Upcoming Oldham County Events

The following calendar originally printed in the 2018 Spring edition of the Oldham County Extension Newsletter.

Upcoming Extension Events

All activities are held at the Oldham County Extension office unless otherwise noted. Please call to RSVP for classes held at Extension offices.

March Extension Events

1 Oldham County Extension District Board, 9 am
1 Chickens 101 (Part 1), Shelby County Extension, 6 pm
1 Leaders of the Pack 4-H Dog Club
2-3 Organic Association of Kentucky Conference, Lexington
5 Dicamba Training for Grain Producers, Shelby County Extension, 10 am
5 4-H Robotics Club
6 Growing Succulents, 6:30 pm
7 4-H Budget Committee
8 Registration due for Needlework Workshop
8 Chickens 101 (Part 2), John Black Center, 6 pm
9 Oldham County Beekeepers, 7:30 pm
10 Produce Growers Best Practices, 9 am
12 Green Thumbs Garden Club, 9:30 am
12 4-H Cloverbud Club
13 Needlework Workshop, Shelby County Extension
15 Busy 4-H’ers of Oldham County
15 Improving Garden Soils, Oldham County Arts Center, 6:30 pm
16 Market Scale Certification, 10 am – noon
16 4-H Camp Teen Leader Interviews
17 Oldham County Master Gardeners, 10 am
16 Busy 4-H’ers of Oldham County
19 Delicious Delights 4-H Cooking Club
20 Evening with Extension, John Black Center, 5:30 pm
22 Homemakers Lesson: Couch Potato Challenge, 10 am
22 Homemakers Executive Board, noon
22-24 4-H Leadership Summit
23 Louisville Area Homemakers Council, 8 am – 3 pm
26 Come Sew With Us: Monograming, 3–8 pm
26 Oldham County 4-H Communications Event
27 4-H Teen Club
29 Oldham County Extension Council, 9 am
29 Oldham County Extension District Board, 10 am
29 Green Thumbs 4-H Horticulture Club
31 District 4-H Teen Council

April Extension Events

1 Homemaker Scholarship Applications Due
9 Green Thumbs Garden Club
9 4-H Robotics Club
10 Green Thumbs 4-H Horticulture Club
11 Nutrition Basics for Diabetics, 10:30 am
12 Leaders of the Pack 4-H Dog Club
13 Oldham County Beekeepers, 7:30 pm
14 Tree Seedling Giveaway, Oldham County Conservation District
14 District 4-H Communications Event
16 Delicious Delights 4-H Cooking Club
17 Fairy Gardens, 6:30 pm
19 4-H Council
20 SOHS 4-H Reality Store
23 Come Sew With Us: Gardening/Outdoor Accessories, 3–8 pm
26 Homemaker Lesson: Gardening in Small Spaces, 10 am
26 Homemaker Executive Board, noon
26 Busy 4-H’ers of Oldham County
30 4-H Cloverbud Club

May Extension Events

3 Oldham County Extension District Board, 9 am
5-7 KEHA State Meeting, Louisville
7 4-H Robotics Club
8 Native Shrubs, 6:30 pm
10 Green Thumbs 4-H Horticulture Club
11 Oldham County Beekeepers, 7:30 pm
14 Green Thumbs Garden Club
14 4-H Cloverbud Club
17 Oldham County Homemakers Annual Meeting
17 Busy 4-H’ers of Oldham County
21 Delicious Delights 4-H Cooking Club
22 4-H Camp Teen Leader Training
28 Memorial Day, Extension Office Closed

Protecting Water is for Everyone

The following Agriculture & Natural Resources articles originally printed in the 2018 Spring edition of the Oldham County Extension Newsletter.

no-mow zones protect water

Protecting Water – Not Just for Farmers

For many folks, the topic of water quality sounds less than glamorous. But paying attention to our management practices, whether on a farm or in our own back yards, is critical to protect water. The things we do in our pastures, crops, gardens, and lawns can negatively affect our water supply. What can you do to protect water?

