Gardener Down! Gardening While Disabled

I pulled my hamstring this past weekend.   Actually, I strained my hamstring last week and choose to ignore it because only sissies let a little thing like pain stop them . Besides, damn it, I had 3 trees that needed to go into the ground this weekend (it is already a little late to be planting trees) so the little ache in the back of my thigh was not going to stop me.

THEN I pulled my hamstring, hard, and entered a whole new level of pain.   What was a little ache turned into a full fledged hurting akin to stabbing a knife, albeit a modestly sized knife but a knife nonetheless, into the back of my leg – again and again and again. Every. Time. I. Bend. My. Leg.   It’s like there is a sprite size sadist back there.

Basically, this means that my leg needs to stay tightly secured in a brace for a week or two and none of that kneeling, bending, weight bearing stuff that gardening normally requires.   My husband has taken to calling me Hop Along Hanna. *sigh*

But I am fiending hard for a dirt fix, so what is a girl to do.?

I can’t be the only person in the world who has a medical issue that could keep them from gardening.   There are many ailments that can make the chores of everyday gardening rather difficult, and some of them *gulp* are permanent conditions.  Yet, these allegedly disabled people can be  enabled gardeners, so there has to be a way, right?

While I can’t get down and dirty as usual in the garden, there are a few things I can do in the meantime to still play in the dirt without causing me undue pain and suffering.

  1. Get your garden on  at waist level — My sweet spousal unit placed my potting soil on the picnic table along with my plants and pots. I have been making containers galore. With everything at waist level, I can either sit or stand (flamingo style) as I see fit.  Waist level dirt does not have to stop at simply filling containers.   We are lucky that at our house, we have a great many retaining walls that the containers can be placed on, making them super easy to water and care for.   If I didn’t have these retaining walls, numerous plant stands and pedestals would make great stand ins.

    If I needed a permanent solution (like my husband’s grandfather did a few years ago when his knees really went), you can convert your entire garden to waist high management.   His super raised beds are built out of cinder block, but wood framed raised beds would work as well.

  2. Wave your magic water wand — For $6-35, you can become the proud owner of a water wand with varying degrees of neat features like spray type and water flow control — depending on how much you pay.   Water wands make it easy to get down low or get up high to water without having to stretch or kneel.Really, these are awesome gadgets to have regardless of your current physical state.
  3. Kick the bucket — A five gallon bucket makes a great portable seat that you can move with you in the garden so that you are sitting instead of kneeling.   If you want to get fancy, they sell little trolleys and rolling stools that are essentially the same thing. Heck, you want to hit the middle ground, they sell aprons for 5 gallon buckets so you can use it to tote your garden tools as well.
  4. Long arm of the trowel — Many garden tools already come with long handles, which means less bending and kneeling.   Even tools you think can only be found in the hand version, can be found with long handles if you look around on the internet.  

No one, whether through temporary or permanent condition, needs to stop gardening. Many of our plants would shrivel and die without their gardeners and many gardeners would shrivel and die without their plants. Well, I have to run hop along now, so I can get back to my own garden.

11 thoughts on “Gardener Down! Gardening While Disabled
  1. Sorry to read about your ailment. It sucks not being 100% in life period let alone in the garden. I happen to have a chronic condition called Myositis that affects the muscles and connective tissue. I don’t let it stop me even if I can only do it an hour or two out of the day. I modify my life so I can take care of the important people and things in it. I take necessary breaks, acquire (demand) the help of my hubby and teen aged daughter *just kidding*. They love the way the yard looks too and don’t mind helping out.

    However, I have and independent streak that sometimes gets ahead of me. So like you I have devised a way to do all I can waist high, but sometimes I just have a hankering to get low and weed, take pictures, or just inspect what’s going on down there. I do what I can and it’s wonderful. Some days I just sit out there and one minute I’m checking out the greens, next I’m out front planting perennials, then I’m in the strawberry and Rasberry patch. Life is what you make of it, and I am so glad you haven’t given up on your gardening. If anything it will help you heal all that much faster.

    Happy Planting
    .-= Franksgreengirl´s last blog ..Tomato Craziness =-.


