Laura Akgerman – Disability Services Coordinator for Ohio AgrAbility
Getting your tools and supplies out to the garden can be difficult if you have arthritis or another physical limitation. Tools, plants and supplies are bulky, heavy, and awkward to carry. It is tempting to load up and haul everything to the garden in one trip, but that is an easy way to aggravate your arthritis, overexert yourself, or drop valuable supplies, and ruin a good day in the garden. Having the right equipment can make it easier and safer to transport your supplies, work in the garden, and store your tools.
This article highlights useful equipment and storage ideas, and includes links to equipment and supplies. Ohio AgrAbility does not endorse, support or benefit from any of the vendors listed, these are merely examples of the items discussed.
If you need to transport tools, supplies and plants from your storage area to the garden a garden cart or wagon is a good investment. Garden carts with two or more wheels are more stable than traditional wheelbarrows, and can provide additional balance and stability when pushing or pulling the cart.
When choosing a cart, consider the terrain you will be pushing your cart. Pneumatic tires will help you push through mud, uneven ground, or loose gravel. You also need to think of the weight of the cart, and the weight of the items you will be hauling; this garden cart can haul up to 400 pounds, and it weighs 95 pounds. If that is heavier than you are able to haul, a good alternative is this lightweight folding cart, which weighs 21 pounds, and can haul up to 150 pounds. A lighter cart may carry less, but it could also prevent injury by limiting the weight you are hauling.
A garden cart with a removable front or back panel allows you to remove items from the cart without lifting them over the sides of the cart. Before you buy a cart check to see if you can lift items over the sides of the cart without straining your back and shoulders.
Rolling work seats
A basic rolling work seat allows you to sit while you are working, and adjust the height of the seat to suit your task. If you want a more comfortable option a deluxe rolling work seat has tool holders, a tray for storage, and a padded seat. When choosing a rolling seat, consider if you want a long handle for pushing or pulling it to your work site, or if you would want to bend over and push the cart into place. Think about how high and low you want to adjust the seat, and how much storage you want built into the cart. A sturdy plastic cart may be weatherproof, allowing you to leave it outside in the garden, so you would not have to move it from place to place.
Storing your tools and equipment in or near the garden will eliminate the need for carrying tools and supplies to the garden when you want to work. A resin or plastic storage shed, bench or container that can be locked could be left in or near the garden. If you can’t find garden storage you like, look for patio or pool storage containers, they are designed to be kept outdoors, and many have interior shelves to help you organize your tools and supplies.
If you are storing supplies and tools in a shed or garage, use adjustable shelving so you can arrange your items at easy to reach heights. If you have a garden cart, store bulky items at the same height as the cart bed, so that you could easily transfer items from the shelf to the cart without extra lifting.
Store your most frequently used items on a shelf that is easy to access, and remember to put heavy or bulky items on lower shelves to eliminate the need to reach overhead and remove items. Install magnetic strips on walls to hold your garden tools, this keeps your tools organized and visible, and you won’t have to dig through drawers and risk getting stabbed by your pruners. Work benches should be at a height comfortable to stand or sit at, and if you have room for a few tables, set them at different heights so you can sit or stand comfortably, depending on the task. Work benches and counters should be narrow enough that you can reach the far edge of the work surface without straining your back or shoulders.
Check back next month for information about raised, elevated, hanging and container gardens.
For information about useful products, see the Gardening with Arthritis: Adaptive equipment and tools resource list.
For more information please contact Laura Akgerman, Ohio AgrAbility & OSU Extension Disability Services Coordinator, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or 614-292-0622.