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Gardening Up

Seated on a paper-covered examination table, I told the orthopedic doctor, “Stop me if you’ve heard this one before. I was shearing a sheep…”

He hadn’t, but he had seen plenty of my type of injury, normally in football players, not a hobby farmer pushing 50. With tears in both my anterior cruciate ligament and meniscus, I feared surgery was the only option. The MRI showed the tears were not large, so he sent me to physical therapy instead.

I’ll admit it. I was skeptical. But after nine weeks of exercises, the difference was amazing. I sat with the physical therapist at the end of my last appointment, ready to hear that I was cleared to carry on with my life. That’s not what I heard.

“No kneeling or squatting. Avoid those and you’ll probably avoid surgery all together.”

What?! Are you kidding me?! I’m a gardener. Kneeling and squatting is my life.

Not anymore. I dragged myself home in a funk, weighing the benefits and options of gardening verses surgery. I was seriously coming down on the side of taking my chances with surgery when my gray matter (that’s brains – not my hair!) kicked in and I started thinking.

I could still garden. But I needed to find ways to garden up.

It was mid-winter so I had plenty of time to plan. I researched everything I could find on using trellises and what type of vegetables could be trellised. Turns out, it’s pretty much everything except the root crops and brassicas. I was back in business!

Being thrifty (which sounds so much nicer than cheap), I cut poles of ditch willows and built teepee supports for growing pole beans and cucumbers.



Sections of cattle panels secured to t-posts make great trellises for tomato plants. An old gate with 2”x 4” wire is perfect for climbing peas. garden3
And a simple box-like structure, covered in 2”x 2” wire, works slick for supporting squash or melons.


It took a couple of years of trial and error, but I have a system of trellises and supports that work for me now, and a garden that feeds my family all year long.


I still have to squat or kneel a little bit at planting time, but it’s minimal and my knee is just as good today as the day I left the physical therapist’s office.

Don’t let anything stop you from gardening until you’re ready to lay down that trowel.


Trooper and Pegg croppedGardener/writer Pegg Thomas is never happier than when pottering around in her garden. She loves the whole process, from pouring over garden seed catalogs to canning that final batch of applesauce before the first snow. When she’s not gardening – or riding through the fields on her trusty old Trooper – she’s writing historical fiction with a touch of humor. You can learn more about her and her books at:


http://quidproquills.com/pegg-thomas/ – writing website