In this article, we will be discussing why container gardening is better for those with disabilities. These disabilities prevent them from leading a full, active life, especially in the garden.
When we think of a traditional garden, we see large areas that need to be dug over, fertilizer to be added, weeding and plants that need to be planted.
This is a daunting task for an able body person, but if you have limited mobility, this seems impossible, especially if you are in a wheelchair. The thought of kneeling becomes impossible and moving over rough terrain and sticky mud leads to falls and injury. This is not a good perspective for them at all.
Having a disability can lead to depression, as gardeners go back to longing, where they could spend half a day digging, weeding, and planting. This is of course for people who have been able to garden in the past, but the past is far behind them.
Some people are born with a disability and to them, they think gardening is only a distant possibility. They yearn to be able to get their hands in the dirt and they want to grow their own flowers, vegetables and fruit but feel that they cannot do it.
I always say that if a person wants to garden, then they should garden. Your disability should not hold your back.
GARDENING IS FOR ALL NOT JUST THE ABLE
Doctors are always telling us that gardening increase our wellbeing in reducing depression, increasing our activity levels and improving our mental state. As we get older, or become ill or have never been in the best of health, gardening does not become a joy but instead becomes a burden. You need to create an enabled garden that is tailored to you and your disabilities in question.
Enabled gardening is when you adopted your garden to enable it to be more disable friendly. This is based on similar ideas that homes and vehicles have been remodelled to make it easier for people with disabilities to get around or to make it more comfortable in the home. This involves using raised beds, tall containers, modified tools, more patio areas, and more importantly wider pathways.
The aim of the garden for the disabled is to be a functioning one for old and young, able and disabled, blind or those with sight, and those who have a serious health condition or not. You will see that there are many designs for the disabled as the able gardener.
An important feature in gardening for the disabled are raised beds, as this bring the garden close to the person in question, and not the other way around.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR GARDEN DESIGN
You need to ensure that the paths are wide enough to allow a person with a walking stick, frame, or wheelchair to be able to use them. It must be smooth as possible, no trip hazarded and be within a comfortable walking distance.
- Have the containers within reach from all sides, so that plants can be tendered easily.
- Raise bed are a good idea. For a wheelchair user, the bed must be a comfortable level so that the compost within can be easily reached. Reached without any discomfort or overstretching. This is why the bed height will change from one wheelchair user to another. I personally would have the height of the raised bed slightly higher than the wheelchair height, so that it is comfortable to work with the raised bed in s seated position.
- Have a water source close to your containers or raised beds so that you do not need to keep going back and forth with a watering can to get water. You can do this by using hoses or an irrigation system.
HOW TO IMPROVE ACCESS
Look at your present design and see what improvement needs to be made. Ensure you can get access to your garden between house and walls, house and fences, into your greenhouse, shed, or other areas of your garden.
- Ensure that all pathways and access points are anti-slip and not too shiny. Make sure it has the least gradient possible and, the surface must be even as possible, no cracks in it and especially no moss growing on top of it.
- Moss and algae can make pavements very slippery and therefore dangerous.
- If a ramp is necessary try not to make it greater than 4 degrees, as it is difficult getting around if it is larger than this.
- Make sure the path is kept in tip-top conditions, no overhanging plants, no moss, no algae and no leaves.
- Make sure the pathway is well lit, so you can see the pathway in the dark and on dull days.
- If you can walk you may need to use handrails and seating areas, which can be placed near your containers or raised beds.
- You can put your hanging baskets on a pulley system that is within easy reach of the disabled person in question. This does not matter if you are in a wheelchair or using a walking stick. The pulley need to be accessible and easy to manoeuvre, so that is can be raised and lowered with ease, Do not sit or stand under the hanging basket whilst raising the basket up or down, as this is not sensible and can cause injury.
BEST WATERING PRACTICE
- Give your plants a good soaking in the morning or evening once every three days. This is better than watering a little every day.
- As mentioned previously grouping pots together are a good idea as this will make watering easier. This is because you do not have to walk far to water all over the garden.
- You can stand your plants in container on top of a saucer as this will increase the moisture available to the plants.
- Mulch on top of the containers with organic or inorganic mulch, as this will reduce moisture losses (see mulching and general plant care in containers).
- Use water retaining gel mixed with your compost (see review here), as this will improve your water retention and the need to water frequently.
ADAPT YOUR METHODS
- Use containers and raised beds more as these are easier to deal with.
- Consider gardening from a seated position, so place more benches, stools, chairs and support handlebars in an accessible position, where the containers and raised beds are within easy reach.
- Use long handle tools than can reach within the raised bed or containers that can be reached from a seated or standing position. Ideally, tool height can be adjusted to make it comfortable for the person using it.
- Use long pruning handles when pruning shrubs or trees. It is much safer than using ladders or if you cannot prune, ask someone able to do it for you.
CHANGE HOW YOU GARDEN
- Garden sensibly, little and often is better than all in one go.
- You need to warm up a little bit by doing some gentle, stretching, exercises, as this will warm the muscles up. When you have finished it is also advised to warm down to start the muscles from getting stiff. In this way, you can avoid causing a nasty injury.
- Assess what job you can do and which you cannot. For jobs that are too labour intensive or too difficult think about a friend, neighbour or hire a gardener to do it for you.
- Considers buying a trolley, tool caddies, or tool belts to help you cart your tools about.
- Consider using a professional landscape gardener who can design your garden to your own specific needs.
GET YOUR PLANT SELECTION CORRECT
- Choose plants that are suitable for containers rather than plant that are not suitable for these growing conditions.
- If you have inherited a garden with unsuitable plants exchange them for more suitable plants.
- Replace annuals with hardy perennials. In this way, less maintenance will be required and you will not need to replace them every year.
- Drought tolerant plants are best to use, as this will do well if moisture is lacking.
- Grow slow growing specimens that do not require much maintenance, in your containers and raise beds. Shrubs and perennials that do not require much pruning are the best.
- Replace climbers that require to be supported on trellises, walls, fences and pergolas, with self-clinging species. You can also grow climbers through shrubs,
- Grow miniature roses that require little pruning in place of climbing roses, tea hybrids and floribundas.
- In raise beds, use plenty of ground cover plants to suppress weeds.
- Plant lots of bulbs that can naturalize in containers or raised beds. You can use bulb planting baskets, which will make the job easier.
- For easy to look after plants I would suggest Aucuba japonica, Viburnum tinus, Fatsia japonica, Philadelphus, Choisya ternata, and other small shrubs.
- For perennials, I would suggest using evergreen perennials that do not need cutting back each year. I am in the process of writing an article on evergreen perennials that are suitable to be grown in containers, which will be published soon.
- All bulbs I would recommend but I would not recommend annuals as this will take more looking after.
- For ground cover, I would recommend Vinca minor, Aubretia, Creeping Phlox, and Snow in Summer.
In this article, we have discussed why container gardening is better for those with disabilities. You can see that gardening for people who are less able is not impossible but with certain adaption, you can garden to your heart content.
All you need to do is widen your paths, ensure the pathways are smooth as possible, have no defects, have as little gradient as possible and to keep ramps to a minimal. To use raised bed and containers, you add seating and handlebars as much as possible. You will need to add mulch and to water wisely, to use tools with long handles and are ergonomic as possible.
Finally to adapt and be careful of what plants you can use in your garden. If all these steps are followed you will find that most disable gardeners can adapt to their garden.
Remember not to work too hard, do what you can do and hire someone for jobs which are more difficult. Make the garden design suitable for yourself and everybody will benefit including your able friends and family,
If you have any question or comments you have and wish to make, please do so in the comment box below.