I’m struggling with a garden conundrum this year. I go back and forth on this. What do I do about my garden this year?

I found out recently from my master gardener neighbor why he doesn’t do much gardening in his backyard space.

Garden Problems:

It is the lack of a spigot to water a backyard garden. There is a spigot in the front near my front door. There’s one at some distance around the side of the building. But none in the back.

Now I see why residents have pot containers scattered in their yard, but so far I haven’t seen any real attempt at a raised garden. Because you’d have to lug water to your garden and most of the residents here are seniors.

Do the other residents fill a watering can to water their pots? Of course that limits the size of your garden area unless you’re the picture of health.

So I’ve asked myself: Should I just try to be content with a small number of pots on my patio? Do I instead try to garden in front where’s it’s very, very shady?

Do I do both?

Read Gardening For Older People

At physical therapy yesterday, I asked Holly what she’d do or not do if she was in my shoes.

She said she wouldn’t lift anything heavy or attempt stairs/steps.

So I guess I shouldn’t attempt to carry watering cans full of water to the raised portion of my yard.

Her husband, my ankle doctor/surgeon, told me: “If you get to the point where you can’t stand the pain, we’ll go in and try to clean things up.”

I’m not all that far from that point right now.

What Is Heavy?

So how much weight is considered heavy? It’s hard to garden when you can’t lift potting soil, etc.

And it’s hard to garden when you don’t have a nearby water spigot to attach a hose to.

Gardening For Seniors & People With Disabilities

The Problem Of The Raised Yard:

And then there’s the raised section, which is really all of my backyard aside from the patio. It’s rocky, it’s uneven, and it’s apparently built up with concrete blocks due to problems with water drainage.

So then there’s the question of whether a big rainstorm will send water sailing over my yard into my patio. Would this damage my plants?

There are two plastic drains on the patio, so I’m assuming they’re there because management is trying to eliminate a drainage problem.

So I suppose, aside from pots I can raise up off the ground, I’ll have to wait and see what happens when there’s a big rainstorm.

I try to keep my mind from wondering what’s coming up at the old apartment. I wouldn’t trade living here for there for anything. But boy, do I miss those perennials I know are coming up and bushing out.

Making Gardening Easier For Seniors

In The Garden Conundrum, here are a few of my indoor house plants

The Problem Of The Ankle:

And then my mind turns to my problematic ankle.

How long can I put off having surgery to attempt to alleviate some of the pain? Because, after 6 months, it doesn’t look like things are improving.

It seems I have to think through everything I want to do these days. After I moved in I know I pushed the limits. But the thought of moving in somewhere and not decorating it is absolutely foreign to me.

So I have most of that done; just tweaks here and there that any woman who dearly loves decorating will always continue to do.

But I’m also a woman who loves to garden. And I truly don’t know what to do.

Patio Garden Photos From Last Summer:

Below are some photos of my patio garden last year at the other apartment. The kind of gardening I’m accustomed to.

But then, I doubt I could accomplish gardening that much space this year anyway.

Read Info On Adaptive Gardening

Suggestions are much appreciated.

I know we’ve discussed this from time to time already. But plants are arriving in the nursery every day. And my planting date, April 15, is fast approaching.

I’m having to balance my physical condition with my love of growing things.

And that’s a hard one.

I guess I could also go around and ask other residents how they go about gardening here. Maybe some have spigots in the back. I’ll have to check this out.

More Links About Gardening For Seniors:

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83 Comments

  1. Maybe you should start small this year, and kind of get the lay of the land. A few containers in the front with some shade plants, and a few on your patio that you could manage to water with a watering can filled in the kitchen. Hopefully, next year, you’ll feel better and will be able to figure something more grand.

  2. Brenda,
    I live on a farm and have lots of room to garden but I have very arthritic knees and standing, bending or kneeling limit my abilities so this year I cleared my porch and purchased a vertical gardening system called Green Stalk. At first, I thought they were crazy looking but after binging on You Tube videos, I found myself intrigued with what I could grow in them. Please check them out. With your creative gardening style, you could make them look beautiful! I also wonder if they would sponsor you as you have so many followers.