  • Use buffer zones and no-mow zones to protect water sources. These zones are areas where fertilizers and pesticides are not applied. No-mow zones encourage natural return of native plants with increased ability to hold the soil in place and prevent erosion.
  • Plant native plants along water edges to help hold soil in place. Native plants are extremely long-rooted compared to lawn grasses and most cultivated flowers.
  • Don’t overstock or overgraze pastures. When overgrazing occurs, soils easily erode, carrying manure with it. And lost topsoil cannot be recovered.
  • Repair failing septic systems. Sometimes cost-share funds to repair these are available from local watershed groups.
  • Don’t apply fertilizer unless soil test shows a need for it.
  • Don’t apply pesticides (weed killers, insect killers, etc.) unless a pest problem has been identified.

A great resource for farmers is UK’s Ag Water Quality Planning website. This site includes an online tool to create an Ag Water Quality Plan, and it features videos of two Oldham County farms: TNT Farms and Sherwood Acres.

Homeowners can benefit from reading ‘Living Along a Kentucky Stream.’ Printed guides are available in our office.

Written by Traci Missun, Oldham County Ag Agent.

Spring Gardening News

The following Agriculture & Natural Resources articles originally printed in the 2018 Spring edition of the Oldham County Extension Newsletter.

Two Problem Weeds – Control Them Now

Poison hemlock and Buttercup are two problem weeds that can be controlled in March with herbicide sprays. An herbicide containing 2,4-D as the active ingredient is usually the most economical spray choice that will give good control.

Poison hemlock can be found in pastures, hay fields, and on roadsides. It has a biennial life cycle, meaning each plant lives for two years. This weed spreads by producing many seeds. While mowing can prevent seed formation and spread of this weed, the plant is toxic to livestock. So care should be taken to control it in pastures and hay fields. The poison hemlock in this photo was growing around an old tree stump, adjacent to a hay field. Spraying this patch now will save headaches down the road.

Buttercup is a problem mostly in overgrazed pastures. There are several types of buttercup in Kentucky, and leaf shapes may look different than what’s pictured here. Buttercup is also toxic to livestock. Best control is achieved when sprayed before these plants begin blooming, which is tricky since these may go unnoticed until flowering. Scouting pastures by walking diagonally or zigzagging through each will give a good overview of what’s growing.

When it comes to toxic plants, it’s important to note that animals usually don’t choose to graze these unless they are limited on good forages. But sometimes they don’t read the book and may graze on these plants out of curiosity.

The UK Weeds page is a great resource for more information, including videos and weed identification guides: weedscience.ca.uky.edu/forages

Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) Training Has Changed

Kentucky Extension agents are in the process of being certified to teach the new ‘Produce Best Practices Training‘ which replaces GAP training for vegetable and fruit growers.

Note that video training is no longer available. Any producer needing this training must attend a live presentation, given by a certified trainer. If you completed GAP training in the past, your diploma is valid until January 1, 2019.

Please help spread the word to fellow growers. Check the new Kentucky Farmers Market manual online for details. At time of print, there are currently two trainings scheduled here and nearby. Call (502) 222-9453 to register or to get information on other sessions in other counties.

  • Oldham County Extension Office March 10, 9:00 a.m.
  • Shelby County Extension Office April 12, 9:00 a.m.

Interesting Insect Pests

A client recently sent this photo for identification. While cultivating the soil in his vegetable high tunnel, he found these insect pupae about four inches deep in the ground. University of Kentucky Entomology confirmed that these are the pupal stage of the tomato hornworm.

garden pest tomato hornworm

There are typically two or three generations of this pest each year, with the final generation overwintering in the soil and emerging as a moth in spring. The adult stage of this pest belongs to the insect family often called Sphinx or Hawk Moths. This family also includes the unusual hummingbird moth.

During the caterpillar stage, the tomato hornworm feeds on tomato plants and fruits and can cause substantial yield loss. Tips for controlling hornworms and other garden pests are included online in the UK Home Vegetable Gardening Guide. Print copies of this guide are available at the office.

Photos of the caterpillar and moth stage of the tomato hornworm are available online at UK Entomology or by searching ‘Kentucky Critter Files.’

Written by Traci Missun, Oldham County Ag Agent.

