Accessible gardening enables the special needs population to grow food and flowers

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An accessible garden eliminates physical barriers to gardening, creating an area where people of all ages and abilities can garden. All you need are a few adaptations to the area, methods, and equipment. Depending on the scale and the type of garden you want to grow you may need to find used John Deere riding mowers for large gardens to tools you can find at local stores for smaller gardens.

Everyone receives rewards from gardening. For the elderly and people with disabilities it provides particular benefits.

* Communication and social skills - as a result of being involved in group and community activities.

* Fitness - gardening is a great form of physical activity.

* Confidence - provides an opportunity to develop new skills.

* Wellbeing - gardening is a great way to relax and reduce stress

* Physical ability - through improved motor skills.

* Nutrition - an opportunity to learn about healthy food.

* Knowledge - learn about the environment and nature.

* Enjoyment - gardening is a leisure activity in which tasks and routines can be varied and shared.

Raised beds are large bottomless boxes that contain soil and permit drainage below. They are particularly effective for square foot gardening techniques.

Since they can be expensive to build, raised beds should be used in areas of the garden that require the most frequent attention.

Build raised beds as large as possible, making sure that you can reach all areas of the bed. The increase in size adds minimal cost to the bed, while adding valuable garden area.

Bed width should be a maximum of 5 feet if it is accessible from all sides, or 2.5 feet if used from only one side. If using extended tools, you can add inches to the bed. Seating surfaces should be from 8 to 18 inches wide.

Use the thinnest construction materials possible without compromising stability, to increase the area available for the gardener.

Height of the sides can vary from 18 inches for a child, to 24 inches for someone seated in a chair next to the bed, to 30 inches or higher for the disabled, special needs or elderly gardener who has difficulty bending downward.

Boxes and pots of various sizes provide successful ways to grow vegetables and flowers.

Choose a pot that will allow for healthy root development. For instance, bush-type peas, beans, cucumbers, kale, broccoli, and lettuce do well in a box that is 1-by-4 feet and 8 inches deep.

For some other plants, such as beets, carrots, onions, lettuce, leeks, turnips, kohlrabi, corn, and zucchini, a box that is 2-by-3 feet and 8 inches deep is more suitable.

For herbs and flowering plants and vines, find out whether the plant has deep or shallow roots to determine the proper container size. The more shallow the container, the faster it dries out.

Hanging baskets can create planting space where none exists. Or, combined with a container garden, they can give you a double-decker growing area.

To make watering and viewing easy, buy a ratchet pulley. Or make your own pulley, using steel hooks or rings clamped or mounted to railings or walls. A long metal pole with a curving top hook can be anchored in the ground for a freestanding hanging plant mount. Baskets can be hung high, or if you have limited mobility, hung low enough to see and enjoy their beauty.

Table planters are shallow soil-filled trays supported on legs. About 27 inches of knee clearance is needed to allow chairs to fit underneath. The soil container should be at least 8 to 10 inches deep, making the entire structure about 35 to 37 inches high. The top of the planter should be no higher than your rib cage. Width of the box is the same as that of the raised bed, already described.

Deep boxes, barrels, and tubs can be used to create miniature raised beds for flowers, vegetables, and herbs. Perennials, trees, and shrubs are not recommended for these types of containers because plants cannot survive in them when the temperature is freezing or below freezing. Use these containers for your annual plants only.

Considerations for Creating an Accessible Garden

Water - Make sure that water is available, close to the garden site, and in a paved area so the ground does not get muddy. Place the spigot at 24 to 36 inches above ground and use hand levers (not round spigot handles) and snap connectors. Soaker hoses and mulch will also reduce watering needs in the garden. This is called xeriscaping.

Plant Choice - To aid in the harvesting of plants, use contrasting or bright colors. Some plants naturally contrast their ripening fruit against their foliage, such as purple-podded bush beans or golden zucchini. Select plants that are high producers per inch of growing space, with interesting textures and fragrances. Use plants that people want to grow or eat.

