When gardening is mentioned people conjure up pictures of people bending and digging in the ground. For people with mobility restrictions this is not a possibility but it doesn’t mean the end of gardening.
People that can not bend to the ground can use raised gardens. As the name suggests, these gardens are raised above the ground to a height that is comfortable for those that can not bend, or must sit in a chair or wheel chair.
The height and width of the bed should allow the gardener to comfortably reach the centre or back of the bed from a sitting position depending if the bed is assessable from all sides. The length is irrelevant.
Ground around the bed must be smooth enough to accommodate people with mobility issues and wheelchairs. A paved surface works best.
There are numerous designs for a raised garden but the two most common ones are straight sided or tabletop.
A straight sided bed looks similar to that of a retaining wall easily blending into the landscape. Paved paths lead to and surround the garden allowing easy access to all. As the soil is deep, often the depth of the wall, perennials, annuals, bulbs and vegetables will thrive. Small shrubs are a possibility but large roots will comprise the container.
Straight raised beds can be made from most sturdy construction materials but they are most commonly made of brick, Allen Block or wood.
Gardeners can access the straight walled raised garden by standing or reaching sideways in a chair.
Table top gardens are much what the name suggests. A box, six to eight inches (15-20 cm) deep with perforations in the bottom for drainage is built on the top of supports or legs. Open areas between the supports allow for chairs to fit under the garden enabling people to sit and garden in a forward position.
The frame of a table top garden can be made out of metal or wood. The latter will rot. Wheels on the garden supports make the garden mobile allowing it to be moved and stored when not in use.
Another alternative is to garden in containers or pots. While trees and shrubs will flourish in containers if over wintered properly, annuals, perennials and vegetables are most often grown in containers.
When choosing a container look for one with drainage holes on the bottom and larger than 14 inches (34 cm) in diameter. Larger containers hold more soil and are more likely to retain water. More plants fit into the container making it more visually appealing.
Regular garden soil does not work well in containers or table top gardens as it is usually too shallow and heavy to allow the water to drain and roots to spread. Greenhouses use a soilless mix that is made up of different amounts of peat moss and vermiculite or perlite. The mix is light, porous and sterilized making it easy to use in a greenhouse environment where plants are watered and fertilized on schedule. The mixture does not contain nutrients and all nutrients must be supplied by the fertilizer.
Mixing a up to a third of compost or well rotted manure into the greenhouse mixture will add some nutrients to the soil but it will still need to be fertilized through out the season. Compost or manure retains more moisture and is heavier than the soilless mix which could become a problem is weight is an issue.
Mobility issues do not mean the end of gardening. If the desire is there one just uses different gardens.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at www.igardencanada.com or firstname.lastname@example.org