Fall 2017 Ag Events

The following Agriculture & Natural Resources calendar printed in the Fall 2017 edition of the quarterly Oldham County Extension newsletter.

oldham county agriculture calendar

All activities are held at the Oldham County Extension office unless otherwise noted. Please call to RSVP for classes held at extension offices.

September Ag Calendar

1 Master Gardener classes begin
4 Office closed for Labor Day
7 Growing Daylilies, sponsored by the Oldham County Master Gardener Association, 6:30 p.m.
8 Oldham County Beekeepers Association, 7:30 p.m.
11 Green Thumbs Garden Club, carpool leaves extension office at 8:30 a.m.
16 Oldham County Master Gardener Association meeting, 9:00 a.m.
16 Indoor Tilapia, Shrimp, & Aquaponics, Kentucky State University, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., details/RSVP via kathryn.mitchell@kysu.edu
19 Extension Foundation, 9:00 a.m.
25 Regional Beef Field Day, Todd Rand Farm, Bedford
27-28 Kentucky Grazing School, Versailles, Kentucky

oldham county agriculture calendar

October Ag Calendar

5 Landscaping for All Seasons, Oldham County Arts Center, sponsored by Oldham County Community Education, 6:00 p.m.
9 Green Thumbs Garden Club, contact office for details
12 Extension Council, 9:00 a.m.
12 Extension District Board, 10:00 a.m.
13 Oldham County Beekeepers Association, 7:30 p.m.
17 Kentucky Grazing Conference, Lexington
19 Beef Quality Assurance Training/Certification, 6:00 p.m.
23 Monarchs in Mexico, Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve, sponsored by the Oldham County Master Gardener Association, 6:30 p.m.

oldham county agriculture calendar

November Ag Calendar

9 Beef Quality Assurance Training/Certification, 9:00 a.m.
10 Oldham County Beekeepers Association, 7:30 p.m.
13 Green Thumbs Garden Club, contact office for details
17 Master Gardener Graduation Celebration, 9:00 a.m.
23-24 Office closed for Thanksgiving

Oldham County Sunflowers

The following Horticulture article printed in the Fall 2017 edition of the quarterly Oldham County Extension newsletter.

oldham county sunflowers


This year a large field of sunflowers located next to a busy road attracted a lot of attention. Large plantings of sunflowers are not new to Oldham County but most are not as visible. Often considered one of the prettiest crops, sunflowers provide a colorful display, especially when the plants cover several acres. The show lasts roughly 21 to 25 days, so you will have a limited time to get that perfect picture. Note that the flowers face east towards the sunrise, making mornings a good time for taking photos.

In some areas, large sunflower crops are harvested like corn with a specially designed harvester. The seeds’ many uses include oil, food and snack products, animal feed, and of course bird seed. If you grow your own sunflowers, the seed can be harvested by hand. Remove the seed from the flower head by pushing the seed to the side. It should fall right out.

oldham county sunflowers

Written by Michael Boice, Oldham County Horticulture Assistant. Edited by Lauren State Fernandez, Oldham County Extension Staff Assistant.

Summer 2017 Ag Events

The following Agriculture & Natural Resources calendar printed in the Summer 2017 edition of the quarterly Oldham County Extension newsletter.

All activities are held at the Oldham County Extension office unless otherwise noted. Please call to RSVP for classes held at extension offices.

June Ag Calendar

1 Master Cattleman, 6:00 p.m.
8 County Extension Council, 9:00 a.m.
8 Extension District Board, 10:00 a.m.
8 Equine Farm & Facilities Expo, Lexington, University of Kentucky Extension Forages
9 Oldham County Beekeepers, 7:30 p.m.
12 Green Thumbs, contact office for details
15 Master Cattleman, 6:00 p.m.
20 Ag Development Council, 7:00 p.m.
24 Master Gardener Association Meeting and Rain Garden Work Day, 9:00 a.m., Oldham County Extension Pavilion