Emergencies

- Make provisions to summon assistance for potential medical or police emergencies. A wheelchair-accessible parking space near the garden is mandatory for public gardens, both for persons with disabilities, the elderly and for medical/police access. It is not mandated at private homes.

Paved Surfaces

- Garden path surfaces must be firm, smooth, level, and provide traction. The grade of the path should be between 5 and 8 percent. Provide direct routes throughout the garden. Use edge guides if you have ambulating and/or visual disabilities. Audible water features and wind chimes also help orient you through the garden. One-way traffic needs a five-foot minimum width to accommodate the turning radius of a wheelchair. Two-way traffic requires a 7 foot minimum width.

Accessibility to the garden

It is essential that the disabled individual be able to reach the garden with a minimum of difficulty. All gates or doors must be wide enough (36 inches) for a wheelchair to pass through without difficulty. Gates and doors should slide rather than swing, and they should be light enough to move easily. Stairs are better for those who walk with aid but ramps are required for those in wheelchairs.

Ramps, along with gates, doorways, walks, and space between raised beds, should be a minimum of three feet wide for single-person travel and six feet for two persons. The ramps need to have a slope of no more than 8% and should be edged to prevent the chair from rolling off the ramp's sides.

All surfaces should be non-slip and have a 2% slope for water drainage or be made of porous materials. The surface should be continuous and should not have any bumps. Brick walkways are discouraged because they are very susceptible to heaving. If a grassy area is desired, open-work paving stones which have holes for the grass to be seeded through are available. A traditional lawn is too uneven and not appropriate for the person in a wheelchair or with impaired walking.

At the garden site, mobility and access to planting area are equally important. In addition, a place to rest and recover from the walk to the garden may be critical for continued participation and enjoyment by many disabled, special needs or elderly gardeners. Provide benches, sturdy chairs, or a flat surface for a wheelchair in a shaded location.

Precautions for the disabled, special needs and elderly population

Over-exposure to the sun can cause problems for elderly or disabled gardeners taking certain prescription drugs so precautions should be taken. In the summertime, the mid-afternoon sun should be avoided and work encouraged in the morning or evening. Hats should be worn to protect the head and eyes. Sunscreen should be used on exposed areas and appropriate beverages provided before and after working in the garden.

Disabled, special needs and elderly gardeners should avoid overexertion. One way to avoid this problem is to rotate jobs so that the same activity is not performed for more than half an hour. If the gardener feels tired, then a rest in the shade should be taken before attempting to return to work. The gardener should not attempt to do too much in one work session.

Safety is important in the garden. All debris and equipment (tools, hose) should be removed from paths in order to avoid problems with wheelchairs and walking aids. Gloves and long sleeved shirts should be worn if working with thorny or woody material. If using pesticides, directions on the label should be followed and cautions heeded.

Tools can make gardening tasks easier so it is important not to let them get lost or damaged. Make sure that all tools are brightly marked so that they can be found easily. Have a specific place to store them so that they are there when needed. A bag on the side of the chair or a basket will adapt well for small tools. Close pruners and pocket knives before setting them down. Keep tools such as knives, pruners, and hoes sharp for easy and efficient use.

Paving Material and Comments

Asphalt - Absorbs and radiates heat. Hot in summer, but snow melts off sooner.

Wood decking - Slippery when wet.

Brick - Expensive and must be installed properly.

Decomposed granite - Readily available. Good for persons in wheelchairs but not on crutches.

Screenings - Large and small limestone pieces (similar to decomposed granite).

Concrete - Expensive; glare can be a problem for elders and people with visual impairments

Woodchips and sod - Use only for persons without ambulatory equipment.

Preparing the raised bed and planter

After learning how to build a raised bed garden, soil preparation is the key to successful accessible gardening. To grow close together, plants must have adequate nutrients and water. Providing extra synthetic fertilizers and irrigation will help, but there is no substitute for deep, fertile soil, high in organic matter.

