Creating an accessible garden
Every gardener knows the expectant joy of tending their own little patch of land. But gardening can also promote physical and mental wellbeing for gardeners of all ages, abilities, and mobilities. Accessible gardens, designed to empower gardeners with mobility issues or other restrictive disabilities merge beautiful and immersive garden design with innovative and practical accessibility solutions. Gardening can help to regain or maintain motor and cognitive skills, muscle strength, flexibility, and promote independence. Here are some tips for designing your own accessible garden.
Planning is paramount when creating your accessible garden. The design should be tailored to your specific needs, abilities, and preferences. Think about the styles of garden design that you are drawn to, the types of plants you enjoy, and the level of maintenance that you feel comfortable with. Try to place more labour intensive aspects of the garden, for example, roses needing regular pruning, close together and closer to your house to reduce the amount of movement and effort required.
Pathways are vital for accessibility! Ensure they are laid level and smooth to ensure safe travelling for all garden users. Paths should be wide enough to fit a wheelchair comfortably, or to accommodate two people walking side by side. It is a good idea to incorporate slightly wider paved spaces for changing direction in wheelchairs. If your garden has level changes, low gradient ramps are essential. Handrails lining pathways give extra stability, and raised edges running along the pathways will prevent unwanted ‘off-roading’ incidents! For gardeners with limited mobility, seating areas dotted around at regular intervals provide safe spaces to take a rest.
Raised planting beds are perfect for lifting the garden up to a comfortable height for you, and most fruits, vegetables, and moisture-loving plants will flourish in raised beds. They can be brought either as ready-made units, as raised bed kits for self-assembly, or constructed with customised measurements and adaptations, such as recessed or U-Shaped for better access. Benches can be added around the perimeter of the raised bed if you prefer to sit whilst you tend. Your raised bed should not be too wide for you to reach across, particularly if only accessible on one side. Tabletop gardens (shallow planting beds on legs) have space for you to sit comfortably beneath them whilst working. Bear in mind, they are fairly shallow, so extra watering is required and they are best suited to shallow-rooted plants.
Vertical gardens are fantastic if you struggle to bend down. Trellises, fences, living walls, and vertical shelving are ideal for climbing plants and vegetables such as beans. You could also arrange hanging baskets on pulley systems, easily adjusted to meet varying height requirements.
Potting tables or workbenches at an appropriate height make comfortable spots for you to carry out tasks such as potting-on, sowing into trays, and pruning potted plants. There is a huge variety of specially adapted tools available, such as extra-long handles or extra grip options to help you maintain your accessible garden long into the future.
There are endless options for creating an accessible garden tailor-made to you. Thoughtful planning and clever adaptations ensure that gardening can be empowering, enjoyable, and transformative for everyone.