Enabling gardening strategies center on ideas for people with limited mobility who want to grow plants. Gardening requires bending and stretching and lifting heavy objects; all this can take a toll on the human body.
Those who have limited mobility may feel ill-equipped to garden. But over the years, gardeners have developed tactics and tools to get around the barriers – these tools make growing plants possible for everyone.
Child-gardeners, or kids with disabilities may feel intimidated when trying to grow plants. However, kids with disabilities can use gardening to gain a sense of independence by learning from gardeners who have adapted to their limitations.
Accessible Container and Vertical Gardens
Container and vertical gardens are design styles for garden spaces. They are also practical strategies for gardeners who find it difficult to bend. Gardeners may place their plants at waist level in containers set on a surface as simple as a picnic table. Garden designers may develop an in-ground planting bed into a vertical garden, set on a platform or raised up to minimize reaching.
Trough-sized rectangular containers can hang at a height amenable to planting and tending while a kid-gardener is sitting or standing. Containers made with an approximate size of 18” – 24” depth and a 24” – 36” length provide a generous planting surface for any gardener. Strong supports to withstand downward pressure from digging is always required in hanging large wall containers; these trough planters are no different.
Vertical gardens make use of the space above a planting bed. These gardens can simply use threaded string from bottom to top for sweet pea vines to climb up or as detailed as featuring wooden lattice frames and chicken wire made to hold potting soil and transplants which will grow on a vertical plane.
Raised Garden Beds and Potting Tables
We usually add raised garden beds to a garden where the ground is not tillable. You can also set raised garden beds constructed on a platform on man-made surfaces such as on a patio, driveway or sidewalk.
Kid-gardeners with limited mobility will benefit from having a raised bed built with wide ledges and legs which raise up the garden to a useful height. The width of a raised bed backed against a building should measure less than the child’s arm length so he or she is able to reach all corners of the bed.
All gardeners appreciate a table made solely for potting containers and caring for plants. A potting table that has cutouts for chair-arms or for setting in window boxes, allows the arms of a wheelchair to set under the table and gives a child with disabilities access to a work-surface without having to stand.
Enabling Tools for Kid-gardeners
Watering plants in hanging baskets and using tools in a planting bed may challenge gardeners with a limited reach. Pulley systems and ergonomically-correct lightweight garden tools are good choices for kid-gardeners with disabilities.
Gardeners like hanging baskets for good out-of-the-way gardens indoors or outside. But when the basket hangs too far out of reach, it becomes a barrier to good plant care.
A hanging basket becomes easier for a child to reach by suspending it from a short Shepherd’s hook in an accessible location. A pulley system connected to the chain of a hanging basket, hung from a hook on an indoor ceiling or a patio beam outside, will help a gardener adjust the pot for watering and plant care.
Ergonomically-made garden tools are good investments for children who want to grow plants. Gardeners benefit from using garden tools that are precisely constructed to fit the human hand and that require minimal pressure to use.
Kid-gardeners can more accurately weed or clean a planting bed with long tools designed with shorter handles and with smaller tool heads. These lighter-weight tools will reach across planting beds with less strain for a child.
Small Planting Spaces Enable Gardeners
Under the banner of Horticultural Therapy Services at the Chicago Botanic Garden, the Buehler Enabling Garden has 11,000 square feet of space for demonstrating equipment and techniques meant to encourage people of all ages with diverging abilities to enjoy gardening. It is just one of many public gardens with enabling presentations with ideas kid-gardeners and their parents can use at home.
Gardening benefits everyone by reducing stress and providing a natural environment where we can learn and enjoy a peaceful hobby. Child-gardeners with disabilities will feel empowered by a lifelong set of enabling gardening skills, whether they’re planting a butterfly garden, or tending pink or blue plants just for fun.
Horticultural Therapy Services, Chicago Botanic Garden. The Buehler Enabling Garden. Accessed November 27, 2013.
Flahive-DiNardo, Madeline; DeParado, Laura; Flagler, Joel; Polanin, Nicholas. Enabling Gardens: The Practical Side of Horticultural Therapy. (2013). Cooperative Extension Fact Sheet FS1208; Rutgers New Jersey Agricultural Experiment Station. Accessed November 27, 2013.© Copyright 2013 Chris Eirschele, All rights Reserved. Written For: Decoded Parenting