Fibromyalgia & gardening

compost_hugger_nancy(z4/5 NES MI)February 25, 2004

Good morning! This forum has helped me immensly with trying to keep a good attitude....realizing there are others that have a passion for gardening and do the same things I do to minimize pains and still do something.

I assume many others here are working on living with an acceptance of illness' without letting the illness' control us.

This forum is a great support system to help each other continue our passion to garden at whatever level we can. I have found some great ideas in reading this forum.

Spike thankyou for this forum. You don't know how many ways you have helped those of us with Chronic Pain or mobility issues. You have provided not only access to ideas to make gardening easier but also provided us with emotional support to keep our illness' from emotional paralysis and depression.

Thanks to all on this forum and Spike.

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The important thing to remember with fibromyalgia is not to overextend ones energy. Know when enough is enough and stop right there.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2004 at 2:49PM
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Do a search on the benefit of Yucca Extract. It has been known to help some people with fibromyalgia. I'm about to give it a try for my arthritis.


    Bookmark   April 9, 2004 at 10:23PM
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Ratherbgardening(PNW 7 or 8)

Go to the website on adrenal fatigue and see if it sounds like you might be going through it. I finally found a doctor who tested me for it and found that my adrenal hormone levels were too low. I don't know if I had fibromyalgia, but my muscles are doing much better this spring after undergoing treatments through the winter.
Most medical doctors don't address this condition at all until it gets in the Addisons Disease state, which is when you're adrenal glands are shot. You don't realize how much the adrenals do for you until they're not fully functioning.Hope this helps some of you. Keep gardening!!

Here is a link that might be useful: Adrenal Fatigue

    Bookmark   April 16, 2004 at 12:39PM
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I just came upon this forum, and it's great!! I, too, have fibromyalgia, among other things. And my doctor has recently told me that I may have Multiple Sclerosis, which I dread getting an MRI for. Anyway, just wanted to say that I know what you're going through!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2004 at 1:26AM
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krasota(z7 VA)

vegangurl, don't dread the MRI. it might turn up clear. most importantly, if you get one now, you have a baseline for several years down the road for comparison MRIs.

i've had several MRIs. I'm lucky in that they haven't shown any signs of MS. They show some other problems, but nothing life-hreatening, which is heartening--for me. On the other hand, there's no concrete proof that I'm experiencing debilitating pain and nerve issues and spasms. Good luck.


    Bookmark   April 29, 2004 at 8:13PM
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Compost Hugger Nancy,
I am a Nancy, also in SE MI and also with fibro! I have great raised beds in the front where I have shade and part shade flower gardens. I have one sunny bed on the side of the house. We do our tomatoes and cukes in containers in the sunny back yard as the back yard belongs to the dogs. Today DH and I planted three tomatoes, used water-filled walls around them to keep them warm until the weather is more reliable. We have to plant on top of small patio tables to keep the dogs out of the produce, but it also makes for easy care for the plants.

Last Sunday evening we loaded and unloaded three carloads of broken concrete to outline my newest bed. My front and side gardens use old sidewalk (the stuff from the 50s has beautiful stones in the aggregate) as if they were slate stones. It makes it a lot easier to garden, as the soil is soft and workable, the stones give me a place to sit, and it drains well.

After all the lifting, I did take a long hot soak, and suffered only minimal additional pain. My wrists and fingers were the worst - but then I already have bursitis in both trocanters (hips) and shoulders and tendonitis in both elbows. They could hardly hurt more! I work slowly and use tools and stools and wagons to minimize exertion. What else do you do?

Vegangurl, I hope the MRI gives good results. Welcome to the world of speculation, testing, doctors who believe one thing only to have another doc tell you something different a few years down the road. I hope it goes well for you! (My DH is mostly vegan - he does eat occasional Indian food with dairy and never passes up my cheesecake).

Here is a link that might be useful: My gardens

    Bookmark   May 2, 2004 at 12:41AM
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compost_hugger_nancy(z4/5 NES MI)

Hi Nancy! Another Fibromate that loves to garden! I guess now we will have a Nancy in SE MI and me in NES (North East part of South) Michigan.

