Gardening Tips for People with Physical Disabilities and The Elderly

Last modified: August 24, 2023

Gardening Tips for People with Physical Disabilities and The Elderly

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hand holding weeds

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Gardening Tips for People with Physical Disabilities and The Elderly

As you get on in years, you start to wonder what new hobbies you can pick up. And as an elder or a person with disabilities, gardening is one of the healthiest hobbies you can get into. It’s rewarding, entertaining, and helps you appreciate nature.

Factors such as advancing years or physical disabilities should not deter you from enjoying gardening to its fullest. The internet has tons of information available on how you can employ different tips and tricks to make gardening a fun, healthy, and easy activity – especially for the elderly and people with disabilities.

Let’s dive into the details – how to make simple, accessible, and elegant gardens, some common practices and useful tools that will limit the physical toll gardening takes on you. Plus, we’ll talk about some grants you can avail yourself of if you have limited physical capabilities.

hand holding soil

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Getting Started

Getting ready to start gardening can be hard, but it’s always worth it. A well-thought-out plan before getting started with gardening will help you achieve your goals in the longer run. Prep your garden now and enjoy a wonderful outdoor look later.

How to Dig Your Garden

The first thing on your to-do list should be digging. Digging can be physically taxing – especially if you have to dig regularly.

A good alternative to regular digging is making a no-dig bed. Research has shown that simply applying a layer of organic matter on top of your soil bed – that creates a 10 cm high blanket of mulch, gets the job done. The bacteria, along with the naturally occurring worms in the organic matter, will break down the soil and your garden will be ready for sowing seeds.

Moving Things in Your Garden

Moving things while gardening such as lawn mowers or water hoses can be an uphill task. As a person who may be more prone to injuries, you should be careful not to lift any heavy objects.

Most likely, you will run into this problem while transporting garden materials from the store to your home. You can ask bystanders or people at the store to shift those heavy materials into your car. Once you get home, it’s better to use a hand shovel or trowel and transfer those materials into smaller bags – preferably those which you can easily lift.

If you’re willing to spend a reasonable amount on gardening, then getting a golf cart may be a good idea. This vehicle will come in handy especially if you have a big garden and you have trouble walking (or standing) for longer periods.

Ride-on lawnmowers, moving and lifting straps, and wheelbarrows are some other effective tools that should make moving things easy for you.

woman in wheelchair in garden

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Keep Your Garden Spacious

Small gardens are easier to maintain and if you don’t have the luxury of golf carts or ride-on lawnmowers, they will also be less taxing on your body. However, smaller gardens tend to get messier. This can make garden maintenance an unnecessary inconvenience for you.

It is often a good idea to keep your garden spacious and small – yes, we know that this sounds difficult, but with the right tricks up your sleeve, it is possible.

If you use a wheelchair to move around, some extra space in your garden will allow you to wheel around without any problems. A wheelchair can also be equipped with a small folding table, a space for bags, or other accessories – making your gardening experience more pleasurable.

Garden Design & Maintenance

Garden design for people with disabilities has to be mapped out meticulously. How you design your garden will dictate how much you enjoy gardening.

The optimum layout for a garden should include plenty of seed areas around the lawn and a shady area for you to rest during hot days. Make use of weed-suppressing membranes to keep weeds at bay.

Layout

Make broad paths, especially if you use a wheelchair. This will make turning and moving much easier – the last thing you want to do is unintentionally damage your garden while moving.

raised garden planter beds

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Raised Beds and Vertical Gardening

A touch of creativity goes a long way. Creating an elevated area, a raised garden bed, or a vertical garden can make your garden feel more spacious than it is. It also has an added advantage of easy monitoring – if you have a window that opens in your garden, you can view how your vertical garden is doing without stepping out of your room.

Garden Salad Table

Making your very own garden salad table is another good step in making your garden more accessible. The salad table bottom consists of a large wooden frame with a mesh bottom, allowing the water to drain without damaging the wood. It’s portable, DIY, and inexpensive. Plus, it makes gardening a whole lot easier for the elderly and people with disabilities. Salad greens and herbs do exceptionally well in these gardens and it will only take you 3-4 weeks to get them completely ready to harvest.

Use Large Containers

Another good option is using a large container for planting seeds. These containers can help add a diverse colour range to your garden and allow you to cultivate a variety of plants in a relatively short space.

