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  • 标题:The Accessible Garden - gardening for the disabled
  • 作者:Janet Cass
  • 期刊名称:Accent on Living
  • 印刷版ISSN:0001-4508
  • 出版年度:2000
  • 卷号:Spring 2000
  • 出版社:Cheever Publishing, Inc.

The Accessible Garden - gardening for the disabled

Janet Cass

New tools and techniques make gardening a hobby anyone can enjoy

I'm not about to give up gardening just because my body doesn't work as well as it used to. (For me, the problem is bad knees, which make it hard for me to bend and weed.) Neither are gardeners such as Jenny Peterson, who has used a wheelchair since a skiing accident in 1983, or Joyce Vincent, who uses both a walker and a wheelchair because of rheumatoid arthritis.

So, just because you're disabled doesn't mean you have to forgo your favorite pastime. Gardening stretches muscles and encourages joint flexibility, good for people at any age.

Start Small

For Jenny Peterson, 33, a visit to a "sensory" garden at an arboretum three years ago sparked a passion for gardening.

It was at that arboretum that Peterson and her husband, Pete Berridge, first saw modified raised beds that were wheelchair accessible. Berridge has since built seven similar above-ground beds for Peterson. She now has six "tabletop" planters that stand three and one-half feet off the ground, high enough to let her get her wheelchair under the edge and reach in to tend her plants. She has another bed that stands three feet high that she can wheel all the way around and still reach to the center.

Peterson also has a helping paw in the garden. Poohbah, her golden retriever, is a three-year-old service dog who has been trained to help Peterson with a variety of tasks. Poohbah picks up dropped tools, carries supplies, and even "tugs on the hose when it's time to move it," laughs Peterson.

Whether you use a wheelchair or have limited mobility for some other reason, such as arthritis or bad knees, take a tip from Peterson. Your first garden should start small. After all, you want to be able to sit back and admire it. If your garden beds are in the ground, make them less than four feet wide. That dimension allows most adults to reach the middle from either side without undue leaning or stretching. If a two-foot reach is uncomfortable for you, find out how far out you can reach without pain and then make your beds twice the size of your reach.

Raise your standards

If you build a raised bed for a gardener with limited mobility, define your bed's perimeter with walls of lumber, concrete blocks, or bricks, and include a seating ledge. Or you could even recycle a child's sturdy sandbox or wading pool into a garden bed. Remove the bottom, place it on ground that's free of grass and weeds, and fill with soil.

If you find gardening more difficult today than it used to be, ask yourself if you're using all the time-and body-saving tricks that you can. For instance, mulch and groundcover decrease the need to water and weed. Watering is easier if you have an easily accessible spigot two to three feet above ground and if you replace round spigot handles with hand levers, which are particularly helpful for gardeners with arthritis.

"Closer is better" goes for supplies, too. Keep garden materials where they're used the most to reduce hauling. Store heavy materials, such as potting soil, in wheeled garbage cans. Tools can be transported from garage to garden in baby buggies and children's wagons from garage sales, and via backpack on a walker or wheelchair.

Make Access Easier

Joyce Vincent, 63, has been using an electric wheelchair or walker since 1970 because of her rheumatoid arthritis. But that hasn't slowed her down: Her garden regularly wins the Minneapolis "Blooming Boulevards" award, and one year it was chosen as the best garden in the city. Vincent is able to enjoy her garden because it has been constructed with paths that take wheelchair wheels and walkers into account.

Wheelchairs and walkers require a four-foot path in order to make a 90 degree turn without backing up; five feet allows a 180-degree turn without reversing. The ideal path is even, non-skid, and requires minimal upkeep.

Vincent found a low-cost pathway material for her garden a roll of black roofing paper that only cost $44. Paths are constructed of several layers of the paper, which lasts about four years.