Can I ask what part of SE you are in? I will be back down June 21 week to help with VBS in Allen Park and then again late August/early Sept for my Granddaughters birth and to help with my step Grandson. Maybe we can get together. I'd love to do some exchanging of plants. Considering I am pretty much starting over up there. Maybe you'd like some of what I already have up there.

    Bookmark   May 15, 2004 at 7:29PM
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I am in Mount Clemens - a few miles in from Lake St Clair north of 16 Mile (Metro Pkwy). May I ask what is VBS? I will be around in mid to late June. And by then everything will be crowding and I very well may have some Rudbeckia or other goodies to share - I know I will be happy to give some nice blue Columbines! They look great now, but are crowding out my Hyacinthoides hispanica!

    Bookmark   May 19, 2004 at 6:00PM
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I usually have one of my kids out with me as a 'helper'. Really they are a gopher and run and fetch my clippers or garden gloves or a pail of water or bend down and get the weeds or help me lift heavy things, etc, etc, etc.

I take regular breaks, too :-) The key really is knowing how much you are able to do and not over extending yourself. We can garden and enjoy it (with minimal pain !), too :-)

    Bookmark   May 30, 2004 at 2:02AM
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compost_hugger_nancy(z4/5 NES MI)

VBS is Vacation Bible School.

I am downstate now taking care of a friends dog while they are celebrating their Anniversary.

While I was at the house up there I dumped some old bales of pasture grass in the area I want a flower garden.

Pushed the small bale into an old garden cart and took it where I wanted it. I peeled back about six inches thick and dropped it to position with my foot & cane! No bending. Hope it will smother the turf so I can plant next year. For this year...just using it to layer around the old bus (used as wood trailer).

That area will be part of a garden in the center of a tear drop shaped driveway. Two evergreens grow at the end of the each side of the current driveway (which is the other side of the bus from the house).

I got so sore trying to get that yard mowed! Took me a whole week to get it done. Our old riding mower was no where to be seen. My feet hurt so much all I could do was a half a tanks worth of gas each day....and that was with several breaks. Should have seen me trying to use a push mower with one hand and my cane in the other hand! I put a clamp on the handle to hold the blade bar to the handle....sure wouldn't have done to have to squeeze that handle and bar with my wrist!!!

Think I might try to find a rider mower at a garage sale somewhere. Sure would make life easier and a little less painful.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2004 at 8:33AM
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cyndie_pa(z6 PA)

do any of you have any kind of gardens inside your house. i have fibro, arthritis and cfids. my small outside gardens are one of the few pleasures that i have left. i sure would like to start a mini garden in pots etc for the indoors while my outside plants sleep for the winter. im really going to miss them. im going thru withdrawl already. could you suggest some plants that might fit this situation? you can e mail me at

    Bookmark   October 4, 2004 at 12:24AM
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compost_hugger_nancy(z4/5 NES MI)

A friend of mine does container gardening inside and sets the pots onto a wheeled platform. (she uses coaster type wheels attatched to tray/cart and adds a rope for moving the whole pot for floor cleaning purposes.

She grew tomatoes and other things in the pots.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2004 at 9:06PM
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compost_hugger_nancy(z4/5 NES MI)

I think I might try the hanging sacks with tomatoes this year. And maybe a plant in the corners of the new steps/deck that a friend & her husband just put on for me.

At least that can be this next years form of making "raised" beds. I don't know if I will be able to break ground enough in the clay to ammend the soil for this year. I'll just pick a spot for two years from now and make my compost/burn pile. Then I will plant there and start a new location compost/burn spot for the year after.

At least it will be minimum exertion.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2005 at 7:35PM
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Hello Nancy,
I just discovered this site. I have Myasthenia Gravis or Polymyositis. I have only been seeing the neurologist for six months, and she is still studying my case. I have had it for years, just didn't know what it was.

I have the task of learning easier gardening methods and perhaps raised beds. I also pot garden. I hope to learn a lot on this forum.

Just wanted to say hello.

Take care,

    Bookmark   January 25, 2005 at 1:49AM
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compost_hugger_nancy(z4/5 NES MI)

Well, sure hope you learn alot too. All of us can use a refresher course or new way of getting done things we can't do the old way any longer.

