Everyone knows that spending time in a garden renews body and mind. Whether you work in it, move through it, or sit it, a garden engages the senses and restores the soul. It’s easy to make a garden that anyone can enjoy. Accessible gardens are gardens for everyone; they eliminate barriers to enjoying gardens, providing spaces for people of all ages and abilities.
Accessible Garden Paths
Garden paths that are level, smooth, and firm provide good traction, making being in the garden safer and easier for everyone.
A grade of between five and eight percent is ideal. Direct routes through the garden make the space easier to navigate. To accommodate the turning radius of a wheelchair, one-way paths need to be at least five-foot wide and two-way paths at least seven feet wide. Rigid edging helps people who have difficulty walking and people with visual disabilities stay on the paths.
Various paving materials have advantages and disadvantages. Consider who will use the paths and how much wear and tear they will get before deciding on materials. Asphalt is relatively inexpensive, but it absorbs heat, making it hot in summer. Paths made from wood are attractive, but slippery when wet. Brick paths are expensive to buy and install. Crushed gravel is readily available; it’s good for people in wheelchairs, but not for people on crutches. Neither wheelchairs nor crutches can be easily used on turf grass or woodchips. Concrete is expensive, but easy for most users.
For people who cannot get down to the garden, why not raise the garden up to them? Raised beds elevate the garden so gardeners can work without much bending or reaching. People who use wheelchairs can also tend the plants in raised beds.
Gardens for the Senses
Design your accessible garden for all the senses. Beautiful colours and shapes appeal to the eyes. Feeling textured and fuzzy leaves brings tactile enjoyment. The scents of herbs and flavours add the element of fragrance to the garden. Wind chimes and flowing water bring the pleasure of sound, and can help people with limited visibility orient themselves in the garden.
Dragging hoses around and filling watering cans can discourage even the most avid gardeners. To make watering easy install soaker hoses or drip irrigation in garden plots or raised beds and leave them in place.
Gardens that grow up are easy to enjoy, tend, and harvest. Vines such as sweet peas, clematis, and morning glory present flowers at different levels. Crop plants like peas and pole beans are natural climbers, while tomatoes, cucumbers, and squash need only a little encouragement to climb up poles or trellises.
Tools to Use
Tools with long or retractable handles make it easier to reach across garden beds without stretching or bending. Gardening tools with large diameter handles are easier to hold onto without straining muscles and joints.
When you make a garden accessible, everyone can enjoy it.