8 helpful tips for a barrier-free garden

Just because you’re in a wheelchair doesn’t mean you can’t “manage” your garden yourself. It only has to meet a few requirements.

Tips for a barrier-free garden
© Jamie Hooper – Fotolia.com

Physically handicapped people and seniors do not want to be constantly dependent on outside help. Therefore, there are already enough solutions that make an independent and barrier-free life possible in the twinkling of an eye. But of course this independent life should not end at the front door. Wheelchair users and senior citizens with limited mobility can also manage the garden without outside help. This only needs to be adapted to their needs beforehand.

Below you will find a few tips on how best to make your garden barrier-free. On top of that, I’ll tell you how you can make gardening a lot easier.

This must not be missing in a barrier-free garden

❶ Design barrier-free access to the garden:

Ramp for wheelchair users
© mrcmos – Fotolia.com

Anyone with limited mobility must be able to reach the garden without obstacles. Stairs are therefore an absolute no-go. In order to overcome differences in height, the transition between inside and outside can be made with a ramp. This should be wide enough for a rollator and wheelchair and should not be too steep. A maximum inclination of 6 percent is ideal for wheelchair users. For seniors in wheelchairs and for those who use a walker, the maximum should be 3 percent (source: www.frischer-windt.de).

❷ Create wide garden paths:

Anyone sitting in a wheelchair or dependent on a walking aid such as a walker must be able to drive through the garden in the best possible way. Wide garden paths are therefore an absolute must. They should be at least 1.20 metres wide. Breiter is of course even better. The garden paths must also be non-slip. Water-permeable drainage stones are particularly suitable for non-slip garden paths, for example.

Additional tip:

The garden path should be straight. If curves or right angles cannot be avoided, they should be about 1.60 metres wide so that wheelchair users and people using a walker can turn around easily.

❸ Garden lighting correctly:

Garden paths must also be illuminated in any case. The light must merge into each other so that no shadow is created. Also, the lamps must not dazzle. It is therefore best to use shielded lamps. Recommended are e.g. solar lamps for the garden path. They go on and off automatically. And without electricity! So you don’t have to run back and get annoyed if you forgot to turn on the light. This happens automatically. Motion detectors and timers are also a good idea.

❹ Create raised beds and vertical beds:

Raised bed for wheelchair users
© digitalreflect – Fotolia.com

For seniors, bending over is poison for the back and for wheelchair users mostly very cumbersome. Therefore, classic fruit and vegetable beds should disappear from the garden. But that doesn’t mean that you have to do without fruit and vegetables from your own garden. For example, raised beds are perfect for seniors. You don’t have to bend down and can work on the bed as easy as child’s play. Here are 15 ideas for raised beds made of wood, stone or metal.

High beds are also suitable for wheelchair users. However, you have to drive on them sideways, which makes the work in the bed somewhat more difficult. Table beds are the better alternative here. With these models, you can drive your wheelchair under the bed like a table.

However, there are also vertical beds that are ideal for physically handicapped people and wheelchair users. For example, vertical flower beds made of dollar pallets are currently in vogue.

❺ Use sensible irrigation systems:

Watering the garden is quite a difficult task for physically handicapped people. After all, it is not so easy to lift heavy watering cans or to pull the water hose through the garden. The solution is called automatic irrigation systems. These can be sprinklers or drip tubes. The great thing: A watering computer controls when and for how long you want to water. In addition, rain and soil moisture sensors ensure that water is only used when necessary.

❻ Select easy-care plants:

The plants in the barrier-free garden should be selected with care. It is best to choose easy-care and disease-resistant plants, which do not have to be replaced every year. Especially suitable are e.g:

  • thujans
  • grasses
  • box
  • summer blueberry
  • peonies
  • Star Magnolia
  • forest vine
  • wood violet
  • radiation anemone
  • mountain ash

In addition, espalier fruit is always easier for physically handicapped people to care for than fruit trees. You can also bet on many lawns. Larger ones can be maintained with a ride-on lawn mower, smaller ones with a mower motor.

❼ Use ergonomic gardening tools:

Handcart for the garden
© Heike – Fotolia.com

Independence is the most important thing for most physically challenged people. But unfortunately gardening is quite exhausting. So let me give you a hand. But that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t or can’t do anything. If you use ergonomic gardening tools, then you can also help yourself. They are usually easier to operate and have a comfortable handle. Thanks to the telescopic handle, they can often even be used comfortably while sitting.

Since a wheelbarrow cannot be used by physically handicapped people, let alone people in wheelchairs, I recommend that you also sit on a handcart. It is ideal for transporting soil, leaves and garden tools. At TecTake I saw a handcart that even has a tiltable plastic tub. This allows you to easily discharge the load at the desired location.

❽ Integrate several quiet zones in the garden:

This is also a very important point. Because gardening can be quite strenuous. You also have to take a break and sit down comfortably. So if you have a large garden, create several rest areas with seating. The most important thing here is that you choose stable garden furniture that has backrests, as they make it easier to sit down and stand up. Here are 19 inspiring ideas for a sitting area in the garden.

Don Burke

I am Don Burke, one of the authors at My Garden Guide.  I am a horticulturist that cultivates, grows, and cares for plants, ranging from shrubs and fruits to flowers. I do it in my own garden and in my nursery. I show you how to take care of your garden and how to perform garden landscaping in an easy way, step by step.I am originally from Sydney and I wrote in local magazines. Later on, I have decided, more than two decades ago, to create my own blog. My area of specialization is related to orchid care, succulent care, and the study of the substrate and the soil. Therefore, you will see many articles dedicated to these disciplines. I also provide advice about how to improve the landscape design of your garden.

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