Right now my focus is to find a way to deal with four changes:
1. Soil from sand to heavy red (slimy when wet) clay
2. Physical inabilities & medical needs
3. Financial limitations & ability to make living
4. Distance from children or bodies able to help

But then I am hoping to exchange some of what is growing on my property with others to get my area around the house landscaped.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2005 at 10:19PM
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lynne_melb(z9b Melb FL)

Hello everyone,
Just found this forum. Like a lot of you, I struggle with back, knees, other arthritis, carpal tunnel, tendonitis, and fibro. Foot pain is new. Had to change rheumatologists because of insurance. He said I had slight arthritis in feet. However, I have a high pain tolerance but this is no slight pain. Can fibromyalgia cause foot pain? Does anyone every have any swelling from it?

Has anyone with fibro on this forum ever had arthroscopic meniscus (knee) surgery? I'm doing great strength wise but still have pain and kneecap very tight.

However, gardening is still my great joy. For those of you looking for help, have you tried hiring a teenager to help you? We have hired some nice boys in the neighborhood over the years. Those in 8th grade to sophomores in high school seem to be in the most need of a job - not too many opportunities for them. They will do mulching, trimming etc. under my direction.

Thanks so much and best wishes to all.

    Bookmark   February 3, 2005 at 8:50AM
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Have you tried what I think is called Lasagna Gardening? Layers of manure, compost, newspaper etc. Leave for a year and just plant in it, no digging. It works for me. Find out if there are any fellow gardeners living near you. Most will be glad to help out.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2005 at 9:51AM
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krasota(z7 VA)

lynne, fibromites can have a variety of foot problems, some are related to the fibro and some are not.

The most common issue is probably just plain old myofascial pain, which is what those of us with fibro are quite familiar with. In addition, you could have a variety of other problems, from arthritis to plantar fascitis to Morton's neuroma, etc. Your tendons could be rigid or hypermobile--either leads to pain, especially in the joints.

I have sesamoiditis (incurable, caused by stress fractures in the tiny sesamoid bones), neuropathic pain, fascial pain, etc. Also, the fat pads on the bottom of my feet are gone. The bones in my feet skew every direction but they way they should go. The bottom of my foot isn't level. Good custom orthoses and always wearing good shoes has done a world of good for me. Nightly footrubs from my hubby also help--they aren't always comfortable, but they keep my muscles from being so rigid.

Find a good podiatrist and listen to what you're told. You can seek a second opinion if you don't like what you're told, but figure out what your feet need and see that they get it. No, I don't like having to shell out a *lot* of money for good shoes, but it's better than being immobile or wheelchair bound (and yes, I was unable to walk without severe pain, so I was effectively wheelchair bound). And physical therapy often hurts, but it's better in the long run. I'm not yet 30, so I wasn't willing to give up just yet. ;)


    Bookmark   February 16, 2005 at 7:12PM
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lynne_melb(z9b Melb FL)

Thanks Krasota for the answer. It must be the myofascial pain - they say I have a "little arthritis" in the feet, but it sure doesn't feel like a little.

Some of my other tips are:
- heavy heavy mulching - heavy thickness of newspapers or old carpet on bottom, some shredded bark or wood on top
- Sitting whenever I can - I can't kneel and standing is not too comfortable.
- A scuffle hoe - so that you can weed standing or sitting.
- Planting annuals only in large pots - much easier to plant and soil is better & virtually no weeds.
- Using perennials that don't require much work - for example, daylilies, hosta, clematis and malva sylvestris for zone 5. Hibiscus for zone 9.
- Taking time to "smell the roses". Sitting on the patio and enjoying the yard rather than just working in it.
- ibuprofen
- lots of breaks

    Bookmark   March 3, 2005 at 11:32AM
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tropicanarama(Chicago 5b)

I have pretty severe FMS, and gardening has actually worked to improve my symptoms pretty well. ...I've become a real believer in horticultural therapy.

Everybody's different, but I thought you might be interested if I shared with you what works for me in the way I treat gardening with FMS.

- I try to be really conscious of how I use my body when I garden, as if every time I worked in the garden it was an occupational therapy session. It's hard at first. But if you learn about alternative ways to maintain your posture, bend, make hand movements, etc, and then you really work to be aware of it and to do it right, you essentially stop injuring yourself further, and you end up feeling much better.

