A Gardening Boomer’s Equipment Wish-List


Guest Rant by Shenandoah Kepler

I’m a Baby Boomer and am told that just as we changed the work environment as we entered it, we’re now changing the nature of retirement and aging. So, have you noticed that you can now go into most big-box hardware stores and find hardware to make it safer to negotiate the interior of your home? Items such as grab bars, step-in bath tubs, toilet seat risers, and pull-out kitchen shelves are available off the shelf without special orders. This might be some indication of the consumer-buying power of my generation as we age.

So many of us Boomers live in suburban sprawl, though. We have homes sited on some portion or multiple of a landscaped acre. We have bushes to trim and gardens to tend. How do we continue to do these tasks as we age? Exercise is good, and few of us are ready to hire out all our landscaping tasks.  I’ve noticed that mowers now have electric plug-in starters to make it easier to start them. Many of the motorized tools for landscaping now come in all-electric versions rather than just gasoline-motored versions that are a lot heavier. I’ve even seen an electric wood chipper for the backyard.

But I think the outdoor chore-machine manufacturers are not adapting as quickly as the indoor ones, and I’m not sure why that is. So here’s my wish list of items that would sure help me in the garden. If you agree and want easier to operate garden tools, leave a note with your favorite tool manufacturer if they have a presence on Facebook or Twitter.

– Motorized wheel barrow or robot cart with remote control to carry gardening goods into and out of our back yards.

– A mower-like riding machine that has carrying capabilities for our gardening chores, maybe a rack for tools, a bucket for plants, and a flat for carrying mulch bags, gravel, etc.

–  A vacuum cleaner for leaves that shreds them and returns them to the garden as mulch. I’ve seen leaf blowers that sort-of vacuum leaves, but they’re heavy sling-over-the-shoulder machines that remind me of why there are wheels on my indoor carpet vacuum.

– Landscaping mats that are heavy like paving, but light enough to install like roll-out carpet. Mats that could be rolled over by users of walkers and rollators or even those in wheelchairs!

– Big-box hardware stores have subcontractors that will come to your home to measure for new doors and windows, lay flooring, install a backyard shed, or install bathroom fixtures. Why not someone who’s vetted that will come and estimate for the labor of putting down paving, or install raised beds for gardening?

These raised beds are 4 X 4 feet and were home-built because we couldn’t find them like this in a store – with built-in seats.

What are your ideas about making it easier in the garden , whether you’re a Boomer or not? 

Shenandoah Kepler gardens in Central Florida and blogs at Fleeting Architecture – Diary of an Ancient Gardener.


    • Hi Catherine,
      Yes, these raised beds are joys to use. Dear Husband just copied what he remembered from a child’s sandbox. The only problem with them was that he didn’t build them in place, and had to move them into place with a chain and front end loader. But then he had all his power tools when building them!

  1. I don’t plant bushes that need trimming. I let leaves lie in my beds. I mow them into the lawn. When planting trees, I plant trees with small leaves that disppear into ground covers. I designed my lawn to not require much time to mow, and to have no sharp inside corners or curves. I use a mulching mower so I don’t have to haul clippings around. I don’t overfill my wheelbarrow (the lazy man’s load is hard on a body). A wheeled garbage can with a handle is handy for moving tools and stuff around the yard. I sit on a plastic step stool when I need to get down. Judging by the color, I’ve had it since the eighties.

    It’s not that complicated. I’ve planned my garden to require less and less work as the years go by, and I become less able. If and when I become immobilized, I’ll move to a condo and garden in pots on the deck or patio like my mother did.

    • A gardener after my own heart. I often find that five minutes of thinking clearly about something can save lots of time and labor in the garden. Thanks for setting such a good example. New products are always possible, but they are not always the best answer.

    • Dear Deirdre,
      By the way, I use a rollator (walker on wheels) and can’t carry a garbage can on wheels around with me – hence the request for a vehicle or remote control carrier to lug my stuff around. Also, I won’t be cutting down my 40 year old sycamores because they leave too large a leaf to self mulch. I want to age in place and take care of the land as long as I am able (with a little help from the inventive tool manufacturers who aren’t yet taking advantage of a huge potential customer base.)

    • Its funny how normal it has become to waste hundreds of dollars in energy loss to maintain a landscape that doesn’t give anything back.

      -lawns are for suckers 😛

      • No fan of lawns myself, but perhaps what they give back to those who do love them is a sense of tidyness or order, a way to cool the atmosphere around a home … or a place for the kids/grandkids/pets to play. Rewards are not always monetary or even tangible.

  2. My dad had a motorized cart for his golf bag – I think that could be converted to a tool hauler. My SO has been helping me with the heavy lifting, for which I am immeasurably grateful. He’s helping me convert the vegetable garden to raised beds. My biggest chore in recent years has been watering. Since I keep moving things around, irrigation is not practical, so I’m investing in soaker hoses. But really, an able bodied fellow human is the best labor-saving device I can think of.

