As we get older, have much busier lives or are distracted by toddlers, we don’t have as much time or energy as we would like for gardening. But, don’t kid yourself that you’re past it.

Some years ago, an elderly relative did exactly that. She woke up one morning and, as an octogenarian, decided she was past gardening, so hung up her trowel and devoted the rest of her life to none-too-stimulating daytime TV.

The wonderfully productive veg patch

I had once made for her became a washing green.

There’s no excuse for this. Some thought and planning can still give you an attractive and fruitful garden. Over the next three weeks, I’ll look at ways of planning the garden layout, what tools and methods to use and some labour-saving plants.

Start by identifying problem areas. Look at the beds, the lawn, paths, edges, boundaries and last, but not least, the compost bin.

Which parts take too much time to look after and are hard or boring to maintain?

Large, wide beds are difficult because there’s lots of bending and stretching while you’re perched precariously on a tiny patch of bare earth.

If your back’s anything like mine, it will reward excessive stooping with an agonising spasm, entailing an expensive visit to the physio.

So, firstly, check you can reach every part of a bed without painful stooping. Tending plants, weeding and harvesting then become easy, whatever your age.

A thick, solid edge to a bed is a great prop when you’re kneeling, leaning forward, or stumble to your feet.

And if you’ve dodgy knees, invest in higher planters. Waist-high veg trugs and planters, suitable for salading, herbs or ornamentals, are readily available.

They’re made of wood, metal or recycled plastic, and if they cost too much, copy a catalogue picture and make your own. If that’s a step too far, get a younger family member to rattle one up.

I can’t count the number of folk who proudly tell me they’ve done away with the lawn. A mower’s like a power-driven zimmer so it should be easy to trundle along behind.

And does it really matter if a few dandelions peek above some blades of grass? The mowings make good mulch and are an excellent addition to the compost heap.

And, how labour-saving are the alternatives? Environmentally damaging slabs and concrete need sweeping and, in the shade, become slippery. Pebble and whin dust paths are better for drainage, but need regular weeding and are tiring to walk on.

Recycled rubber matting is the comfortable alternative. Kneeling is easy and you simply can’t slip.

Some are even permeable to allow good drainage.

These rubber mats make weeding a thing of the past, but if you do still have to weed, use a flame gun.

Have solid, straight edges to paths and borders to make flame weeding or strimming with a light electric strimmer easy.

Hedge clipping is back-breaking work, so fencing is an easier alternative and can be concealed by perennial climbers, shrubs or fruit bushes, especially selected for easy maintenance.

A large New Zealand box is a daunting challenge to all but the fittest, but like me, you may need a large unit for the garden rubbish.

So, there’s no alternative to soldiering on or getting someone to turn the heap for you. But with a small to medium-sized plot, choose one or more plastic composters as they don’t need turning.

When harvesting the finished compost in the spring, fork away a small covering of partly rotted material to access the good stuff at the bottom. Easy!