Monday, April 30, 2012

Accessible Gardening Resources

While in Michigan earlier this month, I stopped by an Ann Arbor park to see what was growing in their accessible community garden. Not too much except spinach in a few boxes, which made me wonder why this amazing space wasn't showing more visitation and use. I found raised beds a various heights, for use while standing, sitting in a wheelchair, or sitting on bench walls surrounding a raised bed. Short trellises nearby showed me that vine plants like peas and morning glories could be kept within relatively easy reach.

Gardening is one of my favorite outdoor activities. I love growing flowers, herbs and vegetables. Since I live in the woods, I cultivate flowers and kitchen herbs in containers on the deck where the sun shines for half the day. For full sun growing I help a friend in her garden and reap the abundance of fresh air and vegetables throughout the season. The benefits of gardening include mild to rigorous exercise and social time with others. A hands-on connection to the earth, living food, and nature are also a deep part of the experience for me. I also enjoy a sense of connection to my ancestors, who grew much of their own food.

Seniors and those who have disabilities need not be excluded from this spring time reconnection to the earth. Raised beds and adaptive tools are two popular solutions that help facilitate easier access to the soil. Gardening buddies can do the heavier lifting. With a quick search on line to see what is specifically available, I found Accessible Gardens, a Rhode Island based company founded by Ray LaRoque, a wheelchair user who has "raised gardening to a new level" with portable raised garden structures much like what I found in Ann Arbor.

Other resources available to the budding gardener include basic articles such as those offered by the University of Minnesota's Extension Services, a spinal cord injury support site called Apparelyzed, and garden supply companies such as Natural Yards. There are a few good books on the subject as well - just Google "accessible gardening" on Amazon to find out more.

If gardening appeals to you, now is the time to explore your options!

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