If you have spent any time gardening, you may already recognize that it can be highly beneficial for your health and general well-being. Even beyond personal anecdotes, there is mounting scientific evidence that, “exposure to plants and green space, and particularly to gardening, is beneficial to mental and physical health,” according to a study by the U.S. National Institute of Health.
Building a garden that is accessible to your entire family is important to ensure everyone can benefit from time outside and experience the effects of green space equitably and safely.
Consider Your Family’s Needs
Accessibility can take many different forms. Creating a garden that is accessible to wheelchairs and/or walkers allows anyone in your family with mobility challenges to still enjoy your garden and take part in gardening activities.
You must consider your family’s specific health needs when creating an accessible garden. This can mean recognizing identifying specific hazards or obstacles around your yard, as well as consulting with any caregivers involved in assisting members of your family with special needs.
The specific accommodations or adjustments you make to your outdoor spaces must be directly informed by the unique needs, limitations, or interests of your family.
Start by making small changes to your yard and garden, rather than attempting to make large-scale renovations all at once. You should prioritize the most important and impactful changes and then work towards other or more ornamental changes.
One example of an impactful change is to add a backyard pond to your garden. If you have a family member who loves the water or enjoys taking care of a pond in the yard, this is something you could add relatively easily with a few excavation and assembly skills.
Other small changes you could make include adding some of your favourite plants in more accessible areas of your garden or removing any dying plants that might be taking up unnecessary space. These changes can make a big difference to your yard and garden accessibility.
Use Raised Planters
Using raised planter beds can help eliminate any barriers for family members in wheelchairs or walkers by improving accessibility. Raised planter beds allow for anyone with mobility issues to access the garden without having to get out of their wheelchair or release their walker. Planter beds can be put at any height so it’s customizable to you and your family’s specific needs.
Raised planter beds are also good for keeping your pets safe. You can place any plants that are toxic or harmful to your pets in raised beds so that they're safely out of reach.
Consider Vertical Gardening
Vertical gardening is a concept that is becoming more popular among homeowners today for its environmental and health benefits. But it can also make your yard and garden more accessible. Vertical gardening is when you use trailing or spreading plants and fencing that allows for vertical growth.
Because the plants in vertical gardens are at eye-level and above rather than on the ground, they're more accessible to people with mobility disabilities.
Keep Paths Smooth and Clear
It's important to keep all paths to your yard and garden smooth and clear of any obstacles and debris, like tree roots and pivots in the ground. Clear paths make it easier for people in wheelchairs or walkers to access the garden.
Clearing tree roots and other debris out of your pathways is also important for general safety, in addition to accessibility. If you have tree root intrusion, that is generally something that you will need professional help to remove.
Invest in Adaptive Gardening Tools
Consider purchasing adaptive gardening tools that have been created with accessibility in mind. Many tools can help with people who have accessibility issues, including:
Long-handled grippers: While this isn’t specifically for gardening, it’s a common tool that people with accessibility issues use around the house and can be used while gardening to pick up debris or move items out of the way;
Lightweight tools: Use lightweight tools to allow for more accessibility to your garden. This allows for people who have lost their strength due to age or illness to still garden without the performance barrier of lifting heavy tools;
Cut-and-hold pruners: A cut-and-hold pruner with a long handle helps to prevent any heavy plants or debris from falling on you while you’re trimming. The long handle allows for people to use it even if they are in a wheelchair or using a walker.
If you have a large yard, you should consider adding seating throughout your garden. For people with mobility issues, this makes it easier for them to enjoy your garden and take sitting breaks when needed. Many people add attractive benches or Adirondack chairs for an appealing and functional garden.
Make Water Easier to Access
Ensure that your water source is easy to access. There are a few ways to do this, such as by focusing on an irrigation or drip system or making sure there is a functional faucet nearby.
Make sure there are no barriers to using your hose and that all of your outdoor faucets are functional and easy to access. Everyone in your home should be able to easily access your outdoor water sources.
Watch for Harsh Chemicals
Be sure to watch for harsh chemicals when using pesticides or even certain household cleaners. Harsh chemicals and toxins in these products can affect the health of vulnerable members of your household including children, pets, and senior citizens.
Even certain natural, green cleaners have chemicals that can affect your family’s health. Be sure to use environmentally friendly cleaners that are free of any harsh chemicals.
Instead, try using chemical-free pesticides (like homemade garlic-pepper spray, cooking oil spray, or a combination of soap and citrus) that can keep pests away while also keeping your family safe.
Select Low-Maintenance Plants
Choosing low-maintenance plants is a great way to keep your garden accessible to all your family members. Low-maintenance plants provide your family with easy gardening, so they can still do what they love without having to put too much energy into it. Here are some of the best low-maintenance plants to enjoy: