2017 Special Needs 1st Place – Gardening Through Life, Milwaukee & Waukesha Counties, WI


Love to garden?  We’ve got the tools.  For many of us, gardening is a weekend warrior activity.  We sit all week at our desks and then don our gloves and grab our shovels and head to the yard with a vengeance, only to pay the price Monday morning.  As we age, it gets harder or we quit all together.  Well there is a better way and gardening does not have to be a “no pain, no gain” hobby.


The Lifelong Gardening Committee (LLG) of Southeast Wisconsin Master Gardeners supports and assists UW-Extension in community horticulture programs, and our particular project is to educate the public on principles and methods that will enable you to enjoy gardening throughout your lifetime.  We are continually refining and developing our curriculum with input from research, UW-Extension resources and you, the public who participate in our presentations.  We have grown from an educational tool demonstration to providing interactive displays and presentations.  We think gardening for a lifetime is best accomplished in two ways:  (1) modifying the garden – accessibility and plant selection, and (2) modifying the gardener – techniques and tools.

History and Development

In 2010, a group of Master Gardener volunteers in southeastern Wisconsin received a small donation of adaptive tools and began the Lifelong Gardening Committee, whose focus was primarily ergonomic tools for joint protection and to prevent back injury.  We provided an opportunity to touch and hold and use different tools in various ways.  Our goal was to educate people in ways that allowed them to remain active and continue gardening for their entire lifetime without pain or injury.

Since then, we have greatly expanded our inventory and as additional members joined the Lifelong Gardening Committee with varying backgrounds, knowledge and experience, we expanded our presentations and displays to include information on gardening exercises and body mechanics, enabling tools, plant selection, joint safety, back safety, vertical gardening, and container gardening.  The presentations, displays, and unique hands-on opportunity has been extremely well received.

We encourage feedback from our attendees providing them with a survey form at each presentation.

Some of the comments received include:

“I have so many of these tools and now I know how to use them properly.”

“I learned the importance of standing up straight, reducing stress on the back.”

“I learned of great new tools I did not know existed.”

“I learned I am gardening wrong and I need to make changes in body position, tools, etc.”

Due to the positive responses and success of our project, requests for presentations began to exhaust our time and resources.  In order to meet requests throughout the state, we thought we could best accomplish this by adding the power of technology.  So we created the “Toolbox” to share our knowledge in a way that could be replicated by other master gardeners to present in their counties.

The Toolbox is available to everyone and includes:

  • Lifelong Gardening Mission Statement
  • Basic Information to Enable the Gardener
  • Easy Care Plant Selection for Southeast Wisconsin
  • Gardening Exercises and Body Mechanics
  • Tool Book/Inventory – includes descriptions, features, availability, and approximate cost
  • Tools Recommended Based on Budget
  • Tool Checkout Form (used by the LLG Committee)
  • Survey Form
  • Gardening for Life Video (3-part)
  • PowerPoint Presentations
    • Joint Protection
    • Back Protection
    • Vertical Gardening
    • Container Gardening

LLG Board Displayed at Presentations Panels include information related to:

  • Lifelong Gardening – About Our Mission and Us
  • Member Presentations and Plant Selection
  • Protecting your Back and Joints
  • Using the Proper Tools for the Job
  • Good Advice and Gardening on a Budget
  • Garden Up – Container and Vertical Gardening


Next Steps

We are proud of the work we are doing to share our information with the public and other Master Gardeners.  We are currently developing a Train-the-Trainer and Mentoring Program that will be delivered to any Master Gardener Chapters that would like to replicate this project.  We will stay up-to-date on adaptive tools and injury prevention so that we can share this information with gardeners, groups or associations who are interested in lifelong gardening practices.  As additional information or educational needs are identified, we will develop and include that new material in our Toolbox.

We think everyone can benefit from the Toolbox – Open it up – Dig around – See what you can find!
We wish everyone happy, healthy gardening for a lifetime

2015 Search for Excellence Awards – Special Needs — 1st Place Winner

2 Camp Woodchuck at Demo Garden
2 Camp Woodchuck at Demo Garden

Accessible Gardening for Life

Master Gardeners from Sedgwick County in Wichita, Ks have been busy working  with people of all ages and “abilities” teaching them the many benefits of gardening.  Several Master Gardeners built wheelchair height garden beds making gardening more accessible for many.  Some of these beds are on site and are being used in our demo. garden by clients from various agencies.  Some of the special raised beds have been donated to various groups to use at their facilities.   Another master gardener drew up the design plans for these accessible beds and a pamphlet was published so the public could build their own.

What started with a Workshop for Activity Directors entitled Accessible Gardening for Life has led to new opportunities for us to work with a variety of groups and skill levels.  Several times during the spring and summer we work directly with clients from Assisted Living Facilities and Day Programs helping them select, plant and grow flowers and vegetables.  At one of the facilities, we will have a “Tasting Party” with the clients,  sampling the vegetables they have grown.

Master Gardeners are involved in a Community Garden working with developmental and intellectual “differently-abled” adults.  Time in the garden is “hand on learning” for the clients.  We work together teaching them to water, weed, plant and grow a variety of vegetables and flowers.

2015 Search for Excellence Awards – Special Needs — 3rd Place Winner


set up areaThe Sumter County Master Gardeners offer many events and volunteer services to the residents of Sumter County Florida.  One of the most successful is our “Twice on Tuesday” talks offered to the residents of the very active retirement community of The Villages, Florida.  These talks are given at two of the larger recreation centers on the fourth Tuesday of every month.  The topics of the talk’s center on the most asked questions from our plant clinics, held throughout the community.  T on T presentationThe retired residents, of the Villages come from all around the world and are not familiar with the growing conditions here in Central Florida.

Recognizing the need in the community for answers, Master Gardeners of Sumter County developed a program that would provide an opportunity for the busy retirees to gain answers to their many questions.  This program was developed to educate the residents to Florida Friendly Landscaping practices, with topics such as Turf Talk, Palms, Plant this-Not That, Vegetable Gardening in Central Florida, Irrigation, Compost and Mulch presented once a month.T on T audience