- Wherever I can I try to incorporate the exercise I've been prescribed into the act of gardening. If I can accomplish something while I'm doing a modified yoga stretch, I do it. If there's some cardiovascular exercise potential in it, I try to be really careful about how I pace myself, but I make sure I spread it out over 20 minutes so I get the benefits. And the benefits do including replenishing your adrenaline and serotonin as well as reducing your pain receptors' ability to absorb neurotransmitters. Even a little bit this way can be great - studies show that even small amounts of exercise have tremendous benefit for FMS sufferers!

- This is the hippy-skippy-est of my approaches, but it's maybe the most important one to me. I approach the processes of gardening as meditation. I suck at just sitting there and trying to meditate, but doing it by gardening really works for me. There's a lot of credible, AMA-endorsed research out there that says meditation (again even a tiny amount per week) also has benefits for neuropathic chronic pain & neurochemistry... so I was very pleased to discover that it works for me!

- I guess I think of it like a treat. We all do, right? It's just so nice to do and it's all for ME. The family and neighbors can enjoy it too, but it's something I get to do just because I enjoy it... that's so rare in life. That's why we all garden at the base of it, isn't it? :)

It's not the only thing, of course, I'm doing a ton of multiple-approach treatments, but gardening really has improved the quality of my life since I developed fibro.

Good luck and keep us posted on what works for you!


    Bookmark   March 12, 2005 at 12:48PM
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Hi Cyndie, Hi All!
It is time to think about the garden again, so I popped over from This Home Site. I saw Cyndie's post about indoor gardening and thought I would jump in and tell you what I have been doing this weekend.

About five years ago, I bought a grow light to start plants indoors. I had a cold, sunny room off the kitchen (it used to be a porch) and it was perfect. I would start in January or February and have pansies, violas, allysium, dalhias, and impatiens ready to go out, blooming, as soon as it was warm enough. Then about three years ago, DH got me a wonderful Christmas present - another grow light kit that included a seed-starting system that wicked moisture up from a reservoir so that the little pots never dried out. As a result, I had plants that just went crazy and were blooming a full month earlier than my old water-by hand outfit. Last year I had my seeds all ready to get going in early March, but my mom was hospitalized and never could recover. She died on March 16, at the hospital, in the hospice program. It was okay, as her health was failing and I knew she was not going to like life on dialysis, which was coming next.

So last year I never planted. For the past two weeks I have been getting ready to get my set-up going. The kitchen was remodeled two springs ago so I lost my cold room off the kitchen. (That's right, I just got one round of plants done that year - pansies and violas. The kitchen remodel really limited my time and space. It has been two years since I did a full-fledged effort at seed starting.)

So this year I have my two grow lights spread out on an 8 ft long banquet table. I also got some incandescent grow bulbs I can use in lamps to fill in where the grow lights won't reach. The secret to growing seeds indoors is to keep the seedlings just inches from the light. If you have grow lights, great, but I have learned on the "Growing Under Lights" forum that any fluorescent light will do. If you have counter lights under your wall cabs in the kitchen, they make great lights for starting seeds indoors. You have to keep the plants close to the lights, so need a system where you can raise them up (on a box?) and then lower them as they grow. You will get less spindly plants this way. If you have a few dollars to spend, you might consider one of the seed starting kits I link to below. I have both Lee Valley kinds and they are equally great. I just ordered new capillary matting from
Gardenr's, too.
Foam Kit
Tray Propagators
Here is one at Gardener's Supply
Or get the capillary matting and do it yourself with peat pots
Or make pots out of newspaper

So I am all set up and tomorrow night I can start to plant. I hope this gives some of you some ideas, too.

    Bookmark   March 13, 2005 at 11:07PM
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compost_hugger_nancy(z4/5 NES MI)

Well, one thing (rather two) that will help with this....
Besides using gardening as a form of therapy for the Fibro and other pains...
I will be having surgery in August and the Disability was finally approved!! All the back payment just went straight to the Surgeon. Who knows though maybe in a year or two maybe I won't need the Disability anymore. I hate the thought of being "on the system". The whole reason for the surgery is for spine stress relief.

