Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The First Day of Spring: Gardening Anyone?

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Spring is in the air! (or maybe Summer, here in the Carolinas). Today on a trip between Columbia and Raleigh, I saw blooms on the Peach Trees and Dogwoods. If you are in the mood to get out of the house and into your garden and/or yard, below are some tips on improving accessibility.

If you use a walking aid, wheelchair, or other mobility device, paths need to be paved. Ideally, the pathways will have a base made of sand (or another pervious base) so that rain will soak through and distribute to the soil on either side of the path. Try to avoid slicker surface pavers that may reduce traction when walking (with or without aids). Ramps should have the lowest incline possible, and should always be bordered with handrails or curbs. As with other openings, wheelchairs require at least 36” wide clearances on ramps and walkways.

Raised planting beds are one option for a gardener with many plants that require tending. The soil height should range from 9”-15” high. Narrower beds will allow more access from one side of the bed, so that a person can reach from a sitting position or a wheelchair. At the lower height range, the beds shouldn’t exceed 20” wide; at the higher range, 24” is the maximum recommended width. Raised beds may be expensive, but can be limited to those plants that require the greatest amount of tending.

Rather than planting directly into the ground, it may be easier to plant in pots. As long as the pots are not too shallow and are appropriately sized for the plant in question, pots can allow for easier access as well as easier modifications to the entire garden.

Hanging baskets are another option to increase access to plants that require extra tending. If possible, a pulley system on a hanging basket would allow the raising and lowering of the basket as needed.

Table planters are another option for those plants requiring a great deal of tending, and tend to be less expensive than raised beds.

Tools already in your possession can be made easier to grip with the simple addition of duct tape or the like on the handle. Long-handled tools give you the ability to keep your hands closer to your body. Several companies produce tools that are intended to be easy to grip and easy to use, even with limited hand mobility.


“How can I make my garden accessible?,” Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Brown, Jessica, “How to Make Your Home Handicap Accessible: A Handicap-Accessible Yard.” The Learning Channel.

Dees, Kelly, “How to Make Your Garden Accessible,” Wyoming AgrAbility, 15 June 2011.

LoBello, Janelle, “Gardening from a Wheelchair,” Paralysis Resource Center, Christopher & Dana Reeve Foundation.

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