July Ag Calendar

4 Office closed for Independence Day
6 Master Cattleman, 6:00 p.m., Henry County Extension
6 I Love Roses, 6:30 p.m., Oldham County Public Library, La Grange. Guest speaker Janet Miller of the Louisville Rose Society. Sponsored by Oldham County Master Gardener Association.
10 Green Thumbs, Contact office for details
14 Oldham County Beekeepers, 7:30 p.m.
17 How Flowers Flirt and Flourish, 6:30 p.m., Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve, Goshen. Guest speaker Tavia Cathcart Brown, Wildflower Expert and Author. Sponsored by Oldham County Master Gardener Association.
18 Oldham County Cattlemen, 6:00 p.m.
20 Master Cattleman, 6:00 p.m., Shelby County Extension
31 Ag Exhibits Entry for County Fair, 3:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m., (NEW LOCATION: Oldham County Extension office)

August Ag Calendar

3 Late Summer/Early Fall Gardening, 10:00 a.m. Guest speaker Jeff Wallitsch, Wallitsch Nursery and Garden Center. Sponsored by Oldham County Master Gardener Association.
3 Master Cattleman, 6:00 p.m.
8 Extension Foundation, 9:00 a.m.
10 Rinse & Return for Pesticide Containers, 9:00 a.m. – 12 noon
11 Oldham County Beekeepers, 7:30 p.m.
16 Master Gardener/Green Thumbs Outing, Streamcliff Farms

2017 Master Gardener Classes

The following Agriculture & Natural Resources article printed in the Summer 2017 edition of the quarterly Oldham County Extension newsletter.

Master Gardener Classes Begin in September

Master Gardener classes will be offered Fridays, beginning September 1 through November 17. Classes will meet from 9:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m. at the extension office. The cost for this program is $100 to cover class materials. Registration forms are available in our office as well as online at oldham.ca.uky.edu/OC-Master-Gardeners.

oldham county master gardeners

What is a Master Gardener? A Master Gardener is someone who has successfully completed Master Gardener classes offered by an extension office. Classes provide research-based information on core subjects ranging from botany to soils to plant pests. Trees, turf, and landscape plant growing principles are also covered. Master Gardener volunteers take the knowledge learned through these classes and put it to use in their communities – sharing knowledge informally with others, teaching, and doing various gardening-related work in public areas.

How do I become a Master Gardener? Complete classes offered at the extension office and complete 40 hours of volunteer service within one year of course completion. Volunteers complete 20 service hours annually in subsequent years to maintain active Master Gardener status.

oldham county master gardeners

Where can I volunteer? There are several ongoing volunteer opportunities at Yew Dell Gardens and Creasey Mahan Nature Preserve, plus one-time opportunities that are announced throughout the year. Participants may help with an existing project or begin their own. A project can be as simple as helping plant or maintain your church’s landscape or providing plant recommendations for a neighborhood association common area. The possibilities are endless.

Landscape Help Publications Available

The following Agriculture & Natural Resources and Horticulture articles printed in the Summer 2017 edition of the quarterly Oldham County Extension newsletter.

New/Updated Landscape Publications Available

New and updated publications covering landscape topics are now available. These Kentucky Extension publications and others covering lawn care, flower gardens, vegetables, and fruit are accessible online at www.uky.edu/hort/home-horticulture and at the extension office.

kentucky landscape help

Soil Percolation, A Key to Survival of Landscape Plants’ details the effect of soil quality on the success of your landscape planting, covering ways to evaluate and improve your soil as well as the importance of selecting of the right plant to fit your soil type.

Planting Container Grown Trees and Shrubs’ covers information about handling containers grown plants and proper planting technique to insure the success of your landscape.

Planting Bareroot Trees in Your Landscape.’ Planting bareroot trees has always been a technique used to move young trees in landscapes and fruit orchards. This publication covers the proper handling and planting methods of bareroot plants for success.

‘After Your Ash Tree Dies, Making an Informed Decision on What to Replant will give you resources to decide what tree varieties mature similar in size to the ash and provide diversity to your landscape.

kentucky landscape help

‘What is Your Tree Worth?’ Landscape trees can add to the value of your property if undamaged, healthy, and planted in an appropriate location. This publication describes how to have your trees evaluated to determine their value in your landscape.

Get Help With Pond Weeds

A common problem for pond owners is control of weedy plants. Correctly identifying the plant is the first step in managing it. Scoop up problem weeds in a bucket and bring to our office for identification and control tips. Keeping pond weeds in water helps preserve them for accurate identification. An open container is best because it keeps the sample fresher. A closed container can be used for same day delivery to our office, but plants will begin decaying if kept enclosed multiple days, especially in a hot environment.

