Seniors can find garden help through barter and
I used to have a pretty back yard and large perennial
garden. Now I am 83 and too old to take care of it.
Do you know of any group that helps seniors with their
There may be such an organization, but I don't know about it.
Perhaps someone will write to tell us where seniors can find
help. Meanwhile, I have some suggestions.
If you can pay for help, check local garden centers for names of
professional gardeners in your area. Garden center managers often
know pros by what they buy, and some even allow pros to post
business cards at the store as a public service. Although the
provision of a name isn't a personal recommendation, it's a start.
From there you can check a candidate's references.
Search the internet at home, or at your public library for
companys that could assist you in your area. You can check
references once you get some information.
Can't afford to hire anyone? Think about bartering. We all have
something to offer. I have a client-friend who needed garden help
this year. When we talked about cost, we struck a deal. We've
agreed on an hour for hour exchange, my gardening for her cooking.
She gets my help putting her gardens to bed; I get homemade
casseroles for my freezer. Although for tax purposes I'll have to
assign a monetary value to Trudy's culinary efforts, they're
priceless to me, someone who'd rather be outdoors than in and has
been known, on her days as family cook, to ruin even very simple
Speaking of family, does yours exchange gifts? Chances are
people ask themselves at every birthday and holiday, "What can I
get for A. that will really be special?" So tell them you'd like
garden help. Make the request specific in terms of time and scope
and my bet is you'll be pleasantly surprised at the result. I
recommend asking for help in the yard on one day in mid- to late
April, or the cost of help in the yard.
Base the number of hours you ask for on the size of your garden.
Each one hundred square feet of perennial garden -- a ten by ten
bed or a border 25 feet long and four feet wide -- requires an
average of one hour of work each month during the growing season.
The most important work and high end of the average occurs in
April. It may take two hours to get all of April's work done in
that hundred square foot area but that pays off all year by leaving
only light chores to do that will require just 30 to 60 minutes per
month. If two people might help, ask them to split that April date
or ask one for a date in mid to late October. That's the other time
when work done nets you the greatest return.
These numbers are based on over twenty years of records I've
kept. You can read more about those numbers and what to do in each
month of the year in my book "Caring for Perennials" (1995, Storey
Green thumbs up
to so many balmy November days, chances to do fall garden
clean-up sans snowsuit. There may still be more and I'll be out
there, because what I do now stays done for four months!
Green thumbs down
to turning plants into burlap mummies. To protect something from
wind or salt, erect your windbreak at least a foot upwind.
Otherwise wind and salt will still reach the plant.
Originally published 11/29/03