On January 11, 2014, Kirk Balin came out to Prudent Supply and conducted an excellent class on easier gardening. This is aimed not only at people with limitations or disabilities, but for the rest of gardeners who don’t necessarily like incurring aches and pains just to grow food.
Kirk Balin is Program Coordinator for AgrAbility Virginia, a service jointly provided by Virginia Tech and Easter Seals UCP – NC and VA.
We present here some of the resources Kirk left us with, and show some pictures of the cool tools he demonstrated, tools that work with your body, not against it!
It was a surprise how many resources there are to assist the disabled with agricultural work. Kirk showed us a 20-minute video about AgrAbility, with the stories of several people who had sustained pretty serious injuries. With the proper equipment and training, they are today able to continue their farming work, whereas otherwise they would be idle. The people interviewed were obviously passionate about farming, and it would have been torture for them to have to give up the work they love. Fortunately, they can continue that productive work.
Along with the work they do with farmers, AgrAbility has a lot of resources that make gardening easier. The first example Kirk showed us was simple, the use of longer handled tools, such as garden hoes. You can see in the picture below, Kirk is holding a garden implement, but the handle is almost as tall as he is. This allows him to weed the garden from an almost upright posture, eliminating back, leg, and arm stress. Weeding is tough enough already! Why do it bending over?
And noted the D-handle and T-handle on that tool. You can buy and add those to the tools you have no. (See the links below.)
Here’s a picture of a weeding fork, but it has a ring that captures the forearm. The fork becomes an extension of your arm, not just something that you hold in your hand. Much easier to use.
Here are a few pictures of similar tools. These allow you to work without placing all the stress on your bent wrist.
When you do have to get down to ground level, those knees can take some pounding. Some simple knee pads help there. You can buy those at big box home improvement stores.
Much of the time, when working on the ground, you don’t really need to be on your knees, anyway. A seat, like the one pictured below, gets you close to the action without kneeling. This one has a curved base to rest securely in the soil.
Kirk also had a pole with a large magnet on the end, for picking up tools you may drop.
And what if you just cannot do ground level work, even with these interesting tools? Well, you raise the garden to your level! Raised beds can be made at any level. Kirk told a story of a lady in a nursing home, confined to a wheelchair, who loved to plant flowers. They built her raised beds which were about three feet high, so she could tend her flowers from her wheelchair, with a couple extended weeding and planting tools as pictured here.
Kirk left us with some Internet links to tool vendors, and other resources for back friendly gardening. Please check them out and equip yourself for a life full of gardening.
Center for Excellence in Disabilities, WVU
More WVU Gardening Resources
Clean Air Gardening
Abundant Earth recycled plastic raised beds
Square Foot Gardening
Gardener’s Supply Company
Blue Stone Garden
Kirk Balin may be contacted at AgrAbility Virginia, 201 East Main St., Salem, VA, 24153, 800-365-1656.