KY Spring Native Flowers

Home to over twenty-five hundred plant species, Kentucky is a veritable wildflower garden. Kentucky native spring flowers include bloodroot, spring beauty, and Virginia bluebells.

KY native wildflower


Spring Kentucky Native Flower

One of the earliest blooming wildflowers in Kentucky, bloodroot (Sanguinaria canadensis) appears in the late winter and early spring. This native wildflower gets its name from its red-orange rhizome and the red juice that can be squeezed from it. Native Americans used bloodroot to treat fever, ulcers, ringworm, and skin infections. It finds use in dye-making and is also being studied for possible anti-cancer properties. Bloodroot, however, is toxic when ingested, causing vomiting and loss of consciousness.

Bloodroot can be planted from seed or through root division. It can grow in sun or shade as long as rich, moist soil is available. You will find this short wildflower in both Kentucky’s woodlands and open fields. Bloodroot’s white flowers, yellow stamens at the center, are about an inch and a half to two inches across. A single round leaf accompanies each flower.

KY wildflowers in blooms

Spring Beauty

Kentucky Spring Wildflower

Spring beauty (Claytonia Virginica) is another of Kentucky’s early spring wildflowers. Less than a foot in height, the small white to pink flowers emerge before the trees begin to leaf out. Spring beauty opens in the morning to take in the sun’s warmth and closes again each evening. Its inconspicuous leaves blend in with surrounding grasses. Like many wildflowers, its loveliness is fading, blooms lasting only a couple weeks.

Claytonia readily reseeds itself and can be found soaking up the sun across the eastern United States. Gardeners can collect the seeds to bring a little spring beauty to their own gardens.

Spring beauty owes its name to John Clayton, an eighteenth century naturalist who so impressed Benjamin Franklin that the founding father “granted him free mail privileges for shipping his plants and letters.”

KY wildflowers in bloom

Virginia Bluebells

Ephemeral KY Native Wildflower

When traversing Kentucky’s woodlands in the early spring, you may encounter Virginia bluebells (Mertensia virginica), also called cowslip or mertensia. Virginia bluebells flourish in sandy and loamy soil and can often be found along creeks and other waterways. Nurseries and seed catalogs also carry these spring beauties. The nodding, bell-shaped wildflowers vary from blue to purple to pink. The inch-long trumpets bloom in clusters. Bluebells grow to a height of one to two feet, and if the growing conditions are right, they may quickly spread and naturalize. Bees, butterflies, and moths all pollinate them.

This Kentucky native wildflower springs up after the last hard frost in March or April. A spring ephemeral, Virginia bluebells only bloom for two to three weeks before going to seed. The foliage dies back by early summer. Mass plantings are breath-taking while Virginia bluebells are in bloom, but they are short-lived and may leave a “hole” in your landscape once they have died back. Keep this transience in mind when planting bluebells in your garden.

Virginia bluebells were a favorite of Thomas Jefferson’s and still grow at the Monticello today.

KY Rain Garden Wildflowers

Kentucky Wildflowers

Native Plants Attract Butterflies and Bees

Interested in planting wildflowers for pollinators? Bloodroot, spring beauty, and Virginia bluebells all attract butterflies and bees.

For more information on using native plants to attract butterflies, check out the following resources:

oldham county kentucky gardening

Oldham County Gardening

Upcoming Gardening Classes

Oldham County Extension offers educational classes, the following of which are free and open to the public. RSVP for an upcoming gardening class in Oldham County, Kentucky via (502) 222-9453 or lauren.state@uky.edu. To get notifications of upcoming gardening classes, contact the Oldham County Extension office.

Friday, March 24, 6:30 p.m.
Biologist Anne Cartwright of the American Hosta Society discusses another of her favorite flowers: hellebores. This gardening class is sponsored by the Oldham County Master Gardener Association.

Wildflower Walks With Tavia
Saturday, March 25
Woodland Garden Walk: 10:15 a.m.
Forest Trails Wildflower Walk: 12:15 p.m.
March is a marvelous time to rediscover our scenic landscape and its many inhabitants. Tavia will share share medicinal uses of plants, how they got their names, any fun strategies of how they reproduce, and “flora-lore” and stories that have been told by Native Americans.

