year. My favorite grasses are Karl Forester, native Little Bluestem, and native Prairie Dropseed. There are many flowering small shrubs with good fall color that your mother can use. Good luck in your gardening transition journey with your mom. You might want to make a section of her garden in memory of your dad with the things he made around it with plants and flowers. I wish I had made some raised beds instead of the mounded variety which would have been easier on the back. There are also a lot of ergonomic garden tools out there that your mom can use. I like my Step2 kneeler/seat combo to garden.

Suej

#3 Anne

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 03:19 PM

Hi Shelley,
I've been living the same experience for two years now. Here's what I've learned:

(1) Remember - it's your Mom's garden. She always wins. Let her tell you what she needs help with
(2) Weeding and watering is a big help!!!
(3) Digging out, splitting and replanting is a big help!
(4) When you're helping her out with the drudge chores - make some suggestions for changes - don't try to change everything. If she agrees to a change and likes it - she'll be more agreeable to others (maybe sometimes....:-)
(5) Just enjoy the day in the garden with your Mom.

Good luck. This will be my third year helping her out - we've got one corner looking really good - but at least everything else is weeded and doesn't look neglected...and she actually mentioned how good the corner looked because it was "simpler and cleaner". Maybe I'll get to prune the overgrown evergreens this year......
Anne

#4 georgejean

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Posted 28 January 2012 - 04:36 PM

Shelly

I agree with Ann. All her suggestions were really good. I'm speaking as a gardener who is fast going to be 70. I'm also looking at making my perennial beds less time consuming. Think of mulch once you get beds weeded. Also, watch your adverbs and adjectives. They can be judgemental sounding without ever meaning to.

#5 Janet Macunovich

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Posted 31 January 2012 - 06:27 AM

We've helped a number of people whose gardens and lives (not age, necessarily!) had become less compatible. Currently we're helping two good friends in two separate gardens, one approaching 90, one just past. Both pretty darned able, yet. But not as they were.

Something Steven and I realized, and keep coming back to, is that people KNOW when they can't anymore, know things must change. Yet the habits of a lifetime can't just change, especially if there is nothing to put in their place. That is, we notice with these two that as soon as we get something under control -- and we include reducing bed size/plant number as tactics in that effort -- their response is, "Isn't this wonderful, I'm back in charge... so let's make a new garden!"

For all these years it's what they've done. Without some substitute for that impulse, what else should we expect? Each of our friends is simultaneously learning to do other things; in one case, that's learning to use the computer, email and how to send You-tube links to kids and grandkids. Those other tihngs are starting to replace the garden time.

We try each time we're there to throw ourselves into the things-that-are-too-much, such as those Anne lists. We don't try to do everything but we try to do the area we do completely, and get it mulched and edged against invaders, so that section at least will "hold" a while. In one ccurrent case we think seeing that -- how it took all-out effort by two people for a day or more to bring things back to level -- resulted in the agreement to reduce one garden's size substantially.

And the days are fun, because we're out there together. Isn't it great any time, any age, when we have a companion gardening with us?

We also kind of transferred that closed-up garden space, made a trade so to speak. We proposed clearing the grass away under several evergreens, not for garden but for mulch for the sake of the trees' roots which don't compete well with grass. Sounds like that wll "do" to fill the "make a new garden" urge. It's making things better for old friends, the trees. We're talking about ordering seeds of short native wildflowers for that "bare" area, to be next year's watched-for new thing.

Making a new plan, as you aare aiming to do, can be that new thing. Planning by committee takes longer, always, and I chafe at that. However, in this case it's essential. It's a substitute for what is no longer there/can no longer be done.

We sure hope we have someone like you around us one day. No matter how long we live, we know WE will want a new thing, new plant, new garden, new interest every spring!
Janet

#6 msr

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Posted 27 March 2012 - 09:03 AM

I helped my mom keep her garden neat for several years. It brought her a lot of joy, even when her macular degeneration got to a point where she was legally blind. This photo captures mom last spring, age 92, checking out the first crocus in her backyard. She was very thankful that I did things "her way". She passed on Thanksgiving Day, 2011. Rest in Peace, Mom.


First Spring Crocus!  March 17, 2011.jpg




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