The National Gardening Survey reveals that three-quarters of Americans garden in one form or another. But only 36 percent of people with disabilities engage in any leisure physical activity, including gardening and walking outdoors, according to a report by the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
By using thoughtful garden design, safe gardening methods and ergonomically designed tools, people with physical challenges can participate in gardening by improving access, making chores easier to perform and reducing bodily strain — allowing them to regain their freedom to pursue their passion.
In addition, creating a garden that is accessible tor people of all ages and abilities ensures that nature’s beauty can be enjoyed by everyone.
Here are a few suggestions for creating a more accommodating and therapeutic garden:
Entryways to the garden would need wide enough to be easily navigable by wheelchairs, allowing them to turn around or maneuver in the space. If the entrance has a garden gate, it should be light weight with handles that can be opened with one hand and low enough to be reached with ease.
Pathways should be wide enough to allow the gardener to turn around and traverse spaces throughout the space and between the garden beds. Paths must be unobstructed by debris, well draining and level, whether paved or not. Inaccessible garden areas (due to inclines or vertical steps) can be modified to include aids such as ramps, handrails and signage.
Raised beds are encouraged in accessible gardens because they allow easier access to the plants, discourage weeds, and controls certain pests. The beds should be accessible from all sides and provides adequate drainage. Raised beds, for example, can be built concaved to allow space for comfortable seating in chairs. The sides of raised beds can also be outfitted with ledges to allow gardener to sit and lean over will maintaining their plants.
Gardening tables can be adjusted for height to allow long-term seating or outfitted with various modifications such as wheels for easier mobility, trellises for vine plants and even storage attachments for tools.
Vertical and adjustable container gardening allows any gardener to access to their growing plants by securing them to planters to withstand weather conditions and to utilize trellising to encourage healthy vigorous growing plants. Hanging plants can also be included if a pulley system is in place to allow the gardener access for watering or pruning.
Watering – access to a watering area is necessary and easily attainable. Any valves, handles and hoses should be effortless to control and maneuverable. All watering containers lightweight and easy to handle.
Plants – Plant selections should be made with all factors in mind….native or drought tolerant plants for low watering and maintenance needs and dwarf or compact varieties for plants with space limitations. Keeping in mind the therapeutic qualities of a garden for everyone, sensory plants (incorporates sense of touch, smell, taste, hearing and sight) should be included. If growing plants that vine, a trellis will need to be in place.
Garden Tools -Ergonomically-designed garden tools or tools that can be self-modified are important to ensure a healthy gardening experience.