  3. Hi Brenda,

    I’m a recently new follower and enjoy your design mantra and attitude. I’ve recently moved back to your state (my birth state!) after 40+ years elsewhere and am grappling with which plants will thrive here in the harsh winds and high heat of the central plains. I’ve been looking xeriscaping, which might be suitable for your rocky backyard area. Xeriscape ideas promote the use of drought tolerant plants that need less water. If you can find a solution for watering, possibly shade loving host as and impatiens would help offer some green and colorful joy in lieu of your much missed perennial raised beds. I’m sure these are not your perfect alternatives and would be a redirection for your gardening pursuits.

    1. I practiced xeriscaping when living in Texas back in the nineties. You definitely have to see what others are growing around you so you know what works there.

  4. A few years back I had to put gardening on the back burner because of back issues. So I took a season off and happy I did. I got the results I wanted for my back getting stronger and better. It wasn’t easy mind you, but it is doable. I made sure I brought fresh flowers in our home often to cheer me up…. it helped.

    1. I told my daughter last night that I didn’t know how much longer I could hold out from having surgery because I am becoming overcome with the pain.

  5. Brenda, I have a few suggestions, some of which echo other peoples opinions.
    1. Do you have room for a rain barrel? If so this would be a great way to collect water and then attach a hose to to water whatever you have planted.
    2. I suggest planting a few pots this year and watching the rest of your space to see the drainage, the run off, etc to see if the space that is raises is actually usable or if it will flood.
    3. Use the planters that you have and plant as many things as you can in them and you will be able to enjoy them from your patio as well as inside.
    4. Take this summer to rest, recuperate your foot, ankle.
    5. Ask for help! I am sure that your daughter or grandchildren would be happy to life bags of soil or heavy things.
    6. TAKE CARE OF YOU!
    Those are my suggestions. I know that whatever you do will look beautiful.

  6. What about just a few pots around the patio, but putting larger ones just on the edge of the upper portion as to form a line and an opening to your area? You could do the long stock tanks on each side, leaving an entry of sorts to your apt, but the stock tanks would be on the upper portion higher than your area and it would then be obvious there is a step down to get into your apt patio (or step up to get out). Make it obvious. Then the tanks would be higher; closer to waist high to create a pony wall of sorts?

  7. Saw some one had mentioned it but the rain barrel idea and it could be small decorative containers that would catch and hold water I had an older friend and an aunt that did this one would have a iron rod in it from somewhere she found said the iron in the water helped her flowers my aunt keep chicken manure or cow whatever she found at local plant and garden she said was amazing for her roses might work

  8. I live about an hour west of Tulsa. I have a large shade garden. In the ground, I’ve planted tri-color ajuga, creeping Jenny, lots of hostas, herchera (variety of colorful leaves), ferns and lirope. I add color with pots of annuals – impatiens, coleus, asparagus fern. The ground covers and liriope are colorful most of the year. In the fall, I put pansies and ornamental kale and cabbage in the containers. They flower all winter and into late spring. Because the garden is so shady, I don’t have to water much (after getting it established). I never would have believed that a shade garden could be so colorful but it is just beautiful. Very different from my full sun cottage garden at my previous home. We gardeners have to adapt to the conditions in which we find ourselves. I’m certain you will come up with a beautiful plan. Have fun plotting and planning!

    1. Hi Anne,

      Your proven formula of the plants you listed for containers was good information for me. I now live about an 30 miles north of Oklahoma City and am trying to figure out how to add some interest, texture and color to our farm landscape. I am at the point where I don’t care to create beds from scratch and want to maximize container gardening. Thanks for sharing these ideas with Brenda; I’ve gleaned some additional insight and ideas!

  9. Brenda, I’m wondering whether there is enough room on your patio or just adjacent to it before the rocks begin for one of those waist-high raised garden “beds”. You know what I mean? I was thinking that you might be able to get one of those if it wasn’t too expensive and fill it with a few perennials and some annuals. This would eliminate bending and maneuvering on your bad ankle. Just an idea. I know there are lots of different ones out there although I’ve not researched them.

    I know you will come up with a scaled-back version of your usual gardening and will learn some things this year that will be useful in future after you’ve learned what’s actually possible in the new place. Also give your ankle a chance to “rest” or heal, if you have surgery. It’s a hard change to make, I know. Perhaps you’ll have to find another hobby that you can do sitting down! Just teasing. I know there’s no substitute for growing beautiful plants and flowers.

