3 Tips to Make Gardening Accessible to People with a Physical Disability

comments (0) May 26th, 2015

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JulieHoward JulieHoward, member
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While gardening is a therapeutic activity and a great form of exercise, for people with a physical disability, it can pose quite some challenges. But gardening can be easily accessible, so if you have a physical disability and would love to indulge in this outdoor activity, don't be disheartened.

Read on for some helpful tips.

Know Your Limits

Before you begin doing or planning anything, you need to be aware of your physical limitations so that you don't end up with a garden that you can't care for. Gardening can accommodate various needs depending on your abilities so be realistic about the size of your garden and what you would like to grow in it.

Do a little research and find out how different plants need to be cared for and make a list of plants that you know you'll be able to care for easily. Perhaps you'll find it easier and more satisfying to tend to an herb container garden instead of perennial flower beds.

Plan Things Well

Making gardening easy starts with having an accessible garden. So if you haven't designed your garden as yet, be sure to plan it right. On the other hand, you can make your existing garden accessible with simple changes.Remember that gardening doesn't have to be depressing; it has to be encouraging. So plan your garden such that you love facing the challenges but are not overwhelmed by them.

  • Have Wide Paths

Your garden should have paths that are at least a meter wide. If you use a wheelchair, you'll also need enough space to turn. Note that manual wheelchairs have a turning circle of 1.6m and electric wheelchairs or mobility scooters may have a turning circle of about 2.4m. Leave enough space around beds and trees too.

Further, ensure that the paths are even and the surface gives a good grip. Grass will be tough to maneuver on using a wheelchair and the same applies to using wood chips. The best option is to use pea gravel as once it is compacted, you'll have no trouble maneuvering a wheelchair on the path. Moreover, pea gravel will keep weeds down and you won't need to replace it as often as wood chips.

You can also have brick or stone patios built around beds. This is a permanent alternative but is more labor intensive and costly.

  • Raise the Beds

As a person with a physical impairment, you might find it difficult to bend or kneel to tend to plants. The best thing to do would be to have raised beds in your garden so that you can tend to your plants easily.

Raised beds can be built according to your needs so make sure they are at an appropriate height that makes tending to plants comfortable for you. A raised bed with the soil level 24-36 inches above the ground is perfect if you'll be gardening while seated in your wheelchair or Pride mobility scooter.

Remember to have knee space beneath the raised bed if it is table-high. This way, you'll be able to get closer to the bed and work frontwards. Beds should also measure about a meter in diameter or breadth so that all plants can be reached easily without straining the back and arms.

Alternatively, you can also have a container garden and have containers suspended at appropriate heights or placed on a raised surface. You can also get creative and place potted containers on step stools or ladders.

Say Goodbye to Water Woes

Watering plants can be pretty troublesome for people with a physical disability. To reduce the frequency of watering, use mulch beneath your plants. The mulch will keep the soil moist and aid water-retention. Further, use water-retaining gel or granules to keep soil moist, and place free-standing pots on a layer of moist compost.

Use soaker hoses, timers, and drip-irrigation to lighten your workload. If you love watering plants manually, choose an ergonomically designed watering can.

Do remember to water plants in the morning or evening when there is less evaporation and never in the afternoon.

Use the Right Tools

Using the right tools will not only make gardening a breeze, you'll also find it much more enjoyable! When buying tools, try them out and make sure they are comfortable and light. Ergonomic designs will prevent you from straining your back and arm muscles. Choose tools with long handles so you can easily perform tasks while standing or remaining seated.

To improve grip on existing tools, use foam padding, tape, or bicycle grips. To lengthen handles, use PVC pipes. Gloves with gripper dots or gloves having a sticky surface will also help you hold tools firmly.

Be sure to have all gardening tools nearby and in one place. Use a lightweight wheelbarrow, flexible buckets, or a trolley to move tools from one place to another effortlessly.


Gardening can help you in many ways- apart from being a great form of exercise, it can help you relax and reduce your stress levels. By growing different plants, herbs, fruits, and vegetables, you not only learn a lot about them, you also learn about nutrition and healthy eating.

So don't worry about things and get started with whatever you can do. Using the tips given here, you'll certainly be able to enjoy gardening as much as you'd love to.

posted in: Gardening, gardening tips, accessible gardening