Vegetable Gardening
Tuesday, April 11, 6:30 p.m.
Horticulturist Michael Boice will share tips on establishing and maintaining a successful home vegetable garden.

Gardening for Wildlife
Thursday, May 4, 6:30 p.m.
Master Gardener Mike Guelda discusses using native plants to draw in birds, bees, and butterflies. This gardening class is sponsored by the Oldham County Master Gardener Association.

Year-Round Irises
Thursday, May 11, 10:00 a.m.
Bob Strohman, author of the recently published Iris Red, Iris Dead and member of the Louisville Iris Society, shows how to have irises in bloom all twelve months of the year. This gardening class is sponsored by the Oldham County Master Gardener Association.

Photographs by Jennifer Anderson (USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database), Paul Henjum, Christian Hummert, SB Johnny, Ryan Kaldari, Nicholas A. Tonelli, Sudhir Viswarajan. Used under the Creative Commons License.

Written by Lauren State, Oldham County Master Gardener. Reviewed by Traci Missun, Oldham County Agriculture & Natural Resources Agent.

Adapting Your Garden As You Age

Tips For The Aging Gardener

Love gardening but afraid your body can no longer physically handle the work? A few simple adjustments can help make the work easier, allowing you to continue enjoying your hobby.

Like an athlete, the gardener develops gardening skills through repeated activities like digging, weeding, mulching, etc. We learn how to use tools to get the job done with the least amount of efforts and the best results.

gardening tips

Through my wife, an occupational therapist, I have learned a lot about adapting physical activities to fit a person’s ability. Her background includes work with children and seniors.

I have been gardening and landscaping since the late 1970s. Following my back surgery in 1995, I discovered the importance of proper lifting, carrying, and digging techniques for gardening. Recommended habits can be modified. Don’t wait for back surgery to take a look at your gardening habits. I still garden and do strenuous work, but I listen to my body and take a break, change my position, or stop when needed. Well, sometimes I go past my limit — but not far — and when I do, I pay more attention to my posture. Staying active is important to maintain endurance, flexibility, and energy.

The Aging Gardener

When we age, endurance is often the first thing to go. We can’t work as long. We feel weak, unable to lift and move plants like we used to, and familiar tasks take longer to complete. If you’re having these experiences, it might be necessary to reevaluate the size of the garden or change its maintenance requirements. Reduce the overall maintenance of deep perennial beds, for example, by making them narrowing and backing them with shrubs.

The loss of flexibility is also one of the first signs of aging. An injury or development of arthritis are among several things that can cause reduced flexibility. This limits our ability to maneuver in the garden: getting up and down, twisting or changing position while pulling weeds or picking flowers, and cleaning up dead leaves. Of course, gardening does help us maintain flexibility. Reduced flexibility needs to be considered when we decide what needs to be changed to make it easier to maneuver in the garden.

Additional limiting changes include poor balance and persistent back and joint pain. Once these changes start, gardening becomes more of a challenge, so modifying your garden as you develop it could help in the long run.

Adapting Your Garden As You Age

Let’s look at the garden. What is the size and layout of your garden? Is your garden large with numerous perennial plantings and border gardens, or is it smaller, including just the area surrounding your house with maybe a small vegetable garden? The style, size, and area of your garden will determine the approach needed when making modifications so that you can enjoy gardening again.

Note that annual and perennial plantings need a lot of maintenance because of their constant change and growth rate. Lawns, trees, and shrubs also require maintenance but not as often as flower beds.

We don’t want to limit our garden, build expensive raised beds, and, most of all, reduce the size of our garden once it is established because there are always new plants to try. We should look ahead. Look at what has recently changed in your ability to maintain your garden. What are your immediate limitations? Decide what you will be able to handle and still enjoy gardening. Will you be able to have someone available to help (maybe a family member or young gardening enthusiast) to keep your garden as it is?

gardening as you age

Gardens are a collective of plants that we desired to grow at one point or another. Some, though attractive, are not your favorite. Select those plants that are your favorites and reconsider how to handle the rest. Changes based on a landscape plan can be made all at once or over a period of years. If you decide to do the work yourself, start with your most labor-intensive space. Look for plants that need less attention. Reduce the overall maintenance of deep perennial beds by making them narrower then backing them with shrubs. Another solution might be creating a pollinator garden that requires minimum upkeep and can be mown off once a year.