As raised ground beds are only 8-10" deep, double-digging the beds will give best results. This is a very strenuous task and may require volunteer or paid labor. Remove the top twelve inches of soil from the bed. Insert a spade or spading fork into the next 10"-12" of soil and wiggle the handle back and forth to break up compacted layers, repeat this motion every 6"-8" in the bed. Mix the topsoil with a generous amount of compost or manure, and return the mixture to the bed. It will be fluffy and several inches higher than ground level. To raise the bed to 8 to 10 inches, take topsoil from neighboring pathways and mix it in as well.

For containers, elevated beds, and deep raised beds, a fairly lightweight soil mix is needed. Soil straight from the garden usually cannot be used because it is too heavy and does not allow proper drainage. Clay soil consists of extremely small (microscopic) particles. In a container, the bad qualities of clay are exaggerated. It holds too much moisture when wet, resulting in too little air for the roots, and it pulls away from the sides of the container when dry.

The container medium must be porous in order to support plant growth since roots require both air and water. Packaged potting soil available at local garden centers is relatively lightweight and may make a good container medium if it is not too high in organic matter.

Soilless mixes such as a peat-perlite mix are generally too light for container vegetable gardening, not offering enough physical support to plant roots. If the container is also lightweight, a strong wind can blow plants over, resulting in major damage. Soilless mixes are sterile, thus insect, disease, and weed free. However, no trace elements are available for good plant growth and must be added.

For a large container garden the expense of prepackaged or soilless mixes may be quite high. Try mixing your own soil with one part peat moss, one part garden loam, and one part clean coarse builder's sand, and a slow release fertilizer according to container size. Lime may also be needed to bring the pH to around 6.5. A soil test is helpful in determining nutrient and pH needs, just as in a larger garden. Deep raised beds can be filled 1/3 to 1/2 full of broken concrete and stones to reduce the volume of soil required.

Soil recipe for 5 gallon container​ gardening:

​1 bucket (​2-1/2 gallons)​  coco coir
​A half bucket (​1-1/4 gallons) Perlite
A half bucket (1-1/4 gallons) compost or composted cow manure
2 cups fine sand
2 cups organic fertilizer

I also add a cup of Azomite to make the strawberries more nutritious with micro minerals

Depending on the preferred pH of your plant, add sulfur to lower the pH or limeto raise the pH

Planting the raised bed and planters

By their design, raised beds are a form of wide-bed accessible gardening, a technique by which seeds and transplants are planted in wide bands of several rows or broadcast in a wide strip. The goal is to space plants at equal distances from each other on all sides, such that leaves will touch at maturity. This saves space, and provides shade which reduces moisture loss from the soil and diminishes weed seed germination.

There are several methods for making the best use of space in wide-bed planting. Growing two or more types of vegetables in the same place at the same time is known as interplanting.

Proper planning is essential to obtain high production and quality of interplanted crops. This technique has been practiced for thousands of years, but is just now gaining widespread support in this country. To successfully plan an interplanted garden the following factors must be taken into account for each plant: the length of the plant's growth period, its growth pattern (tall, short, below or above ground), possible negative effects on other plants, optimum growth season, and light, nutrient, and moisture requirements. Interplanting can be accomplished by alternating rows within a bed (plant a row of peppers next to a row of onions), by mixing plants within a row, or by distributing various species throughout the bed. For the beginner, alternating rows may be the easiest to manage.

With interplanting, long season (slow maturing) and short season (quick maturing) plants like carrots and radishes, respectively, can be planted at the same time. The radishes are harvested before they begin to crowd the carrots. An example of combining growth patterns is planting small plants close to large plants, (radishes at the base of beans or broccoli). Shade tolerant species like lettuce, spinach, and celery may be planted in the shadow of taller crops. Heavy feeders, such as cabbage family crops, should be mixed with less gluttonous plants. Root, leaf, and soil-building crops (legumes) may be mixed to take advantage of available nutrients.

Interplanting with companion plants may help reduce insect and disease problems. Pests are usually fairly crop-specific; that is, they prefer vegetables of one type or family. Mixing families of plants helps to break up large expanses of the pest-preferred crop, helping to contain early pest damage within a small area, thus giving the gardener a little more time to deal with the problem. One disadvantage is that when it does come time to spray for pests, it's hard to be sure that all plants are protected.

