6 Tips To Make Gardening Easier When You Have A Chronic Illness

Zucchini and Yellow Squash with Text Overlay 6 Tips To Make Gardening Easier When You Have A Chronic Illness https://reclaiminghope.blogEight or nine years ago, my uncle gave me my very first tomato plant — and some horse manure to go along with it. Little did I know that little gift was going to give me a passion for something that I never had the slightest bit of interest in prior to that time. When I was a teenager, we had a garden but I’d do anything I could to get out of working in it. Thankfully, I had a part-time job, so my brothers got stuck helping out in the garden and I was able to escape that drudgery. Fast forward…..well, let’s not worry about how many years….and I was driving home with a tomato plant and a bag of horse poop in the car….

tomato plant with almost-ripe tomatoes https://reclaiminghope.blogThat first tomato plant ignited my love for gardening and now I can’t wait to get my hands in the dirt each Spring. There’s just something about planting those tiny little seeds or plants, watching them grow, and then reaping the benefits of all the work and tender loving care you put into them.

Gardening can be therapeutic and growing our own food can ensure we’re eating food that’s grown the way we want it to be grown.  It can also be a lot of work, and when you have a chronic illness, it can be difficult to keep up with all the things that have to be done for your garden to thrive. Back in my Air Force days we had a saying, “work smarter, not harder.” Applying that mentality to my gardening has been extremely helpful in allowing me to do something I love without wearing myself out.

As with anything else, it has taken some experimentation and patience to find better ways of doing things, but here are some of the things that have been most helpful:

  • Start small. If I could make only one recommendation for someone just starting out, this would be my one piece of advice. It’s easy to add on later if you find that you enjoy it and are up to doing more work in the garden, but if you start out too big and can’t keep up with it, you might get discouraged and give up on it completely.garden https://reclaiminghope.blog
  • Use raised beds. This can be a little more expensive than just digging up the ground, but they have a couple of advantages. First, you don’t have to bend over as far to do any weeding, pruning, harvesting, etc. Secondly, although you will still have weeds, you probably won’t have as many as if you start at ground level. Using the raised beds leads to the next thing that’s been helpful for me….
  • Get a lightweight stool to use in your garden. For times you’re going to be out there for a while, such as when you’re weeding, this is an invaluable piece of equipment. I also use mine when I’m cutting lettuce. That takes a while, and if you’re bent over cutting, it can really drain you quickly. My husband got me a nice stool to use, but I found it to be a little too high and too heavy to move easily, so now I just use his plastic step stool that he uses when he changes out the bird feeders. I take put my cushion that’s made for sitting on the bleachers at games on top of it, and I’m all set for whatever chore I need to do.
  • Grow up. For plants that like to vine, training them up a trellis can save you a lot of bending. My husband built me a wooden frame that he attaches to whichever box I’m using for the cucumbers, and he uses garden twine to string a trellis for them to climb. Of course, you could always use a ready-made trellis or you could even use tomato cages to allow them to grow up and out.cucumbers on trellis https://reclaiminghope.blog
  • Grow only things that you really like to eat. There’s no need to waste energy growing things that you don’t really want to eat that often. I’ll give you an example: we’ve planted bell pepper plants for several years, because we do like them, but we found that even after sharing with our neighbors we were still having to throw some away because they went bad before we ate them. Guess what I didn’t plant this year…..blueberries on bush https://reclaiminghope.blog
  • Limit your gardening work to the coolest hours in the day and do a little at a time. This is probably a no-brainer, but sticking to an early-morning or late-evening schedule and breaking up the work can pay big dividends in energy conservation for those of us who don’t have much energy anyway. We’re early risers, so I go out first thing in the morning, and I almost never spend more than 30 minutes to an hour out there. That allows me to get some of my work done without wearing myself out.

Growing your own food can be such a rewarding experience, and for me at least, it’s great therapy for those days when I’m feeling down or cranky, or just plain out of sorts. It’s something that I was afraid I might have to give up once I became ill, but just as with other things, sometimes you don’t have to give up what you love; you just have to make adjustments to make it work for you.

Are you a gardener? Please share your tips for working smarter not harder!





