If you are fortunate enough to have a garden space adjacent to your home it’s well worth reviewing ways of using it. In terms of getting out into the fresh air it is surely the easiest, safest and most convenient way imaginable. It’s a resource that shouldn’t be overlooked
All of the clichés about gardening are ‘rooted’ in truth: it’s a super form of exercise that can be scaled to your physical strengths and abilities, it provides occupation that alleviates mental fatigue and not least, the results can indeed be highly satisfying.
The seasons mean that a variety of jobs and tasks will keep your interest fresh all year round as you and Mother Nature combine your energies to produce wonderful things.
The following tips and advice will help differently disabled people to access and enjoy their gardens – and what better time to start the project than in the spring?
Flower beds or other areas of soil are the basic starting points for gardeners. These can be ‘raised’ – that is, contained in troughs to give them a more convenient height for people with back pain or who garden from a seated position.
Flowerbeds or vegetable patches can be any size but if you’re tending them from a seated position you should limit the depth to about 60cms if accessed by one side only or twice that if you can tend from two sides – ﬁnishing in the middle. Stretching is not a good idea if you want to avoid accidents or strains etc.
Another good tip is to avoid placing a seat or wheelchair on top of areas of soil when working – you’ll sink!
You might be tempted to cover your entire space with grass, thinking that a packet of seeds will solve all of your maintenance woes. Actually, lawns are very tricky to grow and even turf will eventually become weed-riddled without good care and attention. In the height of summer, your lawn could require mowing at least one a week.
A bit of grass is good to have for colour and to sit on but unless you have somebody prepared to tend it for you it might take a lot of looking after.
There are several very simple tips that can save you a great deal of time and effort later on. Firstly, when buying plants, read the label. This will give you a good idea of the type of soil and conditions they will thrive in but also an idea of the scale you can expect them to achieve. This is important if you have a small garden and don’t want to spend a lot of time clipping and pruning once it matures.
Certain plants however are selected for their rapid growth or ability to closely cover ground, such as shrubs. These will reduce weeding concerns. On the other hand get rid of any plants that shower the garden with seeds that will germinate all over the place – a plant out of place, is a weed.
Small ﬂowering plants are usually pretty easy to grow. They simply require a bit of water to get going. Consider also herbs, which, because of their foreign ancestry, can deal with poor soil types and will all-but look after themselves.
Half way between indoors and outdoors, a greenhouse often has waist height shelving for plants and a solid ﬂoor making access issues a little easier. Gardening becomes simply a case of watering, feeding and tweaking the dead leaves off plants.
Pots and other containers (even growbags) are a great way to start gardening. They have relatively little surface area to tend to and are fairly portable (when empty) meaning that you can adjust the layout of your space until you like it.
Again, an old table can be ideal for undertaking gardening tasks such as potting or for displaying plants. Good for people that have back pain and for seated gardeners.
Perhaps the toughest task in the garden is digging, especially if you’re seated. There are tools that use other, lighter actions such as pushing, pulling and twisting and are known collectively as cultivation tools. A grabber for the garden will also be useful for picking up weeds and so on for the compost heap.
To prevent you from having to tackle weeds you might consider spreading a thick mulch and layers of manure (that will also keep in the moisture and reduce your watering duties).
Weed-supressing membrane is also available for permanent beds where the plants grow through slits. The membrane can be covered in bark or gravel.
If your garden slopes signiﬁcantly it may be prudent to install ramps or hand rails. Remember when thinking about paths in general to consider the turning circle of your wheelchair as well as allowing for a good width.
Material that provides a contrast next to planting/soil is handy for people with visual impairments.
Whilst hedges are plants in their own right, they need a lot of maintenance which often involves ladders and powertools etc. Replacing them with walls or fences covered with trailing plants will give you a great effect and cut down on the work.
Watering Watering is an essential aspect of gardening. Watering cans come in all manner of designs so pick one that suits you. Think about how you’ll carry it, how easy it’ll be to tip and how heavy it’ll be when full.
Watering pots can be easier than larger areas of ground, especially if you add waterretaining gel or granules to your compost, or you might choose plants speciﬁcally suited to drier conditions – especially if you have a very sunny garden or free-draining soil.
Plan each project from start to ﬁnish to make it as efﬁcient as possible. Don’t bite off more than you can chew.
Plenty of seats
Part of the romance of ‘tilling the soil’ is to be able to sit back and admire your work. Having plenty of seats around the place means that you can do just that. It’s also important to have frequent moments of rest – gardening can be hard work.