Something blooming great for everyone
Many people love gardening. But some people with a disability can find it hard to access a garden. Fortunately, there are many ways to design a garden so it is accessible for everyone. Raised garden beds are one good idea. They allow people to look after the plants while sitting or standing. It is also good not to have steep slopes. Smooth paths are also important. Good lighting can also help.
Posted by: Joanne Richie, on 21/12/09
Make your garden inviting and accessible
Gardening is a popular pastime for many Australians. It can be very rewarding, too. There are a variety of ways a garden can be designed to ensure it is inviting and accessible for everyone.
Plant and tender
Raised garden beds can be built 600 or 700mm above the ground so that people can tend plants while sitting or standing. This eliminates the need to bend or stoop. This is a real advantage for someone who uses a wheelchair. It is also great for people who have limited strength or endurance.
Alternatively, pots can be placed on a table top. You can also fill containers such as wheelbarrows or old prams with soil and plants. One enterprising household in Melbourne even uses an old adjustable hospital bed as a raised platform.
In an accessible garden, slopes and gradients need to be kept to a minimum to allow wheelchair access. You do not want a gradient steeper than 1:20.
Uneven pathways and rough ground can also be a risk for someone who is frail and has poor balance. You should also consider lighting to make a garden easier to access. Lighting along pathways is very useful if people are out and about in the evening or at night. Lighting plants and trees can also create spectacular effects.
Gnomes, fairies are other mystical creatures are known to inhabit gardens throughout the world. Have some fun and add an interesting character (or two) for visitors to discover.
Touch, feel, smell
Sensory gardens are designed to promote interaction and provide experiences that stimulate all of our senses. Colour, shapes and textures draw our attention (via sight). Nectar-producing plants and feeders can attract a variety of birds (that we can hear). Textured plants, rocks and pebbles just ask to be touched. There are also few people who can resist a smell of a fragrant rose or crushing a few herbs in their fingers as they pass by.
Who can resist plucking a ripe strawberry, cherry tomato or snow pea straight from the garden? A few home-grown herbs freshly picked from the garden can transform your cooking. I’ll never use dried oregano in my bolognaise sauce again after growing my own.
Just remember that caution should be taken with children. Supervision is strongly recommended when finding good (and safe) things to eat in the garden.
There are so many different things that can be included into the design of a new or existing garden. Some imagination and planning can make it a place that everyone can enjoy.
Build for Life (opens new window)
Build for Life is a collaboration between the Building Commission, leading government agencies and building industry organisations. The website has a lot of great advice about accessible garden and outdoor design.
Horticultural Therapy Association of Victoria (opens new window)
The Horticultural Therapy Association of Victoria is an organisation of professionals and volunteers who promote the therapeutic and recreational benefits of horticulture. Their website includes a range of valuable materials for those with green thumbs.
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