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Gardening As Therapy-Improve Balance, Coordination and Sense of Accomplishment

As spring approaches, consider taking up gardening or getting back into your garden for therapy, fresh air and a sense of accomplishment. According to Thrive, a UK based national organization that focuses on getting stroke survivors and others with disabilities in the garden, just 30 minutes of gardening a day can help recovery.

They publish guide that has a series of easy-to-follow, step-by-step progressive gardening activities which are divided into levels 1, 2 and 3. The activities will help build up your strength and stamina, relax muscles, improve your balance and movement, keep your heart healthy, burn calories and best of all make you feel good!

Here are some of Thrive's top tips and ideas.

Improve Your Garden Design
There are many ways in which you can adapt your garden to make it easier to manage. Altering your garden layout and using techniques and methods of easier gardening can all mean that gardening can continue with the minimum of stress and effort. Planning alterations does not necessarily mean calling in a landscape gardener – or carrying out expensive rebuilding work; often a few minor changes can make a wealth of difference.

  • Consider raised beds.
  • Consider widening your paths to make them easier to use with a stick, walking frame or wheelchair.
  • Reduce the width of your borders – this allows for easier access and avoids stretching. Adjust the width to suit you, making it easy to reach all plants within a border.
  • Consider raised beds - raising soil level can help with access. There is no standard dimension for a raised bed – simply raising the ground level up by 12cm may make cultivation easier by making the soil easier to reach. You may choose to raise beds to a height where you can garden from a seated position.

Improve Garden Access

  • Consider making improvements to paths to ensure that there is good, even access between the house, greenhouse, shed and the most commonly used areas of the garden.
  • Choose non-slip/no-glare paving materials and make sure that all paving materials are laid evenly.
  • If a ramp is needed make sure that it has a gradient of no more than 1 in 15.
  • Keep paths in a safe condition for use.
  • Cut back plants that are growing over paths and make sure paths are clean and free of fallen leaves, moss and other debris.
  • Have a light installed in the garden or above the doorway to the garden to improve visibility on dull days or on winter evenings.
  • Consider building freestanding handrails or attach them to existing structures.

Try New Gardening Techniques

  • Employ no-dig methods  - Add a layer of well rotted manure, compost, leaf mold, spent mushroom compost, old straw etc to the soil surface as a mulch at least 2 or 3 inches deep.  The actions of worms will incorporate the mulch into the soil improving soil structure.
  • Mulches of bark, plastic or gravel can suppress weed growth and conserve moisture in the soil.
  • Consider gardening from a seated position – improve seating options or use stools, benches or chairs.  Choose long handled tools or tools with adjustable length handles to allow you to garden comfortably from a seated position.
  • Use long handled pruners and other aids to extend reach, rather than climbing ladders.
  • Rethink How You Garden
  • Tackle jobs sensibly, do a little and often rather than all at once.
  • Take the time to warm up with some gentle exercises or stretching before you get started. It is also important to warm down with stretching after you’ve finished. It doesn’t take long and your muscles will thank you for it.
  • Reassess what jobs need to be done, for instance, light leaf litter is good for lawns, so leave it there.
  • Consider employing a friend or gardener for some heavy or routine jobs. Leave the enjoyable jobs for yourself.
  • Consider how you transport tools and equipment around the garden. There are now many trolleys, caddies, carts and carrying belts for moving both long handled and short handled tools around the garden.
  • Grow vegetables in 3 square foot plots using no-dig techniques.

Choose Different Plants

  • Choose plants that suit the conditions in your garden, rather than trying to alter conditions to suit them.
  • Gradually remove any unsuitable plants, which could perhaps be exchanged with a friend for a more suitable specimen.
  • Replace annuals with perennials. In particular, put low maintenance perennials at the back of borders.
  • Choose drought-tolerant plants that enjoy drier conditions and require less watering.
  • Choose ground cover plants to reduce the need for weeding.
  • Replace fast growing hedge species, which require regular clipping with slower growing species.
  • Replace climbers that require support and tying in with self-clinging climbers or grow climbers through shrubs for support.
  • Change from formal bedding schemes to more naturalized gardens.
  • Choose low maintenance shrubs, which require little or no pruning and select shrubs less prone to pests and disease.

Caution:
As with any new exercise program, gardeners should start their new gardening activities slowly and build up endurance. Experienced gardeners and beginners alike will benefit from simple stretching routines and a gentle warm up before gardening. If you have been inactive for some time you should consult your doctor before commencing new activities.

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"As spring approaches, consider taking up gardening or getting back into your garden for therapy, fresh air and a sense of accomplishment. Just 30 minutes of gardening a day can help recovery."

Improve Your Garden Design

There are many ways in which you can adapt your garden to make it easier to manage.

Altering your garden layout and using techniques and methods of easier gardening can all mean that gardening can continue with the minimum of stress and effort.

Planning alterations does not necessarily mean calling in a landscape gardener – or carrying out expensive rebuilding work; often a few minor changes can make a wealth of difference.

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