Personal Stories

Gardening for seniors

Gardening in a retirement community; seniors share their tips for a healthy garden and a green thumb

It’s easy to see why millions are passionate gardeners: working in nature enriches the mind, body and spirit. Moving into a retirement residence does not mean you have to give up gardening — in fact, Amica residents garden in ways they never imagined they would.

Image for Conversations Article Gardening for Seniors at Amica senior living residence.

Amica residences offer many opportunities to hone your green thumb. Some buildings have a greenhouse or solarium on site, and nearly every location has a designated green space. Many Amica buildings have communal raised beds, and don’t underestimate what can be planted in a pot on a balcony. Our residents have grown everything from geraniums to tomatoes in planters. Additionally, activities such as flower arranging, dried flower preserving, and herb planting are mainstays in many Amica residences. And why not bring nature indoors? Houseplants are always welcome.

We asked some expert green thumbs — seniors living at two beautifully landscaped Amica residences in Ontario for gardening tips on how to make this pastime a pleasure through the ages.

Plant perennials — think hostas, ferns and poppies — that re-appear every year. You’ll save money and time, since you don’t have to dig new holes each spring.

– Kay

Choose low-maintenance perennials that don’t require much care, such as lilies and periwinkle, which spread nicely.

– Marjorie

Deadhead to grow bigger plants faster. Remove spent blooms when the flowers turn yellow or shrivel. For plants like pansies and geraniums, run your fingers down to the base of the stem and pinch it off. If you leave spikes on the plant, it will start to produce seeds and die off.

– Alfie

Enrich the soil with sheep manure and peat moss and your plants will grow profusely.

– Marjorie

Try shrubs such as firebush, forsythia, bridal wreath and spirea. Shrubs are low maintenance yet still produce nice flowers.

– Kay

Read plant labels so plants flourish without extra work: don’t hide a sun-loving plant in the shade or expose a shade-loving plant to full sun.

– Alfie

Water wisely. Too much or too little and your garden won’t thrive. Find out what your plants require by asking at the nursery or reading gardening books. Most plants need a good soak, then leave them until the soil dries out.

– Alice

Use a hose with a sprinkling attachment instead of lugging heavy watering cans.

– Marjorie

Try a three-prong cultivator in a city garden. This garden tool lets you loosen the soil without damaging the roots. A hoe is better for a huge garden with lots of space and rows of flowers. ­­

– Alfie

Garden above ground. Try gardening in containers or a raised flowerbed. Wear gloves for easy cleanup.

– Dorcas

Save your knees and back. Try kneeling on a cushioned board that converts to a seat.

– Eric & Lynn

Use good gardening tools. Look for hoes and pitchforks with extended handles — they’re easier on the gardener. Good pruners are important to cut stems evenly. – Helen

Take breaks. Sit down and be sure to rest.

– Helen


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