Pest Control and Soil Enrichment

Pests can be a menace in any garden. Make sure to use the correct type and dosage of the pesticide while dealing with any unwanted pests. Use manure and fertilisers to enrich soils, which will lead to rapid plant growth. However, excessive use of these materials can be detrimental to your health and your environment. So remember to use odourless fertilisers in small quantities.

Gardener in red

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Pruning and Trimming Hedges

No garden maintenance is complete without pruning and trimming hedges. Long-reach cutters will allow you to trim and prune your plants without bending over. Use a ladder if necessary.

Look For Efficient and Low-Maintenance Water Supply Systems

Watering cans or even water hoses can be quite heavy. Most plants need to be watered regularly, and if you don’t have an efficient water-transport system, it may take a toll on your body. To put this into perspective, it takes around 30 pounds of water to irrigate a 4×4 square feet garden bed in a hot summer.

Make Use of an Irrigation System

Your best bet at getting rid of this heavy lifting is by installing an irrigation system. An irrigation system for your garden doesn’t need to be high-tech and expensive; a simple combination of emitters and a pressurised water source should be enough.

Emitters can be placed near or inside containers or around plant beds so that they won’t face any water shortage. Installing an irrigation system in your home is a challenging task – and if you’ve decided to go for an irrigation system, it’s better to consult experts.

Use Mulch to Preserve Water

A simple DIY method of retaining water is by using mulch. Adding mulch around your plants should reduce water consumption.

Plants in sunlight shower

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Automatic Watering Systems

Using Automatic Watering System is another good option. These systems come with a water reservoir installed which detects low water levels and irrigate the plants accordingly.

Safety Tips for Healthy Gardening

To make the most out of gardening, it’s important that you protect yourself while you’re out using tools and chemicals. Whenever you put on your gardening gloves, make sure to keep the following in your mind:

  1. Use electronic and power tools with caution.
  2. If you cut yourself while gardening, apply pressure on the wound with a clean cloth. Apply antibiotic or petroleum jelly to the wound. If the bleeding doesn’t stop after 15 minutes of applying pressure, see a doctor immediately.
  3. Wear gloves, protective shoes, and clothes that preferably cover your whole body.
  4. Prevent excessive sun exposure. Use sunscreen and cover your head with a hat or a wet towel if necessary.

Plant Selection For People With Disabilities

Selecting the right variety of plants can have a positive effect on your health. Choose plants with bright colours as well as sensory and textural qualities. Growing plants that have a special touch or smell will fill you with a sense of achievement and belonging.

Some of these plants may include succulents, cherry tomatoes, sunflowers, bamboo, and pansies among others.

Wheelbarrow and tools

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Tools For Better Gardening

There are a variety of gardening tools available for improving your gardening experience. We’ve enlisted some of them below.

  1. Wheelbarrows, retractable hanging baskets, and large containers on wheels are good options for moving around stuff in a garden.
  2. If you’re into vertical gardening, walls and trellis spaces can come in handy.
  3. Adaptive tools and equipment are good options for people with disabilities. There are plenty of these specialised tools available in hardware stores or online that can help you while gardening.
  4. Use tape, plastic covering, or foam on tool handles to modify your grip.
  5. Set up a few comfortable chairs under shaded areas in your garden – fresh air, especially in the morning is beneficial for your health.
  6. Make sure that you’ve installed a drip irrigation system. If not, install a tap nearby, so you don’t have to carry water over long distances in watering cans.

Where to Get Help From?

For people with very limited physical capabilities, gardening can sometimes be overwhelming. Instead of giving up on this hobby, it’s better to approach organisations or community groups for help. Here are three main sources that might be helpful for you.

Organisation and Services

Some of the organisations you can approach for guides or monetary help are listed below. Some other organisations are listed on the RHS website as well.

Disabled Living Foundation

This foundation offers advice on sourcing and selecting gardening tools. If you’re having trouble deciding which irrigation system would be good for you, or which tools will best help you navigate gardening life, you can make an appointment and try out different tools.

Herefordshire Growing Point

This charity has sample gardens where a plethora of potted plants, raised beds, and other gardening methods are on display.

Gardening for the Disabled Trust

This trust offers grants and funds to those who have disabilities and want to actively pursue gardening.

Thrive

A charity that has a lot of information for people who are just getting started with gardening.

Final Word

And there you have it. We’ve covered the most important gardening tips for people with physical disabilities and the elderly in detail. Just because some people have grown old, or they have a different set of abilities doesn’t mean that they cannot enjoy gardening to its fullest. Just make sure that you use the right tools and follow the safety protocols, and you’ll be having fun in no time!

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