Our Story Wheelchair Accessible Gardening and Adaptive Gardening with Raised Beds
In 2009, we decided to have a go at our own little version of the Good Life, but with one difference, the garden vegetable plot needed to be an adaptive garden, accessible to myself a wheelchair user, using a wheelchair accessible raised bed.
Wheelchair Accessible Vegetable Plot Vs Supermarket Vegetables
The domestic vegetable garden is not new, in fact during World War Two, most families grew their own vegetables due to rationing. The art of growing vegetables though has been somewhat forgotten in the post-war years due to mass agriculture techniques, and the availability of fresh, cheap vegetables in supermarkets. Think for a minute, where would you get your vegetables from if the supermarkets closed for a week?, it soon becomes apparent how dependent we all are on supermarkets for our food.
One great way to balance out this dependency on supermarkets, and save money in the process, is to grow your own vegetables. Not only will you save money, but the vegetables will taste far better, and will be far fresher than anything you will find in your local supermarket.
Planning a Wheelchair Accessible Adaptive Garden
When planning a home vegetable garden we usually think of an area of ground, turned over, enriched with compost, and fertilized, where we plant our seeds or seedlings. This is still true, except for when we plan a wheelchair accessible garden. The normal garden can be anywhere from a 3 meter square plot, to a full allotment scale garden. It just depends on how much you want to grow. A wheelchair accessible garden can be just as large, but it needs to conform to the following guidelines.
- You should use 1 metre wide or 1 metre diameter round raised planting beds.
- Your beds should be raised no less than 18 inches high. But can be up to table height.
- Potting areas should have a knee space beneath them, if they are table height.
- The path leading to and between the raised beds should be a hard packed material.
Wheelchair accessible gardens are also known as Adaptive Gardens or Enabled Gardens, or just Accessible Gardens for the disabled or handicapped. The term Handicapped is used more in America, whereas Disabled is used in the UK and Europe.
Building a Wheelchair Accessible Garden
I had a rough idea what I needed to to make my garden wheelchair accessible, and where in the adaptive garden an area suitable for such a project could be utilised, so I fired up my drawing program, and hired a local handyman to build my wheelchair accessible vegetable boxes.
For the wood, we used 28mm x 144mm treated decking, which we bought on 3.6m lengths. as the vegetable boxes were going to be 4 planks high, that meant we needed 8 lengths per box, and a further two lengths for the top rail, making a total of 10 lengths per box.
The boxes were held together using a corner posts, and a post half way along the box, with a crossbeam from front to back to stop the weight of the soil bowing the boxes in the middle. We also lined the boxes with heavy duty pvc to protect the wood, and then the boxes were painted with a green preservative to protect them further. The boxes are free standing.
There is a 1m space between the boxes for access, wide enough for my wheelchair, with flat purple slate to roll on, and apple trees planted against the fence.
The boxes were then filled with a mixture of blended loam and horse manure.
The wheelchair accessible vegetable box in it’s unfilled state, showing support posts.
Placement of the vegetable boxes, allowing easy wheelchair access