Have joint pain but want a green thumb? An innovative horticultural approach can help gardeners with arthritis. Garden shortcuts and adaptations make the pastime possible for anyone, says Heidi Sibert, a landscape architect at James Martin Associates in Chicago.

Sibert, who has psoriatic arthritis, is a passionate proponent of enabling gardening, a horticultural approach she showcased in an Arthritis Foundation exhibit at an annual Chicagoland Flower & Garden Show.

The core principles are to keep your garden off the ground and within easy reach, she says. You can do it on any scale and indulge your preference for flowers, vegetables or landscaping plants. 

Small and Simple: Container Garden

Place lightweight fiberglass or foam containers on your porch or patio for easy access. The container should be half the height that the plant is expected to grow. Then add soilless or lightweight potting mix. Try cherry tomatoes, rose bushes, herbs, annuals or perennials.

Medium-Size and Manageable: Vertical Garden

Stack boards on bricks or concrete blocks, then populate the shelves with potted plants. If you’re handy – or have a friend who is – try building a self-supporting frame of squares. Place a plant in each cubby, and use the outer frame as a trellis for vines. Try herbs, lettuce or peas, and add flowers for color. 

Large and Lovely: Raised-Bed Garden

Assemble one of the many raised-bed kits available online, or hire a professional to install a stone or timber retaining-wall garden. If built securely, the retaining wall can serve as a safe seat from which you can tend your garden. The walls should be 16 to 24 inches high, and the bed should be narrow enough to reach across comfortably. Try perennials, as well as landscaping plants and shrubs.