Gardening is a wonderful way for seniors to stay active and has many positive effects on both physical and mental health. But as we age, it can become more difficult to maintain an in-ground plot, with uneven terrain, lots of crouching, kneeling, and bending, and the digging and heavy lifting that is often involved. The solution? A lovely container garden on your deck, patio, or even indoors by a sunny window. Here’s a step-by-step guide to get you started.
1. Choose the Right Containers
Assess how much space you have to work with and how much bending and lifting you or your loved one is reasonably able to do. Keep this in mind when selecting the pots and containers for your garden. Elevated containers and planting beds are a wonderful option for anyone with limited mobility, because they make the plants easier to reach and tend. Or you can use regular pots, and just set them on a table, shelf, or stand. Self-watering containers can also be a boon, as they have reservoirs built in that reduce the frequency of watering. Pots or stands with wheels can also be very helpful.
2. Plan Before You Plant
It’s easy to get over excited and just start planting willy-nilly. But that can lead to dead plants and wasted effort and money. Take little time to plan ahead and ensure your container garden will thrive with minimal maintenance. Here are some of the key considerations:
- Determine how many hours of direct sunlight your container garden will get each day before shopping for plants.
- Choose a potting soil suitable for your conditions and plants.
- Have the necessary tools on hand (a trowel or small hand shovel, scissors, and gardening gloves are a good start). Plan how you’ll water your plants – with a hose, a watering can, or a drip irrigation system – and purchase any necessary equipment.
- Think about water drainage and position your plants where water can drain naturally without damaging what’s underneath, or purchase drip trays for your pots.
- Don’t crowd too many plants together in each pot – read the labels before planting to see how far apart they should be spaced.
Don’t hesitate to ask for help at your local garden center or nursery. The knowledgeable staff there are a great resource and are usually more than happy to share their knowledge.
3. Plant Selection
Choosing the right plants is probably the most critical factor in the success of your container garden. It’s important to select plants that correspond to the light conditions where your container garden is located. But whether you’re in full sun or full shade, you’ll be able to find plenty of incredible plants that fit the bill, from exotic tropical blooms to eye-catching desert succulents. If you’re new to gardening, consider starting with some low-maintenance plants like these ones. There’s no hard and fast formula, and a certain amount of trial and error is part of the fun, so feel free to experiment and find what works in your space and appeals to you.
Once you’ve planted your gorgeous container garden, establish a watering schedule. The frequency will depend on how hot and sunny it is, the size and type of pots you have, and the plants you’ve chosen. You may need to do occasional pruning or deadheading (pinching off dead flowers) to keep your plants looking their best. Plants in containers usually also need regular fertilization in order to thrive. Finally, keep an eye out for diseases and pest infestations and treat as needed. The staff at your garden store can be plant lifesavers here by helping you diagnose and treat problems correctly.
A container garden brings so much joy, from the experience of planting and tending to it to the visual beauty of the flowers and greenery, and the flavors and aromas of an edible harvest. For more ideas on better aging, visit the Brightwater Senior Living blog.