“I love my garden but I don’t have time for it.” “I miss my garden but I’m too old and too ill to go out there and do any gardening.” At Buildmumahouse I’ve found that there are 5 easy steps that you can take to make your garden, patio or balcony more accessible.
It’s really important for anyone old, weakened by illness, depressed or less able …and their carers alike… to take a break, open up their horizons and enjoy all of the benefits of focusing on the wonder of nature. Doing a bit of gardening, helping plants thrive and picking the fruits of one’s patch is so good for all of us.
These are 5 simple steps to make you garden more accessible and enjoyable…
Step 1. Raised Beds and Containers Will Make Your Garden More Accessible
Why bend or kneel down to garden when it becomes difficult or strenuous? Lift up those beds and make tending them easy from a sitting or standing position. Raised beds are fashionable these days, ‘no dig ‘ gardening means that there are plenty of raised bed kits around. You can fill them up the new raised bed with good compost and light soil, making digging and weeding a doddle.
My favourite products look like a manger, they’re strong, take a good depth of soil and because these are waist-height no more kneeling or bending over, all your gardening is done standing up. All with the added benefit that snails are instantly banished from such a tall raised bed. The shape of the base makes these raised beds or veg trugs ideal for anyone who would like to grow a mixture of small and tall plants. Flowers, herbs or lettuce can be planted in the shallow areas and large rooting plants like tomatoes in the deeper section.
Step 2. Plant a Sensory garden, clear some space to sit and enjoy your garden.
Gardens designed for the blind or partially sighted people always feature plants that have aromatic scent or interesting to touch – consider planting:
- Scents without touching the plant easy to grow Lavender, or Mock orange, Philadelphus, for a bit of height allow Honeysuckle to climb up a frame, and the very fashionable Chocolate cosmos plant that has a vanilla scent.
- Get up close to smell the scent Violet, primrose and some Narcissus.
- Pinch or crush in your hand Peppermint, Apple mint, Lemon thyme most herbs, camomile and lemon scented geranium, Pelargonium Crispum.
- Nice to feel Soft downy leaves such as lambs ears, Stachys Byzantina.
If you plant any of these sensory plants in raised beds, veg trugs or tall planters and position a comfortable chair next to them you will have created a wonderful outdoors room. A place that you will want to make the effort to go to, sit calmy, relax and allow yourself a moment of mindfulness.
Step 3. Plant some herbs and enjoy the vitality of your garden all year
Eat more herbs! You know they are good for you, they freshen up a boring meal, make you meal look more appetising and many are packed full of vitamins – a superfood you can easily grow for yourself!
- Salad – herbs make a boring salad super healthy and tasty with peppermint, basil, chives
- Meats – sage for pork , rosemary for lamb and turkey ( yes, do try it) , thyme or tarragon for chicken. Beef – parsley or bay leaf.
- Veg – peppermint on potatoes, basil on tomatoes, dill on carrots.
Step 4. Add Solar lights and Enjoy Your Magical Outdoors from the Inside.
This year we bought strings of solar lights from Ikea and wound them through the branches of trees. Sitting indoors and looking out really makes your heart sing and banishes those evening blues.
Each year I revive my lovely terracotta solar powered lanterns with the tops of £1 solar lights from Poundland. Solar powered lanterns scattered on paths and in dark corners really make a garden magical at twilight and at night when you are looking out from indoors. This year I adapted a glass planter that was given to me with crocus bulbs to make a pretty solar light by adding a solar top and bulb unit from a Poundland solar light. Have fun, you don’t have to stick with the norm!
If you or your carer are not using the garden because you are worried about tripping and falling at twilight or even if you worried about garden security at night, consider installing a solar powered flood light. To make this easy to install, look out for a motion sensor light with a solar panel. This means you can either stake it in the garden (but hide the wire from foxes) or screw it to the wall, fence or shed – no complicated wiring. This light will turn on when someone walks past it, great for security and for making your garden feel more accessible to you. Make sure you position the solar panel in full sunlight so that it will work all year round.
When choosing the right light, look for:
- PIR this is the motion sensor
- LED lights they don’t need much power to run and are very bright, there will be multiple small bulbs that make up the the flood light, look out for 12 or more bulbs. A rule of thumb is that a 10W light can be 900 Lumens of LED luminosity which is equivalent to a 100W halogen floodlight.
- Life check out how many hours the light can last with the batteries fully charged, 8 hours seems to be an average.
- Batteries these lights run on rechargeable batteries, install new ones when the light starts to run low. We change ours once a year.
- Rainproof, look out for the rating IP44 for splashproof or better yet, IP56 means its waterproof
Step 5. This Project Will Make Your Garden Accessible All Year: Container Garden Joy.
One Autumn my mum rang me to tell me that Monty Don on Gardener’s World had just planted up the most fantastic container and can we make one for her. Thank goodness for the BBC Player. We sat down watched Monty take a simple large plant pot and fill it with 4 layers of flower bulbs; on the bottom he planted a layer of Tulips, then a layer of hyacinths, then a layer of Daffodils and in the top layer, crocuses.
If you want some colour all autumn and winter plant cyclamen on top of the planter. Use a large pot from your accessible garden and remember that the deeper the pot (within reason) the more dramatic the effect. This container garden joy can be put on your door step or in your garden to be enjoyed from indoors or on a warm Spring day, outdoors. From the cold start of the year these bulbs flower consecutively, filling you with delight and anticipation all Spring.
Inspired, we now make up these as Christmas presents for all our family. Judging by the photos sent to us and the texts and conversations, they get everyone out in the garden from January onwards.
Do you have any tips or suggestions for making a garden accessible and a joy for anyone who is elderly or with reduced mobility? I would love to hear your about your experiences and your stories…