Physically Challenged Gardening


 
Hello Gardeners:

This article is on physically challenged gardening.  Physically challenged can refer to many things like being in a wheelchair to having arthritis.  I find every year that it seems like it gets harder to bend over for long  periods of time because of arthritis in my back which is why I have decided to write this article.  My hope is if you are on the verge of thinking that you can't garden any longer maybe this article will get you to thinking of ideas for you to meet the challenge.

Dirt Ideas:
For those folks who can't crawl around in a garden the answer is if you can't get to the dirt then bring the dirt to you.  This can be done by  a number of different ways, primarily raised beds and container gardening.  If you are in a wheel chair either a raised bed or container garden could be an excellent choice.

If you have the ability to have a raised bed you  need to determine how high you need the bed to be.  The height and width should be something you can work comfortably.  If you can only  work the raised bed from one side the recommendation is it should be no wider than two feet.  If the raised bed can be worked from both sides  then it could be four feet wide.  Remember this is only the recommendation and if you can't reach two feet the bed should be built to your requirements.

Another advantage of a raised bed is that it can be built with an edge wide enough to sit on.  So in the event a gardener had a problem standing they could sit on the edge of the raised bed if it was built for the gardener to sit down and garden.  If you don't have the ability to construct a raised  bed you have some options.  The first option is you can hire someone to do it for you.  Or maybe you can get some volunteer labor to help.  Some civic groups will provide volunteer labor if you provide the material.

If a raised bed isn't an option, maybe a container garden is.  Containers can be made from a variety of things such as large pots, planters, barrels, milk jugs, recycled Styrofoam coolers, pieces of drainage pipe or cinderblocks.  In setting up a container garden many options are available.  You can have large pots or planters that are at the heights you need them.  Other options are taking smaller pots and elevating them to the height you need them to be.

Raising smaller pots can be done as fancy or as simple as you want.  You can elevate pots using plant stands which are either purchased or built.  If this isn't an option you can turn a five gallon plastic bucket upside down and put a pot on it.  While it's not stylish it gets the job done and the cost is minimal.   In addition, if you add a plant that drapes it will cover the bucket.  Using containers for gardening can be enjoyable.  For ease of moving your containers around you can put them on dollies, or platforms with wheels to move them around to make the best use of space.

Another option would be a plant table.  I have seen plant tables built as a big box of dirt on legs and I have seen them built as a big box that holds lots of pots.  The plant table works well in areas where you have a lot of gardeners such as a assisted living facility.  The plant table is built to give the ability for the gardeners to pull up either a wheel chair or regular chair and visit as they garden.
 
Tool Ideas:
Now that you have the dirt in a comfortable position you need something to work the dirt.  There are many special adaptive tools on the market for folks who need special tools for gardening.  Another alternative is to adapt the tools that you have.  Some ideas to adapt tools can be found at http://www.hort.vt.edu/human/adapt.html
 

The following links provide a lot of information on physically challenged gardening:

http://www.fse.missouri.edu/agrability/GardenWeb/books.html
http://www.fse.missouri.edu/agrability/GardenWeb/Container.html
http://www.fse.missouri.edu/agrability/GardenWeb/Considerations.html
http://www.fse.missouri.edu/agrability/GardenWeb/Pathways.html
http://www.fse.missouri.edu/agrability/GardenWeb/Raised.html
http://www.fse.missouri.edu/agrability/GardenWeb/Trellis.html
http://www.fse.missouri.edu/agrability/GardenWeb/Health.html
http://www.fse.missouri.edu/AgrAbility/GardenWeb/bigtoolshed.html
 

Sincerely,
Monty
Master Gardener