Outdoor spaces need not be off limits to disabled people. In fact, gardening is great for keeping you active and provides a great deal of satisfaction along the way.
Gardens traditionally start with the planting. Of course there’s an infinite choice of different styles of planting to go for. Just as crucial to the success of the garden is a plan as to how you’ll cultivate the plants. Raised beds bring everything up from ground to a desired level – useful for people experiencing muscular issues and wheelchair users.
Greenhouse planting or even a tabletop garden can also be considered. A handy rule of thumb is to measure up planting using the fact that comfortable reach is 60cms. For instance a raised bed of 120cms in width is fine, assuming it can be approached from either side.
Some physical dexterity will be required for digging, pruning and weeding etc, but specialist tools are available to help maximise strength and efficacy. They may well have a wrist cuff or use gears to increase cutting power, for instance.
Mobility is going to be a key consideration. Think about how the surface of paths will react in different outdoor circumstances such as heavy rain – or if they’ll become green and slippery with moss or lichen. Note that colour contrast between paths and planting is important for people with dementia or visual impairments.
Other surfaces may well include grassed areas. Beware that in the height of summer your grass will need to be mowed at least once a week and that it will soak up a lot of water and may become bald and muddy if you need to frequently traverse it in autumn or winter months.
For unused planting areas or to keep the weeds down, a plastic membrane (sheet) can be laid down and covered in gravel or bark chips.
Part of your garden design process might involve thinking about sensory stimulation. Colour is very easy to introduce but consider how things like wind rustling through plants and grasses or trickling water can create atmosphere as well as using textures such as certain types of foliage or bark for people to enjoy running their hands over.
Consider how your garden will grow. Given a year it’ll certainly look different. Think about how large your plants will become and how you’ll cope with them. That said, sometimes plants that spread quickly are a good thing since they cover ground area and may require less maintenance, regarding weeding, etc.
Fruit and veg is a rewarding garden gift come the autumn harvest. Again, scale your ambitions; potatoes require heavy digging to plant and to harvest whereas herbs in a window box can be planted by hand and harvested with scissors.
Giving a bit of garden to the wildlife will also give you a smile. Scattering wildflower seed mix will yield beautiful blooms as well as insect and birdlife. Don’t be too tidy; a small log pile will be great for beetle larvae, for example – they often eat garden nasties.
Take a moment
Enjoy your garden Look at what you and Mother Nature achieved together.
A helping hand…
The Gardening for Disabled Trust aims to help people back into gardening in spite of disability. They give out grants so that people can adapt their gardens and make gardening possible.
Based in Kent, they award grants to individuals and groups across the UK, and support people with all kinds of mental and physical challenges.