  1. I love having a garden but haven’t been able to for the past few years. Logistics of traveling but soon hubby will retire, and I can’t wait to get back to it. You are so right, there is nothing like planting this little seed, and watching it turn mot only into a plant, but then food. It is a true miracle. I haven’t been blessed with raised beds but hubby keeps saying we will do it. :):):) Your garden looks amazing! The stool is one of the most important tools for me hahaha. I get vertigo, and the bending over tends to turn into falling over. I found these little fold out stools at Ace hardware. They have 3 legs, and a clothe/nylon seat, that forms the shape of a triangle when you pull it out. It makes it easy to sit, and maneuver. When it’s folded back up, it’s not much thicker than a large umbrella. They even have a strap, so when moving around the garden, I can throw it over my shoulder. This is a step up from the upside down buckets we sat on when I was growing up :):):) I was laughing so hard about your little plants and the poop hahaha It’s a beautiful thing :):) LORD, thank You for blessing Terri :):)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for your comment Margaret! I hope you get tho have your garden again soon, and since your hubby will be retired, maybe you can talk him into building you some nice raised beds. :o) I’ve seen them ready-made at Lowe’s but they weren’t as high as mine. One thing we’ve decided is that when we have to replace the boxes ( I won’t use treated wood so the termites start eating them) we’re going to use some of that TREXX decking to build them so they’ll last longer. Thanks for sharing about the stool from ACE Hardware. I’m going to see if ours have it, because that sounds perfect for the garden! I remember sitting on those upside down buckets too. I’m glad you got a kick out of the poop story — I did NOT want to take that poop home, but I sure didn’t want to be disrespectful to my uncle so we just loaded it into the car anyway. It really did make that plant grow though, so I ended up being glad he gave it to me. Thanks for sharing in my gardening adventure. God bless you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh thank you for the tip about the planting beds. Hahaha yes the manure doesn’t smell good but it sure makes for big, beautiful, tasty produce :):) I love my little chairs. I got them years ago. They were very affordable so I went back and got a couple of them. You know how it is, when it wears out you can’t find them again. Speaking of which I went to ace’s website to look them up for you, and of course, I don’t see them on their website BUT a quick search and Tractor’s Supply has a couple to choose from. The one that looks just like mine(looks, I don’t know if it is but it will give you an idea) is: Ameristep Tripod Stool
        SKU # 118174399 :):);)

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  2. Brilliant tips, Terri! I’m going to get my dad a little stool for the garden as his knees are so bad now and at 69 he needs to take things a little easier rather than always thinking he should just ‘keep going and get it all done’. I’ll have to print this post out to show him as he never listens to me when I tell him things like ‘do a little at a time and don’t overdo it’ or ‘are you crazy doing all of this on the hottest day of the year?!’ He might pay attention coming from someone else 😉
    Caz x

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much Caz! That’s so funny that you say that about your Dad maybe listening to someone else….. Sometimes I tell my husband he has to hear something from someone else to really believe it. :o) I hope the stool makes it easier on your Dad’s knees. I know mine has been a game-changer for me. Hope you’re doing well today. Hugs to you!

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  3. I agree! Beautiful garden!!! I must say I Hate gardening. (From the large one I had to weed as a child!) I love planting container flowers and I have my own raised garden… because I like to eat from a fresh garden! So I plant a garden. One trick I use, I grow rhubarb in my garden.. when I harvest the first round, I cut the leaves off when I’m in the garden and line the area between the rows. No weeds grow, no need to hoe, walkway stays a walkway! by the time the leaves on the ground start to look yucky, its time to harvest another batch of rhubarb, I keep adding the leaves on top and my husband tills the garden in the fall and spring. No need to clean up the mess!

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  4. What great advice, Terri. Wish I had you in my life back in the days when I tried to garden (broke tip #1 too often). The raised garden beds make great sense. Maybe when we settle, I’ll try again.

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    1. Thanks so much V.J.! Our first year of gardening here, we had the two small boxes (one for blueberries and one for asparagus) and one long one. Once I knew I could handle that, he added another one the next year and then the final one the following year. That’s about all I want to mess with.😄

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Mishka! My Grandma had a green thumb like that too. She really loved her plants; in fact I have one that is a cutting from a cutting (does that even make sense?) from one of her plants. She passed away many years ago, but a part of her lives on in my “Grandma plant.”

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  5. Thank you for the great gardening tips! When my husband and I move into the house we are planning to move into, I would love to have a garden as beautiful as yours! We had purchased his Grandparent’s family home last year, but the move process is taking a long time!!!! Thank you so much for sharing the wonderful gardening tips!!!!

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  6. What a pretty garden 😀 and all great advice! I am just getting back into gardening, I wish all my beds were raised. The only tip I have is to weed after the rain because everything comes out of the soil much easier. Lowen @ livingpositivelywithdisability.com

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  7. Great tips and pictures! We planted a much smaller garden this year – a few tomatoes and herbs, along with our blackberries. It was all we could manage this time around. 🙂 I am waiting on my tomatoes to ripen!!

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    1. Thanks so much Cynthia! I think it’s smart that you planted what you knew you could handle. It’s important to have an idea of how much work we can handle with our pain/fatigue levels and plan accordingly.😊 My hubby would be jealous of your blackberries – he loves them!

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  8. I always applied the ‘work smarter not harder’ principle when I was teaching and like you, I now apply it to my gardening. We have plans to build proper raised beds but for the last few years, I’ve done container gardening which is the same idea but on a smaller scale. Lettuce, peas and cucumbers (vertical gardening is definitely the way to go), they taste so much better and we save so much money over the summer. Also, the potato planting bags are awesome for growing lots of potatoes in a small space. One tip I learned this year was about growing onions. If you cut the greens halfway a couple of times during the season, your onions grow bigger and you have a constant source of green onions. Great post! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks so much for your comment, and for following. I look forward to getting to know you! I’m glad you’re enjoying container gardening. I’m going to have to try out the potato planting bags since they take up so much less space. Thanks also for the tip about growing onions. That’s great information to have!

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