So this year I am really going to be depending on doing garden exchanges since I can't afford to buy stuff. Already got some azalia tip rootings and daffodils in exchange for the gooseberry growing in my sideyard.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2005 at 6:05PM
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compost_hugger_nancy(z4/5 NES MI)

Had a bad bout recently and the Asthma flared (maybe old allergies reactivated) and went into Bronchitis. Surgery is post poned for second opinion and court rescheduled date for divorce enforecement and my dad getting worse with Dimentia. My sister went down in my place to move him into assisted living.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2005 at 7:34PM
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ljrmiller(z7 NV)

I don't have fibro--or at least I don't have the qualifying pain points. I hurt just about everywhere BUT those points. Best guess is a combination of depression, hereditary mild osteoarthritis and allergies. I can't say that gardening HELPS, but I get a case of the stubborns, and I take a certain twisted pride in self-inflicted pain (like a sore back from building a pond or hauling too many bags of potting soil or sore legs from planting a lot). And the gardening pain tends to push all the other aches and pains into the background so I don't notice them--kinda like my dad jokingly offering to give me a "sock to the head" if I told him I had a stomach ache.

    Bookmark   October 17, 2005 at 8:53PM
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I have fibromyalgia. I noticed most of the people in this thread live up north.
I'm originally from Wisconsin.
I now live in Texas.
I will say that gardening in the Texas heat is the absolute worst thing for it. It absolutely totally wipes me out.
It only takes a few minutes of the heat too.
I think it might have to do with endorphins. The heat is enough to make healthy people miserable. So I guess the misery of the heat makes the fibro worse.
We went to Wisconsin last summer. My pain went way down.

However, I can sympathesize with cold weather.
Shivering, shivering, is hard on my muscles. Plus, the misery of cabin fever and the fact that going anywhere in the winter is "sooo much work" just wears you down.

Up north, gardening in the summer can be "decieving". What might seem like a nice day in the 70s, starts getting real mucky around noon.

In Texas summer, most of us hide during the day, and we garden in the early evening.

Now, that it is cool, (highs in the 60s) I enjoy gardening and am able to do so much more. It is a fun hobby that gives me pleasure.

To those up north who are reading, I assume that you are done gardening till spring.
I liked the post about starting seeds indoors etc. It just makes the growing season longer and less about fighting the elements.

    Bookmark   December 14, 2005 at 9:23PM
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compost_hugger_nancy(z4/5 NES MI)

When I was downstate living with my (now x) husband I started seeds indoors. I will do it again beginning next winter. Can't do it this year due to surgery recovery time limits.

The reduction surgery should help with the degerative back/neck pain. I am really looking forward to see how much I can handle this summer!!

    Bookmark   January 18, 2006 at 10:49AM
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buttterflyy(z9b FL)

PricklyPearSATX - Linda
I'm sure you've found that there are some great days and some awful days. I live in Florida and had a wonderful day yesterday and one of the worst in a long time today. It made me laugh to see whatyou wrote about the heat being unbearable and the cold unbearable.. lol.. My husband says I have only one comfort temp and that's 79. Above and I can't stand it and below I freeze up like the tin man.

It was nice to read of all of you with FM and other things still doing!! I have a hard time not overdoing when I do feel good.. do you?

    Bookmark   May 29, 2006 at 10:34PM
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compost_hugger_nancy(z4/5 NES MI)

This year I have had to do the tuck it in method. My garden is tucked in between the flower plants from years ago along the house and shed edges.

Mostly put in brasica plants but hope to put beans in when I get back home (downstate for Dr & visit Grandkids).

Gas prices are killing me with the trips down here. Pretty soon I will have to find other Drs that are closer.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2006 at 11:45AM
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compost_hugger_nancy(z4/5 NES MI)

The point of this thread was talking about past issues and how we DO garden for therapy. The issue here was how do you modify gardening according to limitations and how to explain that detail when applying for disability.

That said also the frustrations of the "system" that denies disability if we garden. Letting others know that they must explain "HOW we MODIFY so we can garden" They ask for a description of daily activities one needs to describe in detail the modifications to what most people understand as "gardening".