Individual plants are closely spaced in a raised bed or interplanted garden. In beds of more than two rows an equidistant spacing pattern calls for rows to be staggered so that plants in every other row are between the plants in adjacent rows. The distance recommended for plants is the distance from the center of one plant to the center of the next. This spacing results in an efficient use of space and leaves less area to weed and mulch. The close spacing tends to create a nearly solid leaf canopy, acting as a living mulch, decreasing water loss, and keeping weed problems down. However, plants should not be crowded to the point at which disease problems arise or competition causes stunting or reduced yield.

Succession planting is another excellent way to make the most of an intensive garden. To obtain a succession of crops, plant something new in the spots vacated by spent plants. Squash after peas is a type of succession.

Relaying, a common practice to increase yield, consists of overlapping plantings of one vegetable crop with an older planting before the old one is removed; for example, planting squash in the rows between peas several weeks before the peas are removed. This technique can gain several weeks of growing time for a crop but requires good coordination on the part of the gardener to avoid damage to the new crop as spent crops are removed.

Trellising or caging of crops can saves space. However, it may make harvesting more difficult for some individuals as raising the hand above the head is very tiring. For tough vines such as peas and pole beans, a string trellis could be modified so that the top support bar is suspended from a pulley allowing the vines to be lowered for easy harvest.

Plant height is an important consideration in planning the layout of the planter. Generally the higher the bed, the shorter the plant needs to be. This is to make it possible for the disabled gardener with limited reach to adequately tend the plants. Smaller plants are put at the front of the planting so that they can be easily seen and won't be shaded. Vines and small trees used in raised ground beds are often pruned heavily to maintain small size. Herbaceous vines or other rampant growers should be trained to cages, stakes, or trellises for easy access and for space conservation. If supports are needed, provide them when the plants are very small to avoid root damage later.

These planting techniques can be adapted to planters and other containers as effectively as to raised bed culture. Container crops should be planted at the same time as regular gardens. Clean containers should be filled to within one-half inch of the top with slightly damp soil mixture. Peat moss in the mix will absorb water and mix much more readily if soaked with warm water before putting the mix in the container. Seeds should be sown or transplants set according to instructions on the seed package. Each container should be labeled with the name, variety, and date of planting. After planting, the soil should be gently soaked with water so as not to wash out or displace seeds. When the plants have two or three leaves, the seedlings should be thinned to obtain proper spacing.

To make planting easy, transplants should be strong, healthy, and vigorous to withstand rough handling. They should be watered several hours before transplanting so the soil is damp but no longer wet. Some elderly or disabled individuals may find it helpful to have the plants removed from containers prior to setting them out, particularly if the roots are heavily overgrown. Simple measuring sticks to mark the spacing and depth for seeds or transplants can make the job go smoothly.

Digging tools that fit the hand and strength of the individual gardener are valuable. For someone with arthritis, it is helpful to enlarge the handle size with soft padding. A dibble or tool that simply punches a hole is easier to use than a trowel when setting plants in light potting mixes. Many gardeners prefer to simply use their hands to dig a hole.

When starting plants from seed, select large seed (nasturtiums) rather than small (begonia) or seed that have been adapted for easy planting, e.g., seed tapes, encapsulated seed. Pregermination of seed is not only easier for some gardeners, it is innovative and leads to interesting discussions. The pregerminated seed can be mixed in a gel medium and dispersed from a squeeze bottle.

Plants for the accessible garden

Vegetables

Vegetable production provides as rewarding a hobby in raised beds and planters as in traditional gardens. By selecting compact varieties and following the planting and cultural recommendations given earlier, disabled and elderly gardeners can take pride and satisfaction in growing food for the table.

The beginning gardener should start with fast and easy crops such as radishes, spring onions, or leaf lettuce. These can be washed and eaten right in the garden and give encouragement to wait for the slower crops such as beans and tomatoes.

