Gardening can bring benefits to everyone. Unfortunately, some gardens feel left out. If you have mobility issues or some form of disability, or if you are just getting old, you may feel overwhelmed by the process of designing an accessible garden that you can care for and enjoy.
Creating an accessible garden requires care and reflection. But it doesn’t have to cost the earth, literally or metaphorically, to create a garden that works for you or everyone in your household.
Connecting the house and the garden
A large garden is an extension of the living spaces within a house. But if many homes are designed for accessibility, the links to green spaces often leave much to be desired. So, when designing an accessible garden, one of the main areas of interest will be the intersection between the house and the garden.
Patios, smooth decks, and railings can help create a continuous flow between indoor and outdoor spaces. Large sliding doors soften the boundaries between interior and exterior. Pergolas, porches, and other covered structures can provide accessible transitional spaces connecting the two realms.
Creating terraces and gentle slopes can smooth the terrain, creating an easier route through garden spaces. The smooth outline of the existing lot, with links to the back doors of your home, ensures that anyone can navigate their way outside, without obstacles.
Zoning of the garden
For gardeners with physical challenges, “zoning” of space is even more important than it usually is. In permaculture, we delimit a space so that the elements we visit most frequently are closest to the house and those that are only visited occasionally are further away. Minimizing the time it takes to reach the most common routes in your garden will give you more time to relax and enjoy the accessible garden you have created.
Zoning recreation spaces, designed for relaxation and enjoyment, is as important as creating purely functional spaces that will help you live more sustainably, such as water management, nutrient recycling and growing at least some of your own food.
Some of the most important features of an accessible garden are the walkways that allow free and easy movement through the space. It is important to remember to reduce the slope, avoid uneven surfaces, and keep the trails wide and clear.
The specific surface area required will, of course, depend on who will be using the space. In some areas, a lawn or other low-growing living path may be suitable; in others, a compacted, flat path made of gravel, sand or clay might work better. The advantage of this, over concrete, for example, is that it is a permeable surface, which allows water to flow.
When concrete is desired, a lime concrete driveway or a recycled material surface may be greener alternatives to consider.
Low maintenance spaces
When physical movement is a challenge, it’s especially important to think about creating low-maintenance spaces, where processes can be as streamlined and efficient as possible. But these don’t have to be boring. They also don’t need to minimize the number of plants.
In fact, it often happens that the more plants you include in a design and the more biodiversity the ecosystem has, the less maintenance it may require.
In an accessible garden, don’t be afraid to incorporate a wide range of perennials: trees, shrubs and herbaceous plants. Naturalistic landscaping that mimics natural systems requires much less time and attention than you might imagine. Keep in mind that native plants will be better suited to the conditions in your area and require much less care.
Considering plant choices carefully – for example, choosing plants that can be harvested from your own easily accessible area (fruit trees on dwarf rootstocks, for example) – means you can enjoy bountiful yields for a fraction. time and effort required. to maintain a traditional annual garden.
Of course, the specific needs and requirements of the garden should be carefully considered in any accessible garden design. Make sure to think about not only practicality, but also creating a beautiful and aesthetic design. Think about sight lines for everyone in the household and incorporate visual, aural, scent and tactile elements into the planting design.
If you plan to grow annual crops, raised beds are often the best solution for an accessible garden. But when creating raised beds, remember that it helps to think outside the box. Rectangular shapes aren’t the only option, and creating raised beds of different shapes can sometimes help create a garden that better suits your specific needs.
The height of the raised beds should be suitable for you, or the senior gardener, to make it easier to reach all parts of each bed. Make them high enough to avoid overbending and narrow enough to prevent over-reach.
Make sure watering needs are met (considering that automated systems can be beneficial) and make sure your composting area, tools in a potting shed, and other things you will need to take care of. your raised beds are nearby.
Whether you want to make a garden more accessible for you, as a gardener, or for a member of your household, the tips above should help you go in the right direction.