    1. If I were in your situation, I’d find some very nice quality “looks like real” flowers in baskets to add color to your patio area where water access is not available without hauling containers for watering. If you purchase containers of flowers, to avoid the issue of hauling potting soil, you could use those containers where you have access to water. Try to make do at least for this season while you are figure out what might work and to keep you at least a little bit happy until your ankle issue improves. It sounds like you aren’t very stable in your feet for now and planting will be a painful situation. I’ve scaled back on my gardening and even the amount of potted flowers. This year I’m guessing we will see an increase in prices at the garden centers. Not great.

    2. Well, that’s a good idea! Thanks! I see what you mean I think. Put the raised containers right up to where the yard drops off, right?

  10. I think keeping it simple is the answer for now. Next year you’ll have seen what others in the complex have or haven’t done. And it wouldn’t hurt to chat with a few to ask what their plans may be or what they’ve done in the past.
    Do enough to enjoy! I wish I could do something on my patio, but my thumbs are very brown and our heat here in Arizona is terrible.

  11. Look at this year as a learning curve,while having some color in pots to enjoy.
    You’ll figure out the irrigation/flooding situation while taking a hiatus for your ankle,you can explore which option,surgery or therapy and pain management will work best for you.
    You decorated and setup the inside like a whirlwind,enjoy the fruits of your labors in there and plan on next year.

  12. Would management let you, and do you have room for, a rain barrel or some type of rain catchment system? If yes, maybe that could address the potential of flooding while also creating a water source for summer dry spells. Just a thought :). And if there’s enough of you living there that love to garden, maybe the complex will foot the bill and add a few strategic rain barrels around the complex! Wishful thinking?

      1. Brenda my mother had a similar situation. I bought her one of those lightweight expandable hoses with an adapter for her kitchen sink. She would attach it easily whenever needed and run it from either her bathroom or kitchen through her apartment and out to her patio. She also had a wagon to haul thinks that she would decorate when not in use.

  13. Start small with a small number of pots back and front. You’ll need to learn exactly how much light you get, how hot it gets on the patio to know what will grow best. I’d stay away from the rocky backyard area til you’re more mobile and know what it’s like in a heavy rain. Don’t plant more than you can water. Although, as a fellow gardener, I might give that kitchen sink hose a try!

  14. Lots of good suggestions, but speak to the management and find the history, drainage issues, rules and suggestions and how far you can go on developing your garden should be first. Then, relax and plan. You need a framework in order to go forward with your plans. You are renting, like me, so check with management first.

  15. Hi, I’m rushing to get out the door and haven’t had a chance yet to read the other comments, but how about one of those hoses that attaches to your kitchen sink and you can carry it around on your arm? Would one of those reach??? Also, you could change your garden up to more heat happy plants where they don’t need as much or as often to be watered. I usually water my plants on different days as my hoses only reach different sections of the yard. You could do that also. Just soak them well since they won’t get watered except every other (or two) days. If they have a water system, your daughter could help you rig up a small sprinkler so you just move that around every day or so to a different space. How about someone can bring you a couple gallon jugs that you leave out there under a table or in a corner and use, then when visitors come by, you could ask them to fill them for future use and put them back in your storage area? I bet a couple of neighbors would help out in exchange for the knowledge you could provide them. As my Kentucky mom used to say, “where there’s a will, there’s a way!” Good luck, Brenda. I sure hope you can get a good, safe plan to enjoy your passion.

    1. I can ask my daughters to fill jugs of water when they come around. I keep one for my house plants. The kitchen sink is really far from my back patio.

  16. I agree with the suggestions to take it easy this year with the garden. There are good reasons to do this.
    You can observe the light and the seasons and see how the water runs off. Check out what your neighbors plant in their spaces and how it grows. (Put out a cheerful pot or two of something that blooms so you won’t feel too sad.) This will allow you to rest your ankle and plan for next year’s garden. You have really challenged your ankle the last few months; perhaps it will improve a bit with rest and therapy. If not, at least there is a surgical option. I live alone and have arthritis everywhere and I have to pace myself, do things in 10-15 minute intervals when I used to spend the whole day outside in the garden. It is frustrating! I pay close attention to how you manage things. It is an inspiration to me. One thing I do is save my energy for what gives me the most joy (planting flowers), and get someone else to do the heavy work. I dont have kids but I have a kind neighbor and I pay someone when I have to.

