At first thought, the bending and crawling associated with gardening can seem daunting even
to someone in perfect health. However, with a little planning and a few modifications,
a garden or landscape can easily be designed to meet anyone’s needs.
Easy reach: Raised beds, tables, and hanging baskets.
In an accessible garden, the need for crouching and crawling can be eliminated by
using hanging baskets, wall baskets, standing baskets or cube planters. Planters and
pots can also simply be placed on a sturdy table, bench or deck.
A bed of approximately
two and a half to three
feet high offers a comfortable height to work at for anyone in a wheelchair or sitting position.
These beds are easily built with timbers, bricks or crossties and can be filled with good topsoil
or compost that can easily drain to below. The width of such beds should be limited to no more
than four feet across, a practical width that enables the gardener to reach the center to be reached from either side.
While the length of these beds varies greatly, beds that are too long require much work for
circling wheelchairs. Other methods for raising the level of the garden include
large pots, smaller pots placed on tables or in planting racks, and table. Table beds are elevated and offer a shallow bed of six to twelve inches at a raised height, under which legs can easily rest in an open space. Compared to standard raised beds, these have the added benefit of being transportable.
[See BLI’s Raised Garden Beds for more ideas.]
Vertical gardening is done with climbing plants, whose height reduces the need for bending over
and for raised beds. Many plants naturally grow upwards and if trained properly can use walls,
trellises and fences to help. Hanging baskets, which can be set to any height, also provide a
vertical element to gardening without the need for a bed on the ground. The only disadvantage is
the need to reach root level to weed and plant. However, these plants can also be grown from high pots.
[See BLI’s Trailing Plants and Climbing Vines section for more ideas.]
Getting around: accessible paths
Wide rows between the beds provide adequate space for multiple gardeners moving about, even in wheelchairs. Pathways between the raised beds determine how easily moving within the garden will be. Keeping the pathways as a smooth and continuous surface improves safety and ease of use. Compacted, small-grain gravel offers a stable enough surface, but for something more permanent, go with brick, stone or concrete. Avoid grass and mulch, with are hard to manage for those who use wheelchairs or canes. If any ramps are needed, it is important that a non-skid surface is used and that the ramp is set at a slope of no more than eight degrees.
A place in the shade: resting areas
Even the most intrepid gardener needs a place in the shade to rest. In the accessible garden, make sure benches and other seating are easy to get into and out of. Leave spaces in the seating area that are large enough to comfortably accomodate a wheelchair (with enough room to get in and out and turn
around in the area.)
Plant choice and planting design: low maintenance and uniqueness
Choose plants that won’t require babying, such as lavender, heather, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’, and geraniums. Start with high-quality soil with added compost. This will supply nutrition and will require little weeding. Grouping plants with the same water, light, and temperature requirements together
also cuts down on work. Plants kept in pots, boxes, and raised beds do often require more watering than a standard garden, but a layer of mulch (preferably rock mulch, which will not rob the soil as it decays as organic mulch can) will slow evaporation. For those with limited eye-sight, plants with interesting sounds, scents, or textures can act as sign posts around the garden and enhance
the garden as a whole. [See BLI’s selection of gardens for the senses on the
Landscaping Plans page]
- Design a Low-Maintenance Hanging Garden
- A Child’s Own Garden
- Free Landscape Plans
- Design a Cactus Garden No Matter What Your Local Climate
- Mountain and High-Altitude Landscaping
- Child-Friendly Gardens Your Little Ones Will Love
- Creative Small Backyard Landscaping Ideas
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