Gardening is a pastime which many of us cherish. It can be relaxing, satisfying, as well as good for our health. However, as we enter later life many feel worried about gardening alone due to the risk of accidents, or because they feel they can’t keep up with the effort that it can require.
After a summer of hard work maintaining your garden, you may be wondering whether you really want to be doing the same again in a year’s time. As winter approaches, it’s a good time to think about how you’d like your garden to look next summer, and begin to make any changes such as uprooting plants that are becoming hard to maintain. This will give the ground a chance to rest before you introduce new plants in the spring.
Age UK Personal Alarms have a reach of up to 50m from the base unit, so you know that should anything happen whilst gardening, help is on hand at the touch of a button. For extra peach of mind, we’ve put together some tips to help you or your loved ones stay independent in the garden with low maintenance plants, easy weeding techniques, and a guide to the most common accidents and how to avoid them.
Keeping a low maintainance garden
Keeping on top of a thriving garden is hard work, and it may never look as perfect as stately gardens with full time gardeners. However, there are changes you can make to the space you have to reduce the maintenance required, whilst keeping the beautiful space for yourself and loved ones to relax.
Low maintenance plants
A beautiful flowering shrub, Azaleas can be deciduous or evergreen and are available in many colours. They are notoriously easy to care for and can be grown in flowerbeds, raised beds, or containers.
Lavender is not only beautiful, but it smells great too, and has many other uses besides making a nice garden feature. Lavender can be used to make scent sachets to freshen drawers and wardrobes, as well as potpourri for the home, and all it needs in return is occasional watering and pruning.
Snowdrops thrive in colder climates like here in the UK, and don’t attract common garden pests such as caterpillars or aphids. After planting the bulbs in fall, snowdrops should flower early in the year, and then lay dormant from spring time until the following year. They are quite hardy and do not require pruning or extra watering, except for during particularly dry spells.
Zinnias are another easy flower to care for which comes in a variety of vibrant colours and attract butterflies over the summer months. To ensure your flowers look their best, fertilise them once a month.
Artificial turf is not as easily spotted as it once was. Many gardening centres now sell high quality artificial turf which at first glance can easily pass for a real lawn. This is a great option if you don’t want to pave over a lawn, but also don’t want to have to commit to regular mowing, weeding, or pest management.
Avoid lots of planters
Whilst some choose multiple flowerpots over a flowerbed for the aesthetic, it would be a mistake to think that this makes them easier to care for. Plants in pots need to be regularly re-potted to help them grow, and the soil replaced to replenish the nutrients within it.
What’s more, plant pots cause some of the most common injuries including falling pots, trips over pots, and injuries from lifting heavy pots (see below for further details on injuries in the garden).
If you do choose to have multiple planters in the garden, place them all together at a low level, to make them easy to water and feed simultaneously, and consider buying fully grown plants that will not need to be regularly re-potted.
How to get rid of weeds without manually weeding
Manually weeding is hard work, time consuming, and not always completely successful, not to mention the strain it can put on your knees and muscles. Gardening knee mats and extendable weed grabbers can help the process but there are a few other options which may offer you more time to spend relaxing in a weed free garden.
Weed repelling plants
Some plants, such as Geraniums, have natural weed repelling properties within them, and when planted amongst your flowerbeds will help to keep weeds at bay. Geraniums themselves are attractive flowers that grow in a range of colours, and need no care or even watering except during particularly dry spells.
Weed control membranes
Weed control membranes are easy to find in garden centres and relatively easy to lay with a little help. They block weed roots whilst allowing certain plants and shrubs to still grow, eventually killing the weed.
A similar result can also be achieved with wet cardboard or compost mulch. The mulch covers the weed and prevents it from getting any light, which eventually kills it. With compost mulch you can spread straight over existing weeds and plant on top straight away! As long as you use 2-3 inches of mulch for small annual weeds, and 6 inches for perennial weeds, they should die within a year and stay away.
Scuff the surface
Simply using a rake or hoe to scuff the surface of your flowerbeds when you spot little shoots poking through is sometimes enough to stop a weed in its tracks. As it’s much easier to do this than removing a grown weed, it’s good to get in the habit of scuffing the surface regularly
Boiling water is a simple solution to killing weeds between the cracks of a patio or driveway. Much cheaper than using weed killer, simply pour a kettle of freshly boiled water over the weeds every day until the weeds wilt away.
However, this can be dangerous as there is a risk of getting burnt or dropping the kettle, so if you have any doubts about this then using a chemical weed killer may be a better option for these areas.
Common accidents in the garden
Unfortunately, like many other hobbies, gardening is never completely risk free. In fact, every year around 87,000 people are injured seriously enough to go to hospital whilst gardening or doing DIY in the garden (Source:ROSPA).
Below are the most common garden accidents, along with preventative measures you can take to avoid them when gardening alone.
How to avoid: Look into purchasing extendable tools and a kneeler stool or thick knee pads, and try not to spend extended periods of time in one position.
Cuts and grazes
How to avoid: Ensure you are always covered up with long sleeves and thick gloves
Lawn mower related incidents
How to avoid: Ensure that outdoor plugs are safety checked regularly, and hold the lead over your shoulder so you cannot run over it. Avoid using hover type lawnmowers or any where the blade is exposed, and wear protective eye wear if your lawnmower sprays trimmings.
Flower pots falling or getting hurt carrying them
How to avoid: Minimise the number of plants in pots and keep them at ground level. Do not attempt to lift heavy pots alone, and position them so they will not regularly be moved (I.e. not blocking any other plants or beds).
Falling on paths or steps
How to avoid: Ensure paving on paths and steps is stable, and consider having a hand rail installed on steep steps. Keep all surfaces free from moss which can become incredibly slippery when wet, and keep the garden generally tidy to avoid trips over hoses or tools.
How to avoid: Even on cold days it’s easy to become dehydrated when working outside. Always have a glass of water handy and take regular hydration breaks.
Of course, no gardener can prepare for every potential accident. That’s why many of our customers and their loved ones trust Age UK personal alarms to give them the peace of mind that when gardening alone, help is available at the press of a button away if it is needed.
The alarms have a range of up to 50 meters from the base unit, which is more than enough to reach every corner of the average garden. With a personal alarm you can keep your independence and continue to maintain a beautiful outdoor space, but without your loved ones worrying about your safety.