    1. I did find someone to clean my apartment every couple of weeks when she cleans the next door neighbor’s place. And she’s very reasonable. So I’ve taken that load off myself. I’m sorry you’re in so much pain. I am too. I went to the doctor for a regular twice a year check up Monday and my blood pressure was pretty high. I take 2 medications for it. But pain elevates it. I wish I could stand up long enough to cook more.

    1. Yes, I’ll be looking at all that. I just tell myself that this year isn’t going to be a bust out year for gardening for me. I decorated the apartment and I have my house plants. I’ll just have to be content with what I can do and let the rest go.

  17. What about having a little get- together with all of the gardening interested persons in your complex? I would hope that the complex has some sort of meeting room type thing. Even if it’s just baked goods and coffee/tea.
    It would help to get to know more people than just the neighbors that you’ve run into.

    1. Oh, they have daily events so I could do all that if I wanted to. But I’m pretty content just being by myself and talking to the neighbors around me when I’m outside. There’s usually someone outside when I go out there. So I’m certainly not lonely. But the management plans get-togethers with meals and potluck dinners every month or so I think. They put out a newsletter every month of things going on.

  18. How about getting a rain barrel with a spigot? You could ask someone to fill it for you on a weekly basis (perhaps a cleaning lady, your daughter, or a friend/neighbor). I think minimal gardening this first year might be the way to go, so you can assess the way the water flows after heavy rains and also look around and see what kinds of plants seem to do well where. As far as shade plants, though, I’m finding so many varieties of coleus seem to love my shady front area and, along with some impatiens, really give it some nice color.

  19. Just for this year – your “inaugural year” in your new space, why not keep your plants confined to your patio and brick space in front of the cinder blocks. Keep only one chair outside with a small side table and use a couple of raised planters (see link below) plus a few medium/large pots with the thriller, filler, spiller planting concept? Perhaps a wind chime with deep soft tones? Focus not just on plants but also on atmosphere, such as hanging a string of lights or whatever suits your whimsy.
    Your bird bath would make a nice focal point, too. I would keep it all close so it is low maintenance and easy to water. I am working at making my garden more compact & quicker to water this year because summer is so hot here north of Houston.

    https://www.homedepot.com/p/Leisure-Season-36-in-x-24-in-x-36-in-Raised-Garden-Bed-Planter-Box-RPB6107/204199270

    Decide on a few plant combos & inspiration on containers & their placement will follow! Your eye for design will lead you.

    1. I like your description of “inaugural garden.” That’s what I plan to do. It is always my tendency to get an idea and get excited about it and take too much on. But this year I’m focusing more on just walking and being able to get around. Now I’ll check out your link. Thanks.

  20. Do you have a door or kitchen window nearby on the garden side of your apartment? These adapters that allow you to connect a garden hose to your kitchen sink faucet work great. Our son has used them in the past. It would allow you to hook the garden hose to your kitchen sink faucet and reach your garden thru an open window or door.
    https://www.amazon.com/Faucet-Adapter-Swivel-Aerator-Connect/dp/B07H26LKK2/ref=sr_1_1_sspa?keywords=faucet+to+hose+adapter&qid=1648141448&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1&spLa=ZW5jcnlwdGVkUXVhbGlmaWVyPUEzVTRTSENMRlIwUVlSJmVuY3J5cHRlZElkPUEwMzM5MDQ3OEJWQjhLSE4xUktXJmVuY3J5cHRlZEFkSWQ9QTA4MTQyMDYySUUwOVNVMjk3NzZYJndpZGdldE5hbWU9c3BfYXRmJmFjdGlvbj1jbGlja1JlZGlyZWN0JmRvTm90TG9nQ2xpY2s9dHJ1ZQ==

    Here’s one review:

    This is an incredible little product. For people that live in apartments and love plants and aquaculture (I’m building a patio pond), I needed something more efficient than a watering can – a hose. But in an apartment, you’ve got nowhere to hook one up. This solved EXACTLY the problem I needed. Converted my kitchen sink faucet into a threaded connection that I connected a standard garden hose to.
    It worked PERFECTLY. The thing that impressed me the most was the water pressure I got.