The garden can be designed to provide additional activities besides planting, maintenance, and harvest. It can provide food for picnics, holidays, or theme parties. Pumpkins can be grown in half of a 55 gallon drum if there is patio space for the vine to climb across. Growing sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving and red and green peppers for Christmas add interest to the garden. Produce can be dried, frozen, or canned for future use.

Seeds can be saved from some crops for starting next year's garden.

Compost can be made to enrich the soil.

For wood workers, signs, bird houses, and whirligigs can enhance the garden.

Herbs

Herbs are plants that are grown for use as seasoning in foods, for medicinal purposes, and for their fragrance in the garden. Most aromatic herbs enjoy full sun and fertile soil. As they are shallow rooted, they fare well in raised beds and containers. Invasive herbs like mint are better in containers where their growth is confined. There are both annual and perennial herbs.

Annual culinary herbs include dill, parsley, summer savory, and sweet basil. Perennial culinary herbs include chives, mint, rosemary, and thyme. Perennials are mulched in late fall to protect roots and rosettes from winter injury. Many herbs grown in containers can be brought inside to provide a fresh supply of herbs during the winter months. Some herbs are harvested, bunched, and dried for later use. A cool well-ventilated dark area is good for drying. Herbs are useful for a multitude of projects from making herb vinegars to sachets and scented pillows.

Culinary herbs can also be ornamental. Some provide color like the purple-leaf basils or texture, like curly parsley. Many herbs have delicate flowers which can be pleasing up close, while others such as chives are quite showy. A border of herbs can make the vegetable planting more pleasant to work in. Mixed with annuals in a window box, herbs become a delightful retreat from household chores.

Strawberries

Strawberries are a fruit crop treated as an herbaceous perennial crop because they do not have woody stems and they grow low to the ground. Strawberries require moist, fertile soil and protection during the winter months. They are shallow rooted and don't need much soil for growth.

Containers such as hanging baskets, barrels (illus), and wheel barrows are very attractive planted with strawberries. A planting of strawberries can last for about three to four years if well maintained. The first year, pinch off the blossoms to let the vegetative growth accumulate. The second year production is best.

Strawberry soil recipe for 5 gallon container​

​1 bucket (​2-1/2 gallons)​  coco coir
​A half bucket (​1-1/4 gallons) Perlite
A half bucket (1-1/4 gallons) compost or composted cow manure
2 cups fine sand
2 cups organic fertilizer

I also add a cup of Azomite to make the strawberries more nutritious with micro minerals

Strawberries prefer a soil with a pH between 5.3 and 6.5, so add soil sulfur to lower the pH or limeto raise the pH

There are three types of strawberries. The first type is called June bearing. These strawberries are the most productive. They produce for about three weeks in early June and are well suited to ground beds and large raised planters. The second type are day neutral, which means they are not dependant upon day length and produce at six-week intervals throughout the summer. These are best for some of the container planters like barrels and strawberry pots. The third type are everbearing which sporadically produce through the summer and are the least productive.

Brambles, grapes and other berries

Many bushes produce edible berries or fruit. Some popular bushes include: blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, currants, and gooseberries.

Selective pruning must be done to keep the bushes in their designated areas and to enhance fruiting. Blueberries require an acid soil. Raspberries, blackberries, and gooseberries are often thorny and thornless varieties are recommended. The everbearing red raspberry, Heritage, is especially suited to low maintenance accessible gardening because it produces a fall crop on current season growth. This means that the entire patch can be cut to the ground each fall after harvest and the new canes that grow the next spring will yield that fall. Generally grown in traditional ground level beds, all of these fruit give limited production in large containers.

Grape vines are usually trained to wires similar to espaliered fruit trees. The training can be on two wires fixed to heavy posts at approximately 2 and 4 feet from the ground or on overhead arbors. Grapes can be grown in large containers and pruned to the Head system as an interesting, but low yielding, activity. Severe pruning is required to maintain appropriate size and vigor. The vine that is removed can be useful for propagation or for crafts projects such as wreaths and baskets.

