This year, the early implementation of daylight-saving time was not the only surprise harbinger of spring. A new program designed to help gardeners with arthritis is awarding mini-grants to seven master gardener chapters around the state.

Green Thumbs, Healthy Joints is coordinated by West Virginia AgrAbility, with the help of the West Virginia University Extension Services West Virginia Master Gardener program.

After soliciting applications for innovative accessible gardening plans, program officials awarded funds to seven master gardener chapters to offset materials costs associated with raised (or wheelchair accessible) garden beds.

Winners include:

  • Ohio County Master Gardeners for the construction of raised beds and wheelchair accessible sensory gardens at Peterson Rehabilitation Hospital in Wheeling, $500;
  • Monongalia County Master Gardeners for the construction of raised beds at Jack Roberts Park in Morgantown, $200;
  • Tucker County Master Gardeners for the construction of raised beds at Mt. Top Senior Center and Parsons Senior Center, $300;
  • Braxton County Master Gardeners for the construction of raised beds at the Braxton County Senior Center in Sutton, $500;
  • Randolph Tucker Master Gardeners for the installation of planters and other accessibility and safety modifications to an existing patio at the Randolph County Senior Center in Elkins, $500;
  • Harrison County Master Gardeners to pay for soil costs associated with a raised bed community garden at the Clarksburg Mission, where low-income citizens can supplement their food budget with fresh vegetables, $500; and
  • Kanawha County Master Gardeners for accessibility modifications to existingBird and ButterflyandSerenitygardens at SunBridge Care and Rehabilitation in Dunbar, $500.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 35 percent of West Virginias adult population has some form of arthritis.

Many people have gardened all their lives and now find the bending, kneeling, and tool-gripping more difficult than it used to be,says Stacy Miller, information specialist for West Virginia AgrAbility and coordinator of Green Thumbs, Healthy Joints.

Through this program, we are raising awareness about the variety of ways gardens can be modified so that people can be actively engaged regardless of an existing joint condition.

Georgy Plaugher, WVU Tucker County Extension agent and Green Thumbs grantee, says that she also hopes senior participants in her projects willeat healthier by utilizing produce from the gardens.

In addition to the mini-grant award, each of the seven project sites will also receive approximately $200 worth of ergonomic and assistive gardening tools designed to reduce the need to bend the knees or strain the wrists.

The Green Thumb, Healthy Joints participants will use the tools in their gardens, as well as demonstrate them in their communities, for the benefit of individuals with joint limitations like arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome and osteoporosis.

Green Thumbs, Healthy Joints is made possible with support from the West Virginia Osteoporosis and Arthritis Program at the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources.

West Virginia AgrAbility, a partnership between the WVU Center for Excellence in Disabilities, WVU Extension Service and Northern West Virginia Center for Independent Living, serves farm families affected by physical limitations.