      1. You’ve probably thought of this already, but is a bathroom sink close enough to the back to be helpful (with a faucet connector?)?

  21. I didn’t read the other comments, so I’m sorry if this has already been mentioned. Would it hurt to take this summer off? Wander around your complex during the summer/fall to see what others are doing? Know you’d miss it, but your body could be grateful for the break. That way you can take the time to come up with a plan that’ll work for you, and then hit the ground running next spring.

    1. I know I’ll want to see some color out there. But I’ll take some of my house plants to the patio because they really get lush during the summer months outside. And I’ll probably get a few pots that are already filled, like the geraniums I had last year. Because I don’t want to be lifting potting soil.

  22. Once you enter this age, or health level, Brenda, we all have to reassess constantly what we can or should or should not do. Not fun but you are not alone. If I were you, I would leave off gardening outside until you get your ankle fixed…and that will require plenty of rest and therapy no doubt. Judging by how I see things have gone for my hubby…his problem is all his joints basically. I doubt his issues will ever leave…but we keep trying to help him get better anyway.

    1. I was already reassessing summer at the other place even before this apartment came open to rent. One thing I did have at the old place was lots of perennials. I’ll miss those. But I already knew by October that I wasn’t going to be planning big garden projects.

  23. Brenda, perhaps a rain barrel could be an option? I have also seem raised bds with a water reservoir, and perhaps someone in your complex would be able to fill it up for you. I assume management and other residents may need to have input. Perhaps a meeting could move forward some progress you could all enjoy.

    1. I don’t think I could have raised beds unless they approved and it was all above ground. Because I can’t dig up those rocks. Already asked about that before I moved in. And they said I couldn’t dig up the rocks. Probably the rocks help the drainage issue.

    1. I’m doing that. I just get all excited when March is coming to an end and I’m raring to plant. But things change. I’m not getting any younger. None of us are.

    1. That’s what kind of hose I have. Some years I have to order another because of one thing or another. But those are the only kinds of hoses I’ve been able to deal with for years. The other kind is just too heavy. Thanks for the link!

  24. I have a lot of shade and I love the plants that can be put in pots in the shade. Hostas, ferns, impatiens, mahonia, leopard plant, philodendrons, fatsia, so many things can give you a really lush look out front that is low maintenance. Add in some reblooming hydrangeas, azaleas and violets.

    Another idea is, with management approval, put a ” y ” connector on your front spigot so that two hoses can be attached. One would stay out front and the other would go around to the back.

    Another thought is just have a couple of things this year, and discover what perennials come up around you in other people’s yards. Just having them nearby might calm your need for that.
    Because I don’t have a lot of sun, mostly shade, I don’t have a lot of flowering perennials. The truth is, I enjoy my annuals and I also enjoy not having to cut back those perennials all the time. Perennials have a lot of maintenance to look good.

    1. You’re right. For perennials to look good, there is maintenance involved. If I put a connector to the front spigot, I would have to go a long way to get to the back. And there are trees and roots at the side that I don’t want to stumble over. But I’ve never really had a lot of shade, so I haven’t had a shade garden and I look forward to learning about them. I could put hostas and other shade plants in pots in front.

      1. Endless Summer hydrangeas and reblooming azaleas, gardenias and lots more gorgeous blooms with wonderful scents

  25. I would concentrate on your ankle first. Last summer my husband had major back surgery and I knew I couldn’t plant like I usually do. My solution was to go to hobby lobby and joann’s and buy artificial. No one knew the difference from afar . You would be able to see color out your patio door and not worry about watering.

    1. Last year I really enjoyed some pots of geraniums that I didn’t have to add a thing to. The place where I got them went out of business. But I’m sure I could find some like them somewhere around here.

  26. Maybe it would be best to talk to management and see exactly what the problem is on the patio. Yes, your big patio was fantastic. You made it look like a nursery I’d love to spend hours in. I know you and Terri will come up with something to help you water. I worry about you over doing it now with your ankle being so precarious. You have to be so very careful. 💞

    1. I don’t think Teri is agile enough to do much after her fall. I haven’t seen her in quite awhile. And last I talked to her, she was still having a lot of problems with it. So I don’t want her doing anything else. Afraid she’d injure herself further. She’s already done so much that I’m so grateful for.

