Saturday | August 01, 2015
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Is your garden ready for your retirement?

By Russell T. Nagata

University of Hawaii at Manoa

College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources

Komohana Research and Extension Center-Hilo

Each and every one of us is getting older day by day, whether we agree to it or not. Retirement planning is a career-long task that should not be overlooked by any individual.

For many of us, retirement planning is a process done with a great deal of thought and detail to insure that we can maintain a comfortable lifestyle in retirement. But how many of you are including your garden and landscape into your retirement planning?

While many of you believe that in retirement you will have more time to devote to the landscaping and gardening, how many of you can still do all of the activities you were able to do in your 20s or 30s?

Like your financial retirement planning, garden retirement planning should not be done as a reactionary move due to a change in one’s life. A carefully laid out plan can contribute too many years of gardening enjoyment. As we age, it is normal that our physical abilities will diminish.

We start to use glasses to see those carrot seeds or to differentiate our seedlings from the weeds. The wheelbarrow carries lighter loads and we take more breaks when doing gardening activities. Because of these diminishing abilities, we should develop our gardening retirement plans early on and plan for the orderly reduction of gardening activities that matches our changing abilities.

Living in Hawaii is said to be a gardener’s paradise, but leave your lawn and landscaping to nature and it quickly develops into a jungle, forest, or a grassy savanna depending on the amount of rainfall you receive.

Drive around any older neighborhood and you will see many examples of this. The property of many older homes have regressed back to nature as the aging owners’ can do less and less to maintain the landscaping. Other than hire a landscape/yard maintenance company to maintain your landscaping, here are a few suggestions to consider in your garden retirement planning that can reduce your time and strain while maintaining your garden landscaping.

Gravel, cinders and rocks with a few plants have been used to create a low-maintenance landscape. Herbicides every now and then for weed control makes it easy with no mowing and very few coqui frogs to deal with. This minimalist landscaping allows you to have a monthly or seasonal schedule instead of the weekly chores. Probably the next easiest would be for wall-to-wall lawn surrounding the home. A riding mower will make the task of lawn maintenance that much easier as long as the eye-hand-foot coordination works well.

If you choose to maintain a well-diversified landscape, here are a few ideas to consider. Pruning and maintaining fruit trees at a height that allows for easy harvesting of fruit while standing on the ground. How many lychee, mango and other fruit trees have you seen that are so tall, harvesting has to be done with a tall ladder or even a cherry picker?

Unless you enjoy feeding the birds and rodents, or are satisfied to pick up fruit off the ground, a well pruned and maintained fruit tree will go a long way in providing years of eating enjoyment. While ladders can be used, many over 6 feet are heavy to move around, and the danger of falling and getting hurt significantly increases the higher you are off of the ground. Investing in a good harvesting basket or picking aid is also a good move to help you to continue to harvest fruit.

If bending or kneeling will be difficult, raised beds or container gardening may help you continue to actively garden. By raising the working surface of the garden a foot or more, the need for bending is greatly reduced. Boards, concrete blocks and rocks can be used to create a wall for a raised bed. The height of the bed should reflect the best height for you.

Some gardeners prefer to use raised planter boxes of various sizes. With a raised planter it is possible to use a chair or stool when gardening and even a wheelchair. Also, don’t forget to place a few benches or chairs around the garden where you can sit, rest and enjoy your garden.

Tool selection is very important as you get older and should reflect what you can physically handle. Large chainsaws might be an invitation to an accident. Smaller, lighter tools help to reduce fatigue and avoid possible injury. Wheelbarrows and carts should be smaller for ease of use and to avoid stressing muscles and joints, as even the smallest is constructed to carry more that we can.

For more information on this and other gardening topics, please visit the CTAHR electronic publication website at or visit any of the local Cooperative Extension Service offices around the Island. I can be reached at


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