Handicapped gardening comes with its own challenges when growing vegetables or even planting flowers. Whether you're in a wheelchair, using a walker, have arthritis, find kneeling difficult, have weak wrists, or a
host of other ailments, the joy of gardening can seem impossible.
Because physical challenges for some gardeners come in a variety of impairment, the most common challenge is accessibility to your vegetable garden. With a little planning, this should not be a problem too difficult to overcome.
Take a look around and see what area of your vegetable garden is difficult to reach especially in a wheelchair or when using a walker. When scouting the terrain, keep in mind all areas of your vegetable garden that you need to reach for planting and harvesting.
Make a diagram of your garden area that needs improvement beginning from your door. If you use a wheelchair then you must allow for a width of three feet and an area where you can maneuver your wheelchair when you turn around. If you use a walker, then it is a good idea to design your pathway for a chair or bench in case you might wish to rest. An important reminder is to also look above. Are there any trees near your pathway and if so, remove any low hanging branches that may obstruct your travel.
There are several designs you can choose from to create an accessible pathway however, some are more expensive than others. Whatever your choice, the pathway must be level and smooth and offer little resistance to the movement of your wheelchair. Types of pathways cover the gambit from bricks, flagstone, asphalt, boards, to a smooth dirt pathway. Whatever your choice, allow for water to drain after a rainfall.
Handicapped gardening can be a formidable task when it comes to bending over to till the soil or plant and care for your plants. Fortunately, there are several gardening methods you can use to create a vegetable garden that's just right for you.
For beginner gardening enthusiasts, I would suggest you start with a small vegetable garden so that you are not overwhelmed from taking on too large a garden area while learning how to grow healthy plants you can enjoy come harvest time.
This also holds true not only for handicapped gardening but also for beginner gardeners without any physical impairment. Too often I hear beginner vegetable gardeners tell me they gave up gardening because it's too much and nothing grew. So, start small planting only a few vegetables the first year and as you learn how to make your vegetable plants healthy, you can increase the size of your garden next year. However, if you are an experienced handicapped gardener, then of course,full speed ahead,
For ease of approach and comfort when tending to your plants, a container vegetable garden, or a raised bed garden are definitely two methods of vegetable gardening I would recommend. Just be sure the raised bed is high enough and not too wide for reaching in to plant and harvest. An optimum width should be no more than four feet. Also, position the raised bed so you have access to all sides.
If you decide to use container pots, you may have to raise them for ease of comfort. You can place the pot on some sort of pedestal so you don't have to bend in an uncomfortable position when working with your plants. If you would like a larger vegetable garden, then use more containers as space allows.
You may want to consider using container pots for vegetable gardening if you lack sufficient space to have a raised bed built in your garden.
There is also another option available if space is a problem for growing your vegetables. You can purchase a banquet table or any table to fit your garden space. Pay particular attention if
purchasing a table that it is the correct height for comfort and enough space underneath to accommodate a wheelchair.
You can purchase planter boxes at your local gardening store or nursery of varying size to place on your table. This method of handicapped gardening as well as container gardening is probably the easiest on your pocket book and will allow you to enjoy all the benefits of growing your own vegetables. Several handicapped gardeners said they use this method of growing vegetables and use more than one table for their plants.
Just a few more words before I conclude this article on handicapped gardening.
If a raised bed garden suits your fancy, keep in mind your raised bed should be high enough for comfort. It can be as long as you like but still have enough room around all sides for wheelchair access. The raised bed should be no more than four feet wide so that you don't have to strain yourself when reaching your vegetables. For ideas on building your own raised bed, you may want to read our article on raised bed construction. You will also see pictures of a raised bed been built.
There are several methods you can use for a wheelchair path some more expensive than others. Probably the cheapest would be a dirt pathway that's smooth and hard enough for ease of wheelchair use. The drawback here is that when it rains the path may get muddy. One way to reduce this problem is to grade your pathway so that when it does rain, it will drain to the side of the pathway. A slight bevel in the center of the pathway should do the trick.
Other pathway suggestions is the use of brick, flagstone, or paving with an asphalt surface. I've heard that some handicapped gardeners also use a wooden boardwalk. These suggestions are more expensive than a dirt pathway but require less maintenance.
I have added an additional handicapped gardening article from the University of Minnesota University Extension Dept. for your interest.
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