Written by Jordan McElwain — Updated: Wednesday, May 31, 2023
As I’m writing this, I’m fairly new to gardening. As a new homeowner, I’ve started a small garden in the sunniest section of my yard, and I’ve been thrilled to pluck the three strawberries I’ve been able to grow successfully. (I know three isn’t a lot, but I’m proud of my small success and lessons learned.)
I’m still waiting for some of my other plants to produce, knowing they may never get there—but I knew when I started that this year was more of an experiment. One thing I have had success with is avoiding too much back and knee strain due to the incredible support of my in-laws and neighbors, who know much more about gardening than I do! They’ve shared information about raised beds, sent me books, and bought or shared a few important gardening tools that have helped me kickstart my journey as a gardener.
These tools have helped me a ton, so I’m excited to share them with you in hopes that they can help you enjoy the art (and science) of gardening without it becoming a literal pain in your neck.
Raised garden beds offer many benefits. Done right, the soil quality can be significantly better. They also result in better drainage and weed control and look great! Weed control itself can reduce the physical strain of gardening, but on top of that, raised beds reduce how much you need to bend over or kneel. If you have mobility issues or use a wheelchair, raised beds make gardening a much more accessible.
I chose the DIY approach to raised garden beds, which ended up being much more difficult than I thought it would be, but there are plenty of ways to get raised beds without the sweat. You can purchase pre-built beds or hire someone to build them for you. It’s fairly simple work for a pro, so getting some customized for your space shouldn’t be too costly.
Even with raised beds, at some point you may need to kneel or sit, especially if you also have a yard that needs some weeding. Luckily, my sister-in-law bought me this amazing tool that acts as both a kneeling pad and a bench so I don’t ever need to bend over and strain my back or put pressure on my knees. It’s been a lifesaver in my first year of gardening, and I think I’ve thanked her about 20 times.
I purchased a wagon for myself to make carrying groceries into my old apartment easier. It’s since been transformed into my garden cart. A lot of gardening supplies are heavy! Carrying pots, soil, rocks, and tools from my shed to my garden would have put a lot of strain on my body, and I can’t say I have the best lifting form. My blue wagon has been a real back saver, and it’s also saved me quite a few trips across my yard. There are plenty of options on the market, and all you really need is something sturdy with good wheels. If you also spread your own mulch, a wheelbarrow may be best!
This category is more ambiguous than the rest, but hear me out. Both when building my raised bed and starting my garden, I tried to buy just a few items. I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy gardening as much as I hoped, so I wanted to minimize my investment. That was a mistake—and I’m lucky it didn’t deter me from enjoying gardening. It did, however, cause some back strain.
One day, when I was digging up some dirt to plant my bulbs, my neighbor came over and said I was using the wrong tool to loosen up the dirt. He explained a lot about the tough soil we have in our neighborhood and handed me a San Angelo bar, which I had never even considered buying. This doesn’t mean you need to go out and buy a San Angelo bar today—you may not need one at all! The point is, if you have a problem, there’s probably a tool that’s a good solution, and rather than doing back-breaking work with the wrong tool, you can purchase a tool (or sometimes just a better version of a tool you have) to help you enjoy gardening to its fullest.
Gardening is a wonderful hobby with many benefits. It helps get you outside for a daily dose of sunshine. It’s rewarding to see your plants grow and produce. It also comes with many challenges that keep you learning as you go. The gardening community is large, making it easy to do some research when you face a new challenge. I’ve found that fellow gardeners are also excited to help. While these tools can help, if you want to dive deeper into gardening, you can look into a local gardening club or even help with a community garden to learn more from your local community.