Sunday, November 12, 2017

Tips for Senior Gardening 4 - Raised Beds, Trellises, and Container Gardens by Carol Russell and Nance Tucker

Raised bed, Clear Creek Path in Golden, photo by Carol Russell

Raised garden beds, trellises, and container gardening are easier ways to grow plants and flowers because it brings the garden to you, eliminating most stooping, squatting and kneeling. They are also adaptable for gardening in a small backyard, an apartment patio, or on the grounds of a retirement home.

Raised Beds
To eliminate bending and kneeling entirely, think about raising your garden a few feet above the ground. Raised garden beds are great for seniors as the garden planters have legs bringing the gardens up to your level. Table beds are elevated and offer a shallow bed of 6” - 12” at a raised height and can be tended while sitting down. These beds are especially good for the chair-bound individual who wants to be able to get his legs underneath the bench so that he can work comfortably. 

Specifically, the use of raised beds as a design element of gardens can increase accessibility.   
  • Create raised beds high enough to be accessible from a seated or standing position. 
  • Providing raised beds two to three feet in height allows for easier maintenance and harvesting. 
  • Raised beds and containers also provide opportunities for gardening on contaminated or otherwise less-suitable sites. 
Raised bed, Denver Botanic Gardens,  photo by Carol Russell

Terraces and Retaining Walls
Retaining walls and terracing are two ways to tame the sloped areas of the garden while providing growing space for the physically challenged gardener.  

A retaining wall is usually made of brick or stone built to the height indicated by the slope of the area with one-sided raised beds. A border or edge wide enough for a person to sit upon can be helpful to an individual who would rather sit than stand while working. If the wall is dry-stacked, plants can be put into the crevices. Ground space adjacent to the wall needs to be designed to be accessible to the person with a cane, walker or wheelchair.

Dry stacked stone wall in Golden, photo by Carol Russell

A terraced garden is a series of small retaining walls or raised ground beds forming steps. 

Terraced Garden, St. Micheal's England,  photo by Carol Russell

Vertical Gardening
Vertical gardening makes plants more accessible for folks with limited mobility. Many plants naturally grow upwards and if trained properly can use walls, trellises and fences to help. Vine plants grown on fences, trellises or arbors are more easily reached than plants that sprawl on the ground. Ensure that trellises are sturdy enough to lean on to assist your balance. In addition, hanging baskets, which can be set to any height, provide a vertical element to gardening without the need for a bed on the ground.

Vegetable garden trellis, Lost Gardens of Heligan, Cornwall. England, photo by Carol Russell

Suggestions incude:
  • Using vertical planting to make garden beds accessible for planting and harvesting – try using  wall and trellis spaces
  • Using retractable hanging baskets and containers on castors to make suitable movable and elevated garden beds.

Container Gardening
Gardening in containers of various shapes and sizes has become quite popular. Containers such as pots, planter boxes, wooden barrels, hanging baskets, and large flowerpots are more manageable for those who have limited time, space and energy, but who enjoy the aspects of gardening.  Container gardening is perfect for seniors, as it requires less strenuous work, while offering the health benefits of spending time outside. People grow shrubs, flowers, trees and even herbs and vegetables in containers rather than planting them in the ground.

Cultured stone planter, Denver Botanic Gardens, photo by Carol Russell