Most people define gardening as heavy lifting, shoveling, digging, leaning over to harvest etc. We simply need to redefine it for them.That is what this thread was all about.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2006 at 8:48AM
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Hi, new friends. I just joined this week and love to read all the forums. I've lived with arthritis& fibro. for years.My husband and I own a large turkey farm and raise about 90,000 or so a year. Alot of work sometimes I think I live on the tractor mowing and washing the houses.My husband has always had a puplic job,and with my son and dau. married with kids I'm own my own alot with the work. Thats where the arth.and fibro came from. Another thing that came from all the med. and shots is cushings. I went back last mon. for test and the Dr. told me its has turned into addisons disease so I have no glands working. I said that to say this please be careful with the meds. all this has been a learning time for me. Now with the fun things. I love to dig in the dirt and plant anything. My grands. love to ,to. Were always outside planting ,having a picknic in th woods, looking for wildflowers and treasures. I love to just go on long walks in the woods, and listen,God said to be stll and listen and he always knows best. Sorry for rambling but I'll try to do better. Thanks from nanatofourgirls****

    Bookmark   November 16, 2006 at 9:14AM
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I have fibro (severe right now), severe lupus in which I'm needing repeat chemo for, and other complicated medical issues. I'm at a worse point now, thus needing the most aggressive treatment I ever thought would be legal. HOWEVER, 2 things keep me going... my dogs and my garden. I used to have massive gardens. Still do, maybe... but I can't tolerate the sun anymore either. BUT gardening has been the best therapy ever. For 5 years, on SSD and homebound, it's been my life, when possible. That and my dogs. Even now, as I sit with heating pad, I'm surrounded by indoor plants. When stuck in bed all day due to vomiting, nausea (lupus), I have stacks of garden magazines beside me. I plan, plan, plan in my head. Even though it may be nothing more than a plan. I'm scared for my life, as this new chemo (if approved by insurance) is risky and it's coming off from another chemo (thus extremely immunocomprised)... when people ask how I do it, I think "focus on the plants, the plants and my dogs need me".... at docs offices while I wait I try to look at gardening magazines. It's been the best therapy ever, though I don't know how I'll do it this year. There's nothing better, stretching, being distracted, being in nature... nothing better.

    Bookmark   March 4, 2011 at 12:08PM
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compost_hugger_nancy(z4/5 NES MI)

Now Grey has the idea I was going for way back when I started this. WHILE we can still MODIFY activities to keep garden we do. This helps mentally AND physically AND emotionally.

Once we can NOT do any movement.... our plants and garden, EVEN in MENTAL planning of what may never become to tactile physical reality, keeps us mentally sharp and happy. Thus when others will be physically bustling around us WE WILL STILL BE GARDENING IN OUR BRAINS. In such we SHALL retain what measure of WELL BEING we can muster.


    Bookmark   March 8, 2011 at 10:20AM
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One way that I've been able to continue gardening despite the pain and fatigue of fibromyalgia is to switch to intensively planted no till permanent raised beds. Over time we added wooden sides to some beds & flattened the paths so I could sit on a garden scooter.

We moved last summer, so had the opportunity to redesign a fruit & vegetable garden for more accessibility with 3' wood chipped paths and concrete sided raised beds.

So far we've enjoyed the way the blocks retain the heat & how easy it is to harvest produce. With straw mulch the greens stay so nice & clean plus the garden looks neat. The concrete retains heat plus the hoops with plastic really grew our tomato bed more quickly than in past years.

My husband took this photo at the end of May. Our last frost is mid May with a long cool spring. We don't have reliable warmth until mid June for tomatoes.
From 2014-05-23

The outer dimensions are 4.5' wide x 18' long and stacked 2 high. The middle two beds have flat capstones that also provide seats. Visible in the photo are the weeds I pulled to let dry out on the top of the blocks. Then I put them back in again as mulch.

We had our spring garden planted in the middle 2 beds when I fell & broke my ankle on April 16 , so thankfully was still able to reach the gardens while seated in a wheelchair. My son built a 3rd bed that my husband and father filled with tomatoes. I'm back on both feet now with an ankle brace, so am so grateful that we have 3 beds in production.

    Bookmark   July 6, 2014 at 8:19PM
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