  2. Methyl on

    I became temporarily ‘disabled’ when 8 months pregnant in the hot colorado summer, trying to harvest 100 square feet of tomatoes and being unable to bend over. Needless to say, only the top third of each plant was harvested. I think the ‘coons were happy. Now the little urchin is 6 and he picks his own tomatoes.


  3. Welcome to the magical world of “adaptive gardening”…it’s been my reality for the past 5 years. You find ways to do things if you have to. I’ve discovered that well made children’s garden tools work well, as their handles are just about the right length for an adult sitting down and are lightweight enough to not place too much stress on joints with arthritis. I have little seats stashed here and there around the garden, and if all else fails, sitting on the ground to dig up weeds, ignoring all attempts at being dignified, works quite well.

    Don’t risk permanent damage, Hana. But have fun.
    .-= Nancy ´s last blog ..A Present from My Youngest Friend =-.


  4. Daisey on


    I am so sorry to hear about your injury…”this too will pass”…something I try to tell myself when physical limitations make it hard for me to do what I want in my yard and gardens. I also tell myself this when I end up ‘paying’ for overdoing it. If I do more than I should physically (which is usually outside gardening) I can end up in painful agony for days or even a week…. But, does this stop me….NO WAY!!

    I look every day for a post from you and so miss not seeing one. So, today, though I’m happy to hear from you I am also sorry to hear from you….my hopes for your speedy and full recovery.


  5. gus on

    I have a seat on my bucket. It came with a tool apron. It works great, the tools are in the pockets and I can put the fertilizer in the bucket.


  6. My husband and I just bought my mom who has MS and his dad who is just unable to get down on his knees anymore both raised bed garden tables made of cedar. My mom’s is wheelchair height, which is perfect for her. My FIL’s is waist high so he can stand and still get a little exercise. They are GREAT! If anyone is interested, I can give you the site where we ordered them from.


  7. Sorry to hear of your pain. Hamstrings take quite a while to heal, too. Sorry for the bad news, but you’ll come away from this summer with a better understanding of some pretty ingenious gardening abilities you never knew you had!

    I have a chronic back condition so must pace myself in the garden, while working a very physically challenging job at the same time. The worst is expending my limited mobility in the garden, then having to go to work in pain. I feel guilty when it happens, so don’t say anything and just work. Then I REALLY pay for it afterwards with days of pain. Funny, I’ve never felt guilty about working so hard at work that I’m in too much pain to work in the garden. Then I feel ANGRY!! Where your heart is, there will your time–and emotions, be….


  8. nobody on

    I’m permanently disabled and one thing that is crucial is figuring out how to do things differently. The way we’ve been socialized to perform particular tasks in the world is not the only way. Of course this depends on your disability, but mine is neuromuscular and different things go wonky in different unpredictable ways and times. Oddly, I don’t use any of your proposed solutions. I suppose something like waste-high beds might make sense if I had a predictable disability that meant they’d always work for me, but I tend towards finding different ways of moving.

    My central approach to life (and obviously gardening) is to simply have several ways of approaching any task. I have several completely different wacky yoga-like positions that will let me use completely different muscles to perform the same gardening task. I could kneel down if I’m up for it, or I could bend at the waste and lean down, or if there’s space I can just extend my legs on either side until my waste is at raised-bed level, or I can stick my cane on the other side of the bed and lean on it so I’m suspended over the bed and can just lazily reach down and do things, or I can write off my hands entirely (they’re occasionally completely useless) and stand on one foot and perform the task with my other foot.

    The key is to stop thinking of doing things in the traditional socialized ways and instead to think about motion and balance and center of mass and all that.


  9. Judi on

    Miss Hanna,
    I just found your website, what a wonderful helpful website.
    I was sorry to hear about your accident, I hope you are much better soon, I will say a prayer for your speedy recovery. I just love reading about all your inexpensive, safe weed killers. We just moved to a new home & they had let things go & we have 1 1/2 acres that border a lake. I am very concerned about weed killers leaching into the lake. We have a 3 yr old daughter who LOVES, LOVES gardening, & being out in the yard so I am even more concerned about spraying pesticides, she loves to pick flowers, weeds, everything, so this website is so comforting knowing she won’t be harmed if she picks something or is playing in the dirt, which she does VERY often. I hope to instill the love, comfort & satisafaction of gardening in her, with these tips I will not worry about her.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge