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Young girl at allotment leaning over plants
Hilary has lived with osteoarthritis for over 12 years and has recently discovered the joys of gardening for her health and wellbeing.

Hilary first experienced arthritis in her shoulder and then more recently in her knees and hands, Hilary lives with the symptoms of her arthritis such as stiffness and pain on a day-to-day basis. She tries to keep exercising but often has to adjust her movements because of her condition.

Earlier this year, Hilary decided to take up gardening, having watched a programme with her young granddaughter where a family were watering plants together. Inspired by this, Hilary put her name down for an allotment and now has a half plot which is flat and sunny – ideal for her!

Hilary allotment arthritis
An allotment bed with watering can in the sunshine

Gardening has been great for Hilary’s physical and mental health. As Hilary walks to and from her allotment and does a lot of physical activity whilst she’s there, gardening is helping with her physical health. She feels her knees are less painful and the muscles in her legs stronger.

For other people living with arthritis and interested in starting or returning to gardening, I'd say "go for it!" I think gardening can help anyone with a physical or mental health condition.

Hilary

As Hilary is mindful of the impact the colder weather has on her joints, she plans to grow less over the winter, focusing instead on making the soil good for next year. For her condition, it’s kneeling that is most difficult and she has been looking at raised stools to help with this and is also thinking about making the higher raised beds.

Hilary has also discovered there’s a great community spirit at the allotments. Meeting new people, swapping plants and gardening tips makes for a warm, harmonious environment. Hilary’s granddaughter is also a regular visitor to the allotment and now has her own little wheelbarrow and watering can. She enjoys watering Hilary’s plants and other people’s plants too and is learning a lot about the wildlife.

As importantly, the allotment is also really good for Hilary’s mental wellbeing - it’s her own private space where she can sit, relax and enjoy some down time.

Gardening has been great for both my mental and physical health.

Hilary

On a practical note, Hilary has also grown a lot of delicious veg such as tomatoes and courgettes and an unexpected benefit for her is being able to give away extra veg to those in needs. This is definitely something Hilary wants to develop further moving forwards.

Hilary has found Thrive’s gardening for health pages a great source of information for her. When she first took up gardening, she was looking for advice on where to start and tools available to help her and found a lot of helpful ideas on the Thrive gardening for health site. Articles such as digging edges, how to compost and pruning were especially helpful as well as information on accessible garden design and adapted tools.

Hilary tools allotment arthritis
Hilary's tools laying by the side of her allotment

Moving forwards, Hilary’s determined to keep up with the gardening and is planning to plant some daffodil bulbs so that they’ll be ready in time for her to enjoy through the early spring.

The big project next year will be adding a greenhouse to her allotment as she’s already noticed how much better tomatoes grow in the greenhouses on the other plots!

Thrive's gardening for health information is really good because it doesn't just cover equipment and encouragement from medical professionals, it's got things that help practically as well.

Hilary

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