Other materials can be used for paths, as well. Bricks are low-maintenance although the freeze/thaw cycle and encroaching tree roots can elevate selected bricks -- a potential tripping hazard, especially for gardeners with impaired vision. Textured concrete is another low-maintenance option, as is asphalt. Neither one lets water percolate through it, however, and they can turn a walkway into a sluice with erosion-producing potential if they are set into a slope. (How do I know this? Don't ask.) On plus side, asphalt's dark color makes it a handy heat sink for hardening of tender plants or growing heat-lovers such as tomatoes and peppers.

Wooden walkways allow water to pass through the spaces between the boards to the soil beneath. Gravel underneath the walkway helps to keep weeds from poking through the cracks. Gravel doesn't work as a wheelchair path since wheels sink in.

During construction, keep the people who will use the paths in mind. People with declining vision may appreciate wind chimes or a fountain's gurgle to help them orient themselves within a garden. Groundcovers that release scent when trampled by feet or pressed by wheels do likewise. Flowerless, low-growing Treneague chamomile is a good choice for full sun, as is the creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum). Low growing mint (Mentha requienii) makes a fragrant carpet in the shade.

A path in a different material at the edges of your garden can help visually impaired people stay within the borders, much like a warning track in a baseball stadium.

Consider containers

If you can no longer tend a huge garden, consider "downsizing." It is possible to grow nearly any plant you wish to in a container, and better yet, containers can be placed where they're convenient for a gardener to tend.

Compact vegetable varieties can be grown in a hanging basket, bushel basket, or pot. Even full-sized bush-type vegetables can grow in containers of at least 18 inches diameter, while vining plants can be trained to a comfortable work height along poles, netting, or A-frames. Another option for vegetables and flowers is to plant them directly into a sack filled with gardening media. (Be sure to poke drainage holes in the bag's bottom.)

Since containers are heavy once they're filled, place them in their final spot before filling them. And since plants in a pot dry out faster than those in the ground, consider adding a water-retaining polymer such as Hydrosource available from Gardener's Supply Co. Call 800-863-1700. Potted plants will appreciate the addition of controlled-release fertilizer at planting time.

Flower pot holders on wheels are available from many gardening catalogs and garden centers; a child's wagon works, too.

One final tip: Don't forget to protect yourself against sunburn while you're busy pursuing your favorite hobby. Clip-on parasols designed to be attached to beach chairs can work on walkers or wheelchairs, as well. Don't forget hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen, too.

Tools Make Gardening Easier

Gardeners with a disability will be pleased to know there are tools that have been designed to minimize garden-related strain. Following are just a few.

The Stand Up Garden (retail $499) is a raised bed on wheels that stands about four feet tall. Ideal for gardeners who use wheelchairs, those who are limited to indoor gardening projects, or for anyone with problems bending or stretching. The StandUp Garden has optional grow lights, a water garden kit, and even an arbor for hanging or climbing plants. This is the first product to be endorsed by the American Horticultural Therapy Association. Call 800-TO-STAND for more information.

Raised beds are terrific both for plants and for gardeners. A set of brackets (four, $6.95) available from Lee Valley Tools, lets you build a raised bed in minutes. Call 800-871-8158.

Garden tools (retail $47.50 a set) offer padded guards to support weak wrists and arms. These are available from Charley's Greenhouses. Call 800-322-4707.

The American Arthritis Society recently endorsed these Garden Gals pruners and nippers from the Garden Pals Co. (starting at $7.95). Their small size and easy operation are kind to sore hands. Call 888GP-TOOLS.

Finally, the Handeze glove (retail $20) was originally developed to minimize pain for people with repetitive motion problems, which can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome.

The Handeze offers support and warmth by way of a gentle elastic, fingerless glove that doesn't restrict movement. The gloves are available at local drug stores, or call 800-432-4352.

Carole Surgi has been a paraplegic since 1953. She has been gardening for the last 20 years using the raised planting bin developed by her husband Charles. You can add extensions to The Easy Garden bin to accommodate the size of garden you want to plant. The basic unit can be extended in five-foot increments. Other options are a cold frame so you can get a jump on the growing season, a screen cover to protect plants from pests, a climbing plant trellis and more. The panels are of aluminum and the unit provides drainage.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Cheever Publishing, Inc.
COPYRIGHT 2001 Gale Group