Retirement gardening is popular for pleasure and for health

GARDENING remains a major retirement activity in Spain although surveys suggest that more women than men actively garden on a regular basis.

This is a pity as gardening offers interesting mental and physical activity in touch with and managing nature.

In spite of the amazing achievements of technology over the past century, a garden designed, developed and nurtured over 10 or 20 years is probably one of the most complex, challenging and continuous projects one can undertake in retirement and even a lifetime.

But many do it because the results are very visible, satisfying, self-fulfilling and if done in partnership with a spouse can rebuild relationships that declined during busy working lives.

Also gardening can be practised even into one’s 90s, for gardens can be reduced in size and enviable mini gardens can be created even on apartment terraces and balconies as described in the book ‘Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style.’

Some of the other reasons retirement gardening is popular are as follows:

• It can be practised in gardens and allotments, in patios and courtyards, and on apartment terraces, balconies and window sills. Yes even on window sills where we have seen interesting succulent collections, mini strawberry beds and trays of cut and cut again salad leaf collections. On an even smaller scale one can try drain pipe gardening using beer cans as containers.

• Having a garden to potter around in can help the transition from paid work to retirement as it has different and interesting demands season by season.

• Gardens provide opportunities for both brain and brawn. It provides for both partners to combine their relative strengths and weaknesses.

• Men, if you are not keen on gardening, at least help your spouse/ partner to change plant- ings to the more drought and frost resistant varieties including wild naturalised varieties and establish systems for collecting, storing and distributing more rain water. Several hundred practical ideas for reducing your watering bills and efforts are included in the book ‘How to use less water in your garden.’ Hard copy and Kindle versions are available from Amazon Books.

• Moving to the south of Europe allows one to enjoy gardening and gardens on many more days of the year than in the UK and other northerly countries and also allows one to experiment with a new range of flowering plants, fruits, herbs and vegetables.

• With just a few hours a week it is perfectly possible to become very self-sufficient in ecologically grown herbs, vegetables and fruit, again even on a mini scale.

• As one becomes infirm it is possible to work sitting down, by gardening in tall containers and on specially constructed growing tables. The latter are great for building up interesting collections of small plants and small growing salad varieties.

• Working in the garden, especially in the winter sun, helps build up and maintain one’s natural vitamin D production as well as exercising many limbs. But do use trees to add shade for yourself and pets with shade seats at various points of the garden to rest, read and enjoy the vistas and perfumes of the garden at various times of the year.

• Egg laying hens can be very friendly and interesting pets if purchased young and regularly handled and their bedding is a good addition to compost heaps.

• For those who still like competing in competitions for the best flower arrangement, group of roses, fruit or vegetables, most interesting newly propagated dry garden plant, best plant photograph etc, monthly garden clubs can be very motivating. It is a pity that not all gardening clubs recognise the interest and self- fulfilment that such activities can stimulate.

But if you are to continue gardening to a ripe age do ensure the garden is safe. Do reduce the chance of slips, trips, sprains, cuts and spiking. Ergonomically designed tools such as the Fiskars range are in our experience well worth the extra cost.

Also ensure that terrace and garden walls are safe, that trees are not getting top heavy and liable to fall or that branches are liable to snap in high winds.

© Dick Handscombe
March 2015

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