Sunday, November 03, 2013

Acccessible Gardening

I've been reading several books and articles about accessible gardening.  By accessible, I mean for the senior gardener, or someone with decreased energy, strength, coordination, stamina.  I need to consider the strength and stamina issues, especially.  Concepts I've taken to heart, some as I recall from reading, others from concepts of home orchard gardening and my thoughts.

Raised beds.  Easier in every way.  They don't need digging. Weeds don't invade nearly as fast.  Weeds are also easy to remove.  They don't need much cultivation.  For any needed chores, the higher level is easier to work.  Lining the bottom with hardware cloth might help with mole prevention.  Lining the inside with plastic might help them last longer.

Containers.  Similar to raised beds.  They can be moved to better locations when needed.  For overwintering, it's easier to move the container, than to dig up the plants.  They do need more attention for watering.  Wood is better than plastic.  Wood insulates, so less watering is needed.  Line wooden containers with plastic liners so they don't deteriorate as fast.  With holes in the bottom for drainage.

Pruning.  Prune fruit trees back for more compact size.  Keep branching lower.  It's not much effort to prune when the trees are small.  Lower more compact branching means fruit is easier to harvest, and later pruning will also be easier.  Other training is also helpful.  For example, I bend some tall growing branches to lower position, and tie to fencing or post, for more accessible flowers, fruit, and pruning.  After a year in the bent position, the tie can be removed.

Mulch.  The wider area mulched, the less mowing and weeding.  I saved paper food containers - pizza boxes, cereal boxes, cardboard - which I used as a bottom layer, then covered with either straw or grass clippings.  The grass clippings break down faster and provide nutrients in the winter for next Spring.  The straw lasts about one season.  Either is much less effort and cost than bark mulch.  More easily available.   When weeds come up through straw mulch, I can bend them over and bury with more straw.  Much easier than digging them up.  Mulch really does keep the ground softer, so weeds are easier to pull.

Seating.  I keep a place to sit and rest.  I have a bench in the raised bed area.  I need to add something in the little orchard, in the shade. 

Edging.  Keeps weeds away from trees or shrubs or borders.  I don't know if this is better than just mulching.

Tools.  I keep in mind which tools are easier to use.   Some for prying out weeds by the roots, are better than a hoe.  A garden fork is sometimes easier than a hoe or shovel.   String trimmer makes fast work of weeds at edges.  Electric is lighter than gas.  I exercise care not to damage shrub twigs or tree bark.  Hardware cloth, used to make sleeve to protect tree bark from animal chewing, can also protect from the string trimmer.  If the hardware cloth sleeve is very loose, it can be left on the trunk for several years.  By using zip ties to fasten the hardware cloth in a ring, it's easy to put together, and easy to cut and take apart when the time comes.

Geometry.  Still working on this.  Rectangular shapes for tree mulch and raised beds, is much easier than circles.  It's easier to mow a straight line, than a circle.  I may wind up extending the mulch areas so they connect the trees in rows, and I can mow the long rows without backing up to mow between trees within rows.  The vegetable raised beds are already in rank and file arrangement, easy to mow and work between them. 

Plant choices.  I need to avoid some high maintenance choices.  Invasive varieties need to be avoided.  I have a spearmint that should be removed completely - too rampant.   It's difficult to pull out.  Bad choice on my part.  It does smell very good.  I might keep some for tisanes.  It will need edging or limitation by mowing.  Other choice is plant size.  In some cases, buying a larger plant may mean less nurturing in the long run, compared to a larger plant.   Plants that need too much effort for deer / rabbit / vole protection, should not be planted.  Unless I have a good reason, like I love my figs and plums. 

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