Fruit trees

Fruit production is a long-term and time consuming activity. Fruit trees will produce for many years if properly maintained. Woody material needs to be heavily pruned to keep the growth within dimensions suitable for a physically disabled gardener. The first few years of training of the plant material are the hardest as the tree acquires its permanent structure. Later, pruning is done just to keep the growth back. Diseases and insects must be monitored in order to keep the plants healthy and fruit quality high. Weeds need to be controlled with mulches.

All fruit trees should either be genetically dwarf or on dwarfing root stocks. The trees need to be selected and pruned to keep them the size desired, ideally no more than 3.5 feet tall. On apples, this can be accomplished by using a combination of dwarfing root stock, dwarfing interstem, and spur type fruit. Even with the newer cultivars, it may be three or more years before any fruit is produced. These trees lend themselves well to culture in half of a whiskey barrel or half of a 55 gallon drum.

Apples and pears are often trained to cordons and espaliers when grown in ground level beds. Cordons are single stem trees grown at a forty-five degree angle. Many trees like these can be grown in a relatively small space. Espaliers have selected vertical branches trained to wires. Both cordons and espaliers take much pruning and work in the early years but are better suited to limited space than other trees and can be maintained at a height close enough to the ground to be cared for by someone in a wheel chair.

Annual flowers

Annual plants are very popular in gardens for many reasons. They are generally easy to grow, fast blooming plants which can provide quick, if only temporary, color to the garden. Many annuals are shallow rooted, adapting well to the shallow elevated planters. The wide selection within many varieties provides diverse colors, flower types and sizes from which to choose.

An annual can be found to suit almost any garden need, be it a border for a vegetable garden, cut flowers, or a vibrant floral display. Annuals can be used to fill gaps in the blooming sequence of perennial plants and are more desirable in unprotected planters in which perennials could not survive the winter.

Some annuals are mistaken as perennials because they can self-seed easily. Most should be dead headed (flower heads removed) after bloom to increase length of flowering period, reduce self seeding, and keep the plants attractive.

Set out as bedding plants, annuals provide nearly instant gratification and feelings of pride and success. They also provide the opportunity to learn a wide range of cultural skills. Although annuals are associated with summer, activities based on annuals can continue throughout the year with such indoor practices as starting seed, dried flower arranging, and garden planning.

Perennial flowers

Many believe that perennial plants, because they have the ability to persist for many years, are easy to grow and are very desirable for the raised planter. This is not always true. The biggest problem with perennial plants in the raised planter is overwintering. Even plants that normally have no trouble surviving winters in standard ground beds may not survive a winter in a raised planter. This is because the soil is more exposed to temperature extremes. This in turn exposes the roots to colder temperatures and to heaving or crushing damage due to the increased freezing and thawing of the soil in the planter. An early thaw or warm spell is more likely to cause a premature growth spurt in a raised planter than in ground soil which acts as a temperature buffer.

If perennials are to be grown in raised planters, precautions should be taken to find plants that are very cold tolerant. A good layer of mulch is often used to help protect roots and crowns and the planter should be located so that it is protected as much as possible from cold north winds.

Many perennials need special cultural practices. Woody and semiwoody perennials need pruning in order to keep plants within bounds and to insure maximum bloom. Plants may have to be sprayed to rid them of persistent pest populations even though manual methods of pest control should be tried first.

The herbaceous perennials which are grown from bulbs or bulblike structures are often popular in raised planters. Most spring flowering bulbs will increase in population over the years if good care is provided. Raised planters present the chance to enjoy some of the smaller and more delicate bulbs that are lost within large gardens. Many of the popular bulbs such as tulips and daffodils can be found in miniature varieties. Tulips tend to deteriorate in quality year after year so many gardeners plant new bulbs every fall.

Spring bulbs are planted in the fall and summer bulbs are usually planted in the spring after the soil has warmed. Many summer bulbs such as dahlia and gladiolus are not hardy and must be dug up in the fall and stored over the winter until it is time to plant in the spring again. Neither the spring or summer bulb's foliage should be cut back until the foliage has browned naturally. There are some bulbs like the autumn crocus which bloom in the fall. They are usually planted in late summer. The planting depths for bulbs depend on the bulb size and will determine their suitability to raised planters.

