The Enabled Garden; Gardening For Those With a Disability

I read an inspiring post by Fern over at Life On The Balcony this week with some tips for how to enjoy container gardening with physical limitations. She covers some great ways of training your plants to suit your needs, reducing watering, and choosing tools to make gardening easier.

Fern makes an excellent point; containers are usually tall enough to by SDCDeaCerteaccommodate people in a wheelchair, and their height also reduces the strain of stooping and bending for a gardener who stands.

I remember years ago visiting a nursing home in San Francisco which  featured a gorgeous raised-bed garden area for their residents. It was wonderful to see how the residents lit up with joy outside, planting flowers and veggies. The kitchen staff used the lettuce and other produce in their meals, and there were lovely homegrown bouquets cheering the desks and rooms.

Do you know someone who’d like to garden but finds it too difficult?

Check out Fern’s post above for how to get started with container gardening, or if you’d like to create an accessible garden area outdoors, keep these tips in mind:

  • Paths should have a hard surface at least 3’ wide to allow wheelchair access.
  • Raised beds should be around 2’ tall for wheelchair users and to reduce bending for those with Arthritis or other pains.
  • Make sure that the center of each raised bed is easily reachable, so for wheelchair users, about 2’ is an ideal reach, 2.5’ for those who can stand. If your bed has pathways on both sides, you can double that depth.
  • Seed tape is an easy way of starting plants in raised beds without having to fiddle with tiny seeds.
  • Choose the lightest-weight tools possible, and look for wide handles or foam grips. Tie cord around the handles so they can be easily retrieved if dropped.
  • Consider a simple drip irrigation system to eliminate watering; or, use mulch to prevent water loss.

Got an enabled gardener on your Christmas list? Check outTub Trug these recommended tools:

Tub Trugs have ergonomic handles, sit open for easy disposal of weeds, and are lightweight and flexible enough that they can be used to pour fertilizers or water.

Natural Grip Trowels position your wrist at a natural angle and reduce hand stress, and their handles are easy to grip. There’s a weeder and cultivator, too.

Natural Grip TrowelSure Grip Sports Gloves help those with Arthritis, missing fingers, or other  accessibility issues grip tools firmly. If you have a favorite glove, they can make it into a Sure Grip, or they’ve got ready-made ones, too.

Atlas gloves are my favorite because they have a grippy surface that’s non-slip, protect my hands well, yet I can still feel what I’m doing in them. There are thin Nitrile-coated ones for  working with seedlings or delicate annuals, and heavier-duty ones for transplanting or pruning. I just throw mine in the wash once a week and they come out good as new.

Yak TraxYaktrax slip onto your shoes and prevent slipping in the snow or ice. If someone you care about often walks outdoors in the ice or snow, this can help alleviate worries that they’ll slip.

Want more information on gardening with a disability? Carry On Gardening is an awesome resource supported by a UK charity which helps people live richer lives through gardening.

10 responses to “The Enabled Garden; Gardening For Those With a Disability”

  1. This is exactly what I love about blogging. The conversation. I really like it that you came up with a more positive title (enabled versus disabled). I use similar gloves to the ones you featured, and I agree that they really are the best, even for a young whipper snapper like me who doesn’t have any arthritis in her hands…yet.

    Fern’s last blog post..Made in the Shade – A Container Recipe for Bright Shade

  2. The trugs are awesome. Make sure you get the flexible ones. There are knock offs that are much more rigid and not as easy to use or carry.

    Greg Draiss
    garden guru to the middle class
    (what’s left of it anyway)

  3. You are so right, Greg! I got two of those knockoff trugs, after having my good Tub Trugs for almost two years, and the knockoffs lasted barely two months of professional work before cracking. This is going to sound dumb, but I actually rapped my knuckles HARD on those stupid rigid handles – once causing a pretty nasty bruise. The handles just snap back at you because of the rigidity of the cheap plastic they use.

    Real tub trugs are the way to go. I haven’t seen any good knockoffs at all.

    Fern, thanks so much for commenting! I too love the conversational aspect of blogging. It makes newspapers seem so dry and dull when you can actually take part in the online world!

    I really appreciated the inspiration your post brought up! My Mom’s got Rheumatoid Arthritis and enjoys food gardening on her balcony, so your post really made me feel great that even if she becomes less physically able in time, she’ll still be able to really enjoy that connection to the earth!

    • Thanks for your kind words Anne! I’ve discovered some new tools since writing this post that I’d love to share with you for your book. The Groundhog Rake for one… I think I need to write part two of this post soon!

  4. Very awesome blog post, I think that this type of development in society is wonderful, especially within the gardening communities. Great job of covering these important topics.