Plan This Year’s Garden to Maximize Comfort and Enhance Wellbeing

The quieter months of winter are the ideal time to dream, imagine, and plan for a garden that can contribute to your wellbeing, provide a space for creativity, and an experience that energizes you, while bringing you peace.

On a recent rainy Sunday afternoon, I spent hours in front of our fireplace, doing one of my favorite things —  perusing the Baker Creek Whole Seed Catalog and thinking about what I want to grow this year. I hadn’t even picked out my first seeds or plants yet, and yet my garden was already offering me the gifts of slowing down, lingering by the fire, and imagining ways I can create this year’s garden.

The Whole Seed Catalog

I began with writing my wish list in my garden journal, sketching my raised beds to scale, and even filling in my drawings where I’d planted my allium bulbs, so I won’t forget.

I’m always looking for new ways I can create greater comfort and ease in my garden, so it truly can be a place of sanctuary and joy. I had some new thoughts on how to incorporate seating next to my containers, so I can make planting, tending, and harvesting easier on my body and more enjoyable.

If you’re already in the planning process — OR if this sparks you to start planning your garden, I’ve included a few of my favorite tips for how you can make this year’s garden safe, comfortable, and sustaintainable. Creating a sustainable garden and planning for not just this year’s garden, but for the years to come, is one of the most important keys I’ve found for successful and fulfilling gardening.

My Mom used to say to me: 

Do it once; do it right.
Do it wrong; do it over.

While my Mom was almost always right, I’ve upgraded her advice to fit my vision for a creating a sustainable garden:

Don’t plan; do it over.
Do plan and adapt for comfort and ease;
making for less work and more enjoyment.

If Mom was still here with us and tending to her garden, she’d wholeheartedly agree that taking care of our bodies needs to be our #1 goal, especially as we age. While Mom loved to garden, I saw how she suffered from back pain when she did, and I remember so clearly when she told me  she “couldn’t do it anymore.”

Toni Gattone's mom

I wish she had lived long enough so I could have shared with her everything I’ve learned about adaptive gardening* and the ways it could have helped her to be more resilient, not only in her garden, but in her life overall.

*Adaptive Gardening offers a myriad of ways for gardeners of all ages with a limited abilities, range of motion, or anyone wanting to reduce stress on their joints, to identify what works for them in their garden according to their personal physical realities.

So, what are some ways we can adapt our gardens to make them more comfortable — so that it works better for us and whatever physical issues we may be dealing with?

Here’s a few guidelines that inform my planning and pre-spring preparation …

Tip #1 – Raise your bed.  Raise your comfort.

Incorporate raised bed gardens — especially elevated waist-high raised beds, and you won’t have to bend over or kneel down to tend to your garden. Raised beds come in all kinds of shapes, sizes, and price points — from modern galvanized troughs to traditional long-lasting cedar or redwood, and everything in between.

I recently added a self-watering 2’x4’ raised bed to my garden, which I believe to be the best garden invention this past year.  Raised self-watering planters, now that’s innovation!

Self-watering raised beds:

  • Save you time and energy without watering manually 
  • Save you money on your water bill
  • Give you peace of mind when you’re away from home that your garden is being taken care of

Tip #2 – Minimize work; maximize effort. Explore the benefits of container gardening.

Include containers in your landscape for five reasons: 

  1. If you’ve downsized or have limited space, containers are a great way to garden UP.
  2. There’s a plethora of different kinds of containers on the market, from lightweight for balconies to gorgeous ceramic pots for visual punch.
  3. You can sit down next to them to plant, tend and harvest. 
  4. Containers can be moved as the seasons and light changes. 
  5. You’ll have fewer weeds and diseases.
Toni Gattone with succulents

Tip #3 – Go vertical to increase your ease.

Vertical gardens let you stand up to work with greater comfort.  Look around your yard or gardening area for different kinds of vertical garden opportunities. You can incorporate wall planters, obelisks, or trellises for growing beans, peas, and cucumbers.

I have a vertical planter on my south facing wall, where I grow a variety of sun-loving succulents.

If you have a pergola or an arbor,  you can also “garden up” with spectacular vines, gorgeous climbing roses, or the ever-magnificent wisteria.

Tip #4 – The right tool for the task is a gamechanger.

Does your back hurt just thinking about planting seeds in the ground? Here’s a great workaround solution for no-bend planting.

Go to your favorite home improvement store and have a piece of PVC cut to waist-high length. Use the pipe to create a furrow where you want to plant. Drop your seed into the PVC and then move it the appropriate distance and repeat until all your seeds are planted. Then use the PVC to cover the seeds with soil. Easy-peasy!

You can do the same for bulbs, if the pipe is wide enough for the bulbs and be sure to mark inches on the pipe using a permanent marker so you’ll know how deep to plant them. That’s a great back-saving solution.

Tip #5 – With some intention and attention, a sacred and inspiring garden can be yours.

Your garden can be a peaceful haven for you — by making your safety, comfort, and sustainability a priority, you can create a sanctuary for restoring and re energizing — your own peaceful island for whatever storm may come your way.

Whether you envision a quiet meditation space, a cozy spot for sipping tea or reading a good book, or an outdoor area that beckons you at the end of the day for a relaxing glass of wine — an important part of creating a garden that enhances your wellbeing is carving out a place to simply be in it, where you can take in the beauty and the fruits of your labor, and to enjoy what you’ve grown and cultivated.

My garden is one of my favorite places to slow down, be still, and get quiet. I’ve benefited a great deal over the years from my meditation practice. Did you know a 20 minute meditation can give your body the rest equivalent to 8 hours of sleep? It can clear your mind, slow your breathing, and reduce your stress — helping you to be calm and above all, present. 

I appreciate this beautiful Quan Yin statue. She serves as a reminder to stop struggling or forcing things to happen, to let go of anger, to have compassion, and to just “be.”

Photo Credit: Heidi Hornberger

Some of my favorite
guided meditation resources are:

Insight Timer

*BONUS TIP* – A comfortable garden fits you and your lifestyle.

We are living in unprecedented times and it’s times like these when we discover creative ways we couldn’t have imagined — and our gardens and yards are no exception as they can be reimagined for socially-distanced entertaining. One of the silver linings that has come from this horrible pandemic is that a lot more alfresco dining is happening all around the world.

I don’t like the circumstances that have made this be so, but I sure do appreciate and enjoy being outdoors, especially with friends, and connecting over a cup of coffee or lovely meal.

So, when the weather cooperates and you’re ready to entertain again, consider inviting some friends over for a safe, socially-distanced gathering in your garden.

Photo Credit:: Elizabeth M. Holm, Dr PH, RDN

A comfortable garden is garden that inspires and
supports creativity, vitality, and wellbeing.
~Toni Gattone

Whether you’re planning a garden for the first time, or you have several garden plans in your repertoire, by putting attention towards being as safe and as comfortable as you can — and ultimately envisioning the kinds of experiences you most want to have in your garden, you will enhance your wellbeing and enrich your life.

Happy dreaming, visioning, and planning … a rewarding gardening experience awaits you. 

2 thoughts on “Plan This Year’s Garden to Maximize Comfort and Enhance Wellbeing”

  1. Loved this blog especially loved seeing Mom and hearing her voice. She would be very proud of your wisdom and commitment to having a beautiful garden with ease.
    Carole Gattone Arliskas, YMOS


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