Many of the popular herbaceous perennials, e.g., iris, yarrow, shasta daisies, need to have their roots divided periodically. Division is a method to increase the population of the plants, to prevent over-crowding, and to prevent the plant from becoming invasive. The job of division can be taxing so sometimes it is better to find species which require little or none of this cultural practice.

Specialty gardens

Specialty gardens are gardens which center around a specific theme or technique. Examples of this are the English cottage garden, Japanese gardens, and rock (alpine) gardens. There are books available and local or national organizations which focus on specific types of gardens. Many botanic gardens and arboretums have classes on starting and maintaining such gardens. With imagination and real interest even the more physically restricted individual can participate in this activity.

Japanese and alpine gardens are permanent installations with little maintenance once they are established. They are sites where the gardener can rest and contemplate, or spend as much time as desired on small but rewarding tasks of removing dead flowers and leaves, pulling weeds, and otherwise grooming the garden.

For gardeners with limited mobility, Accessible Gardening for People with Physical Disabilities provides information on developing, planting, and maintaining a garden.

Her how-to guide describes a variety of plants suitable for growing in containers, raised beds, and vertical gardens, for what Adil calls "barrierfree" gardening.

Adil explains the physical, intellectual, social, and emotional /psychological benefits of accessible gardening. She offers a list of catalogs available for the gardener's convenience and variety in selecting seeds and tools

Accessible Gardening: Tips & Techniques for Seniors the Disabled by Joann Woy offers advice and information for gardeners with special needs: how to plan and lay out an accessible garden; how to construct paths, patios, ramps, steps, handrails, fences, and gates; and how to create raised beds, container gardens, and tabletop gardens.

There are instructions on building trellises and plant supports, on soil testing and preparation, on composting, on watering, and on selecting tools.

Chapters on lawn care, accessible landscapes, and horticultural therapy also appear.

In The Enabling Garden: A Guide to Lifelong Gardening Rothert's concept of barrier-free gardening is directed at older gardeners and people with disabilities. He brings considerable expertise to bear on the subject as a horticultural therapist who manages the Chicago Botanic Garden's "Learning Garden for the Disabled" program.

A basic checklist helps to assess abilities, then sound advice is offered for selecting tools, materials for pathways, and plants. Specific suggestions follow for adapting the garden with containers, raised beds, or vertical structures. Beginning gardeners will find the step-by-step approach most apt, with concise information on the design process - from analyzing the site to compiling a wish list for garden features. Garden maintenance is covered briefly, with additional sources for helpful counsel and plant selection.

Gardening brings people together. Human bonds created between gardeners have the potential to transcend social barriers. Gardens invite socialization. Bringing plants and people together promotes cooperation. The garden neither judges nor discriminates. It's a safe environment where people of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities can come together, connected by the simple fact that we all rely on the earth to survive.

0ne of the most popular fertilizer recipes we've ever seen was introduced by MOTHER contributor Lee Fryer just about 10 years ago. Below are three of Lee's formulas. Each makes about 100 pounds of fertilizer and provides at least three percent nitrogen, six percent phosphorus, and six percent potash. Lee recommends applying a total of four pounds of these mixtures per 100-square-feet of garden per season (applied both throughout the garden and under seed rows prior to planting) if—in his words—"you want to grow a garden that'll impress the neighbors."

Inexpensive recipe for organic fertilizer

per 100 square feet of organic garden space:

For nitrogen: 10 pounds cottonseed meal, or 5 pounds fish meal,or 5 pounds blood meal, or 4 pounds hoof and horn meal

For phosphorus: 45 pounds bone meal, or 10 pounds phosphate rock, or 10 pounds soft phosphate

For potash and trace minerals: 1 pound kelp meal and 2 pounds wood ashes, or 10 pounds crushed granite, or 10 pounds green sand

As a texturizer: 2 cubic feet of manure

For microscopic life and humus: up to 1 cubic yard of compost

For calcium: 2 pounds eggshells

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