  27. Considering all that is going on this year and perhaps pending surgery I would probably opt for container plants this year. You could choose shade loving plants for your front yard (sounds like there is spigot already there) and choose more sun loving plants for your back patio area. In the past when I haven’t had a handy spigot I’ve used an extra long hose to bring the water where I need it to be. Since you mentioned a spigot on the side of your apartment, maybe that would be an option for hooking up a long hose for watering the plants in the patio area. I do hope it works out well for you in all regards and that your ankle will be feeling better and your different garden this year will bring you joy.

    1. One thing about all this shade in front and back is that my apartment shouldn’t take so much to cool off! So there’s that. Container plants is all I’m planning on this year.

  28. Depending on how far away your kitchen faucet is from the patio, you could try a garden hose to kitchen faucet adapter (saw some at Amazon) and attach a hose kept outdoors as needed to water patio planters.

  29. Brenda, I only have one faucet on the outside of my house and would love to have another one, but I just run a long hose along the side of the house and get water to the front yard. With a sprayer on the hose the water stops when you let go of it, then you can go out the front door and shut off the water when you’re finished. Unless I’m mistaken, the previous resident left a water hose hanging above your faucet. You could connect a lightweight coiled hose to that one then put the hose in a pot to conceal it. You just don’t have the room to have a garden like you’ve had in the past but we can get it set up so that you have plenty of pretties you can care for without stepping up from your patio. We’ll make this work and I’m starting to think I won’t be limping forever so I can help you.

  30. I agree that between your ankle and not knowing the shade, water faucet, and rainwater issues I would take it easy this year. It is a good idea to check with management to see if you can even plant in certain parts of the yard. As far as the rising prices of plants, maybe when things get growing you could have a plant swap. It could be an enjoyable event to foster a sense of community, exchange ideas and make new friends! I know we all can’t wait to get in the garden!

  31. Try using a small child’s wagon to get ur plants, soil, pots from car to garden. Your old place had a beautiful pot garden. Just change up the plants to drought tolerant and shade. Whatever u figure out I know will be stunning. In the spots that are uneven you could plant sweet potato vine and lantana. You’ll figure it out.

    1. I know I will. I bought one of those carts that is fairly big to help myself move in here. I take things out of my car and put them in either the granny cart or that one and roll them to my apartment.

  32. Brenda, The last 2 years of Covid raised the prices in our StLouis garden centers so much because of availability, I could not buy as I once have. I filled a few containers, used perennials to mix in and placed them where I could enjoy them the most. Then I pulled my houseplants outdoors under my patio and the were easy to care for and gave me some color with the foliage. The patio you left at the other apartment is not able to recreate at this location. You are a wonderful gardener and have so much creativity that whatever you do will be beautiful! Sherry B. P.S. Wondering if there is a hose you could connect to the kitchen faucet to use outside. I see the fabric retractable advertised on TV.

    1. Yes, prices for everything has gone way up. Gas prices are high. Everything will have to be scaled back due to availability and pricing. So I’m taking all that into consideration.

  33. I would check with your apartment management before doing anything. I have a feeling they won’t want you gardening and digging in that raised rough area. Didn’t you say there was a irrigation system in that area also?
    As much as you enjoy gardening it doesn’t sound like it would be very good for you right now.
    Try to take it easy and recover as best you can. Making it worse will not be good in the long run.

    1. Well there is one spout about 2-3 feet high out back in that raised area. I don’t know if it’s a working irrigation system or not. But I think you’re right. They’ve probably had issues with drainage, or my place wouldn’t be raised up like it is and no one else’s is like it. So no, they won’t want anyone digging I bet.

  34. Could you fill smaller jugs of water in the kitchen and get them to the patio in a small wagon. Lots of good ideas for small patio gardens. At least some colorful flowers. I feel your need for something out there. 🌺 🪴

    1. I’ve been telling readers for years that even if you don’t have much space, you can still enjoy a garden. Just have to follow my own advice.

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