      • I don’t trust my husband in the garden without supervision, and he doesn’t respond well to supervision. I can’t seem to convince him that plants are not furniture. One can’t just put them anyplace he thinks they look good without considering their needs and ultimate size.

  3. We have a 6×4 John Deere Gator with a hydraulic dump box. Should have bought that years ago! Very handy my best garden tool. Having to take of 3+ landscape acres this is much better than my ATV + dump cart.

  4. When I was first in business I signed on with a company that provided landscape subs, including landscape designers, to the big box home improvement stores. Based on that I can say that it’s a good thing it went away and we should never speak of it again. I’m sorry, I just don’t think the big box stores and their mission statements lend themselves to any endeavors in the landscape. 200 sq ft of cheap carpet is 200 sq ft of cheap carpet; there are way too many nuances and differences in the landscape and the big boxes aren’t interested in having these analyzed and addressed properly. Just cheaply and quickly.

    As for the motorized cart etc, you need to search on the Toro Dingo and other compact loaders. Most fun toys EVER.

    • Thanks for the Toro lead!
      Several years ago (before the recession), we went to a Sears upscale box store named “The Great Indoors” and picked out tile, seats, fixtures, doors for a roll-in shower. The store did everything else, including sending the best installers ever! I have never been happier. Home Depot also had a high end box store that we never used, but heard was good. This was more what I had in mind for the vetting, etc. for outside help.

  5. “Landscaping mats that are heavy like paving, but light enough to install like roll-out carpet.”

    What is the purpose of this? To be a temporary path?

    Then just use old carpet! It’s free and easy to put down and take up. Lasts for years. Permeable. Can’t beat it.

    • I use a rollator and need a path that doesn’t let my wheels sink into it. Carpet is too soft and gets waterlogged. A hard surface would be more manageable. “Roll out” idea was to make it easy to install, not necessarily removable. I want to make my garden more visitable by my wheeled friends.

      • Seems I’ve seen mats like this made of recycled tires – pretty much the same as the brightly colored permanent stuff you might see at a playground. Drains easily, but still pretty smooth. Surely someone has this for sale to the general public … ? Gardener’s supply has a roll out mat that is supposed to look like wood-chip mulch, but it might be too rough for your rollator’s wheels.

  6. I am not opposed to mechanized help, but I also think we should consider ways to garden that don’t require so much brute strength. A friend of mine has a big maple tree. She has let the leaves fal where they may and planted a few spring ephemerals underneath the tree, in all those nice rotting leaves. They have multiplied and she now has a beautiful spring garden.

  7. Lots of great ideas here. I broke my ankle 4 years ago in February. By “opening day” of gardening season, I was walking ‘ok’ but not terrific. I remember that the uneven ground was difficult for me to walk on, and I needed to push or pull on something to get up from crawling around in my garden beds. My husband bought a used golf cart from the local golf course. It has a bench seat that 2 can sit on, plus a small storage area in the back for putting buckets, tools, etc. It runs very quietly, and takes almost no gas. The year he got it, I used it to haul things around to different areas of the garden, and to get to the garden beds farther from the house. And in a bind, I could use it to get back on my feet. These days I have my mobility again, but it’s still wonderful. I used it to haul water to our new baby orchard and newly planted lilacs in our far field the last couple years when we had hot dry weather for several weeks. My husband expanded the rear storage area of the cart by bolting a big box on it that holds several buckets or watering cans. I can put 3 or 4 more on the floor up front. When they’re all empty, I drive to our big pond and fill them up, and then drive back for another round in the area I’m watering. Also, the golf cart has proved capable of driving up our steep mountain on the old washed out logging path; my husband can maneuver it around boulders and across creek beds. I’ve used it to haul buckets of leaf mold out of the forest. It’s really capable of going just about anywhere. I did manage to pin it to ground once last summer by absentmindedly backing it across one of my big watering cans. We were able to free it by both lifting the rear of the cart and kicking the can out from under its chassis. So it’s light enough to rescue that way too. I wish I could use it to tow a cart, but my husband thinks the cart’s frame is too lightweight to handle the weight. Otherwise it’s just about perfect.

    • Footnote: I just googled the Toro Dingo and had an envious moment. What I could do with that bucket! But it’s out of my price range. My golf cart was only $300

  8. Having the right tools can make your day of yard work go by much more smoothly. my favorite new tool is a Vacuum Mulcher , that I picked up a few weeks ago. My days outside have been a relaxing way to clear my mind, and I have even lost weight doing so much yard work! What are some of your favorite tools that help with the yard work?

  9. The best thing I ever got was a pair of Carhart work pants. Not much this the style department, but they are very comfortable and they last forever. They worked so well that my wife bought a pair for herself as well.

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