Making Gardening More Accessible

When Joan Bowden gave her father a Tomato Success Kit, she gave him much more than a simple container kit.

Joan's father is 84, uses a walker and suffers from chronic health problems. When his health deteriorated last year, he thought he'd never be able to garden again. "But I was able to give him the gift of gardening itself," Joan said. "There are no words to describe my father's happiness when he opened the two packages."

With the self-watering planter, Joan's father could sit in a chair and still reach into the planter to care for his beloved tomato plants. Plus he didn't have to water very often, so visitors could do the watering for him. "Finally there is something that he can still do--something that won't, cannot be, taken away from him," Joan said.

Many of us garden because it's good exercise and because it feels good. Tending growing plants is simply good for the soul. But when age, injury or illness make gardening more difficult, we don't have to quit. We simply need to rethink how we garden and the tools that we use. Just like Joan and her father did.

The right tools, containers, raised beds and work-saving techniques can help you, or someone in your life, garden more easily. Here are some ideas:

The Right Tools
Tools are intended to make gardening easier, and choosing the right tool is especially important for people who have limited strength or mobility. Choose tools that are light, ergonomic and designed to require little force to operate.

Hand tools like Powergear Pruners and Long-Handled Powergear Loppers multiply your hand strength and enable you to cut through plant material with much less force. Long-Handled Grass Shears let you trim grass without bending over or stooping.

Water-Wise Gear
One gallon of water weighs 8 pounds. Which means a three-gallon watering can holds 24 pounds of water! That's a lot of weight to carry around. Luckily, you don't have to lug a watering can around your garden to keep your plants happy. A self-watering planter allows you to fill it with water as little as once a week. A soaker hose, such as HydroGrow Hose, can be left in place for the entire season.

The standard garden hose has also been improved. The Coil Hose stretches to follow your movements, then automatically rebounds into a neat coil for easy storage. The Featherweight Hose weighs just 3 1/2 pounds per 25 feet. To move your faucet to a more accessible location, consider the Hedge Hydrant.

Save Your Back
Stooping, kneeling and hauling are all garden activities that can be hard on your back. The Garden Kneeler allows you to lower yourself down to your knees and then push yourself back up again. Garden Carts roll easily on large pneumatic tires, making hauling mulch, compost or plants easier on your body.

Containers
As Joan's father discovered, growing in containers gives the gardener more flexibility. You can put the container in a convenient location for you to work. You can even sit in a chair while you tend your plants.

Growing in containers also lets you create ideal soil conditions for your plants, including soil, water and temperature. You can grow almost anything in a container, from tomatoes to dwarf trees. To learn more, read our How-To Bulletin: Container Gardening.

Choose containers that are lightweight and easy to move, such as our self-watering pots, planters or windowboxes, which help keep watering chores to a minimum.

For More Information
To learn more about adaptive gardening techniques, refer to one of these books:

Accessible Gardening for People with Physical Disabilities: A Guide to Methods, Tools, and Plants by Janeen Adil, Woodbine House, 1995.

Enabling Gardening: Creating Barrier-Free Gardens by Gene Rothert, Taylor Publishing Company, Dallas, Texas, 1994.

The Able Gardener: Overcoming Barriers of Age and Physical Limitations by Kathleen Yeomans, Garden Way Publishing, 1992.

Click here to read more profiles of great home gardeners.

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