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7 Essential Tools for Gardeners 50 and Older

Inexpensive implements make it easier to tend plants

spinner image Aerial view of a woman watering garden with water hose.
Getty Images

Karen Beauchemin calls gardening her therapy. Over the years, she’s spent a lot of time in her West Yarmouth, Massachusetts, garden tending to her vegetables and flowers from her perch on “my little bench.”​

That bench is actually a rolling garden seat that wheels around her raised beds and allows Beauchemin to comfortably get down, and stay at, plant level.​

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Gardening should be fun, not backbreaking. So, like Beauchemin, invest in the tools that make it an easier and safer activity as you age. Those tools are often simple and inexpensive — or things you can adapt yourself.​

Although these implements can help every gardener, those who suffer from arthritic hands or bad knees or who struggle to rise from the ground may find them essential.​

“If you make it easier on you, you’re going to be doing it longer,” says Phyllis Turner, 73, a master gardener with the Bedford County Office of Virginia Cooperative Extension. Turner, a retired nurse, works with a therapeutic gardening program that encourages people of all abilities to garden and often highlights supportive techniques, such as how to adapt gardening tools.

Turner and her husband tend a quarter-acre vegetable garden and 25 flower beds. Her favorite leaf rake is one her husband made lighter by cutting 12 inches off the handle. He then wrapped the rake with pipe insulation, making it easier to grasp.​

“Long-handled tools … can get very heavy, and they tend to be much longer than they need to be,” Turner says.​

Reduce stress and strain

If you don’t want to do it yourself, several gardening tool companies offer ergonomic implements such as long-handled weeders or hand shovels with arced handles to take the pressure off wrists.​

“It does reduce a lot of stress and strain,” says Christine Kelly-Begazo, an agricultural agent with Indian River County Extension near Vero Beach, Florida, who has researched gardening ergonomics and grows vegetables, flowers and about 30 pineapple plants.​

As for favorite tools, experiment based on your physical abilities, garden and terrain. Turner says her ground is too uneven for a wheeled cart. She prefers “to just scoot around on my butt.” That said, here are seven tools that she and other gardeners say make the work easier.​

spinner image Gardening hose in grass
JENYA / Alamy Stock Photo

1. Lightweight hose

These come in different styles, including coiled plastic, metal and various fibers, and are much easier to drag around the yard. Some retract, others wind on a hose reel. To make them last, drain after use. Price: $35 and up for 100 feet.​

spinner image RH4A3EHori Hori Garden Tool Soil Knife Planting Radish in Raised Planter Bed Garden
F42PIX / Alamy Stock Photo

2. Hori hori

This Japanese all-purpose blade is about 7 inches long, 2 inches wide and concave. Linda Scharf, 64, of Onset, Massachusetts, says she uses hers for digging, weeding, measuring depth and cutting weeds. “The weight is really good, and I really have not bought any other tool.” Price: $25 and up.​

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spinner image Adjustable rake
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3. Adjustable, telescopic rake

These lightweight rakes adjust for handle length and the width of the raking tines, so they are wide enough for a yard or narrow enough for flower beds. Price: $20 and up. ​

spinner image Kneeling pad in garden
Cornerstone Photos / Alamy Stock Photo

4. Kneeling bench or kneepads

Turner’s husband wears hockey pads. Kelly-Begazo prefers one of the padded seats that flip to become a kneeler with side handles that support you as you stand. Price: $40 and up for a kneeler.​

spinner image Two-wheeled wheelbarrow
Pavlo Romanchenko / Alamy Stock Photo

5. Two-wheeled wheelbarrow

Traditional single-wheeled wheelbarrows can tip when they get heavy, twisting your back, says Turner, who prefers a child’s wagon. Look for carts or wheelbarrows with two wheels. Price: $70 and up, depending on size.​

spinner image the backyard of a home with several raised bed gardens with vegetables planted in them
Joanne Dale/Alamy Stock Photo

6. Elevated garden beds

Installing a bed raised off the ground will prevent you from having to bend over or kneel on the ground to do your planting, weeding and harvesting. An elevated bed allows you to sit on a stool or a chair to work on your garden. Build the bed to your own desired height, but be sure to consider the root depth of the kind of flowers or vegetables you’ll likely plant, and use cross supports for anything taller than 18 inches. You can buy raised garden planters or make your own.​

spinner image a person wearing a sun hat and long sleeves and gloves potting a flower
Getty Images

7. The right clothes

What you wear can make gardening easier and safer. Start from the top with a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face from the sun. Next, consider sunglasses or safety goggles to protect your eyes from dirt and stalks. If you live in an area with ticks, wear clothing treated with .5 percent permethrin, and tuck your pants into your socks. Wear long sleeves or invest in a pair of “farmers sleeves” — stockings for your arms that cost about $25 a pair and come in fun colors and patterns. Don’t forget gloves to protect your hands from dirt, bites and chemicals. For weeding, try kitchen cleaning gloves, which are flexible but have a grip delicate enough for the smallest intruder.​​

More Strategies for Easier Gardening

Gardeners have their favorite tools, as well as advice that applies to anything in your gardening arsenal. For example:​

  • Bring your garden up to you with a garden bag or wheeled containers.​
  • Paint tool handles a bright color, so you can see them in the weeds.​
  • Break up repetitive jobs such as weeding, or switch hands to avoid overuse.​
  • Wear gloves to protect hands and reduce vibration from power tools.​
  • Wash tools after use, and keep them sharp. To store them, some experts suggest filling a container with builders sand, which drains well and is often used for mixing concrete. Add mineral oil and mix until slightly damp. Brush debris off tools and stick blades or tines into the sand. The sand helps keep the blades sharp; the oil prevents rust.​​

Editor's note: This article was originally published on May 10, 2021. It has been updated to reflect new information.

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