Reduce reaching distance and amount of leaning forward to pull weeds or spread mulch. If you can only access a bed from one side, ensure it is no wider than two feet. Beds accessible from both sides can be four feet in width.

To make the work easier, use quality tools and keep them clean and sharp. A rusty shovel is more difficult to dig with because the soil will stick to it more. A sharp hoe will cut through weeds easier than a dull one. Consider automatic watering and semi-automatic watering systems for gardening to reduce the amount of hand watering. Soaker hoses and single drip emitters are two options.

Making Your Garden More Accessible

Once you have decided what changes to make to your garden, you can make them yourself with family help or hire a landscaper to install them for you.

The design of large gardens will need to provide easy access to all the plants with wide, level walkways on both sides of four-foot-wide beds. Create shaded areas in the garden using trellises, gazebos, and small trees so you can get out of the sun a while. Benches provide a comfortable place to sit and rest.

Walkways should be wide and level enough to accommodate a wheelchair. Turf, smooth recessed stepping stones, or paving stones make a good surface for wheelchair access. Mulch and loose gravel are often hard to push through and can also become a slipping hazard.

Smaller garden areas can be created using a number of large containers grouped together or as single planters.

Container Gardening

container gardening

Container gardening can reducing your gardening stress, and the many different and attractive containers available add interesting focal points to your garden.

You can also turn just about anything into a container garden. From teapots to milk jugs, wooden dressers to wine barrels, let your creativity run wild!

Raised Bed Gardening

Consider installing raised beds that reduce bending over by allowing you to work in a standing or seated position. Standing, you may be able to maintain a three-foot-deep bed, while two feet is manageable if seated.

raised bed gardening

Raised beds can be a very attractive part of a landscape, defining walkways and providing a more formal appearance. Height often varies from six inches to three feet tall. Raised beds can be constructed in many styles using a wide variety of materials, including treated wood, concrete blocks, stone, and more. Various shapes and curves can be included to help blend the raised garden into your existing landscape, making it both attractive and functional.

Vertical Gardening

Unique garden features like vertical gardening with wall planters and trellises allow you to work while standing up. You can buy a premade trellis or build one yourself. Pots can be stacked or arranged on a riser. Like container gardening, vertical gardening is an opportunity to get creative in the garden.

vertical gardening ideas

Growing vegetables using vertical trellises reduces bending and picking. Many vegetables grow well when trellised. Cucumbers, beans, squash, and melons can all climb the traditional store-bought garden trellis.

Straw Bale Gardening

Another simplified gardening method that lifts your garden, making it more accessible, is straw bale gardening. This gardening method can be incredibly productive. It also cuts out all of the digging and cultivating that can be hard on the body. Straw bale gardening does, however, require several weeks of setup. A good guidebook is Straw Bale Gardens – The Breakthrough Method for Growing Vegetables Anywhere, Earlier and With No Weeding by Joel Karsten.

Reduce Your Garden Stress

Every garden and every gardener is unique. Consider your body type and abilities when adapting your garden as you age. Understand that your garden is limited by your physical abilities and personal interests as well as the location of the garden itself.

  • Reduce the overall size of the garden
  • Trade out high maintenance annuals and perennials for lower maintenance shrubs and trees
  • Reduce the amount of reaching, leaning, and bending with raised bed and vertical gardens
  • Garden small with container gardening
  • Keep your tools in good shape so they’re easier to work with

With these tips in mind, make changes that allow you to continue enjoying your gardening hobby without the stress of a high-maintenance landscape.

Written by Michael Boice, Oldham County Extension Horticulture Assistant. Edited by Lauren State, Oldham County Extension Staff Assistant.

Reference: National AgrAbility Project, ‘Arthritis and Gardening: A Guide for Home Gardeners and Small-Scale Producers.’ Purdue University, 2016.