Maintaining your garden with Arthritis Research UK

Maintaining your garden with Arthritis Research UK

Using different tools or adapting the ones you already have can help you to protect your joints. You can also try changing the way you do things that you find painful or uncomfortable.

Planting out

Planting out summer bedding plants is another job that involves a lot of bending. You can avoid this by only growing shrubs and herbaceous perennials. Alternatively, you can dig a hole using a long-handled trowel, put the plant on the blade and lower it into the soil. You can do this sitting down if it’s easier. Pot-grown plants are the most suitable for this method.

Watering the plants

Ideally a mains water supply should be laid to a central point so that you can water any part of the garden using a short length of hosepipe or sprinkler. Carrying water in cans and buckets is very tiring and puts a lot of strain on your hands. Instead of filling a large can from a tap and carrying it to the bottom of the garden, place water butts where you need them most. You can fill them from time to time with a hosepipe if you need to, and dip a small watering can into the tanks when you need to water the plants.

When carrying and using a watering can, use both hands in order to distribute the weight. Alternatively, you can attach a small length of hose to an outside tap if you have one.

If you have free-draining borders that are in full sun, it’s best to use them for growing drought-resistant plants such as wallflowers, rosemary, broom and cotton lavender, which come to no harm if they dry out for a few days. This will help reduce the amount of watering you need to do. Mulching with shredded bark reduces water loss, but the mulch should only be applied to soil that’s already damp.

Hanging-baskets keep their moisture longer in light shade, and plants like fuchsias, ivy-leafed geraniums, lobelias and busy Lizzies thrive in these conditions. A hanging-basket sprayer is useful for watering a basket that’s too high to reach with a watering can. You can buy special hanging-basket compost with crystals that help keep moisture in so you don’t have to water so often. Crystals are also available for mixing in with standard compost.


Gripping and squeezing of pruning tools over a length of time can hurt finger joints, so have regular breaks or spells of doing other jobs, and try to use tools with padded handles. The following tools may make things a little easier:

  • A ratchet pruner takes less effort to cut through twigs than most secateurs. Instead of one big squeeze it takes several bites to make the cut, reducing strain on the knuckles.
  • A two-handed lopper will give good leverage without much effort and canbe held lightly against the palms and wrists, protecting the finger joints from strain. Some manufacturers also produce ‘ratchet loppers’ – these have a ratchet mechanism which will hold the blades in place if you need to stop mid-cut.
  • Pruners, loppers and secateurs with a cut-and-hold action hold the cut stem in their jaws so it doesn’t fall to the ground, which saves bending to pick up the cuttings.
  • English trimming shears can be used for light trimming after the flowering of heathers and lavender. You don’t need to move your fingers much to squeeze the blades together, and you can use them one-handed

Tomorrow we’ll be looking at how complementary therapies can be helpful if you have arthritis.

This week we are working together with Arthritis Research UK to help Mature Times readers who are living with joint pain, or who know someone who is, to keep gardening. If you want to find out more about how Arthritis Research UK could help you or how you can join us in our fight against arthritis, go to