Gardening is one of the UK’s great hobbies. Millions of people from all over the country get great satisfaction from creating and maintaining their perfect garden, with this most therapeutic of pursuits providing even the most stressed-out individuals with the chance to spend a few hours relaxing outdoors and to enjoy seeing the fruits of their labour turn into something beautiful.
For people who are living with reduced mobility, however, and are having to make use of items like folding mobility scooters to get around in comfort, the prospect of getting out in the garden can be daunting. Looking after our gardens can sometimes be pretty labour-intensive, so it’s understandable why some get put off being green-fingered once they start having movement issues in later life. Here, though, we will show you why no-one needs to give up making the most of their garden.
Why garden with mobility issues?
We know how easy it is to stop doing the hobbies we once took for granted when our bodies start to slow down. Gardening, after all, can be tiring for even the youngest and fittest people, so it goes without saying that it gets harder as we get older.
Nevertheless, many studies in recent years have shown that staying as active as possible is hugely important and may even stave off the advance of conditions like Alzheimer’s. So, even if you do have mobility issues, gardening is no longer just a way to spend your leisure time – it is also a method of ensuring you stay healthier for longer.
As well as its potential physical benefits, the emotional rewards that come with creating and keeping on top of a garden that is filled with your favourite flowers and provides you with somewhere beautiful to relax in the summer months are truly special. There is nothing quite like looking out on something impressive that you have managed to create yourself, and any keen gardener will agree that even the darkest of moods can be lightened simply by dabbling in a little horticulture.
So, before you start telling yourself that your gardening days are behind you, read on to find out why this is not necessarily the case.
What products are available to help me?
With the UK’s population ageing at a rate like never before, the last couple of decades have seen an increased focus on making and selling products that are specially designed to help older people and others with limited movement. Gardening is no exception to the many industries that are now keen to secure their share of the ‘silver pound’, and you might be surprised by just how many items have been designed that can make tending to your garden a whole lot easier.
Disability-friendly versions of virtually all the tools and devices you have used for gardening over the years have been developed of late, so be sure to have a search online before thinking that you’ll never again be able to carry out any particular task. Some of the most useful specially adapted garden tools are also the most simple – long-handled versions of items like cultivators, hoes, forks and trowels, for instance, are nothing ground-breaking in terms of their design but they have nonetheless helped countless wheelchair and mobility scooter users reach their plants and flowers with far greater ease.
Other popular items among disabled gardeners include trowels, scoopers and spades that have special ergonomic handles that make them easier to hold, as well as ‘rolling’ seats which have wheels attached to the bottom, making getting from one area of the garden to another a breeze.
What else can I do to adapt my garden?
If you have lived in the same place for many years and have always had your garden presented in a particular way, it can be a real wrench having to alter it in at all. Nevertheless, if you usually have to use a wheelchair or mobility scooter, it is vitally important that you make the changes necessary to your outdoor space so that you can continue to enjoy and work in it in comfort and, most vitally, safety.
Your quickest and most effective short-cut to creating a garden that is fully accessible for you and anyone who visits is to artificially raise any flowerbeds you work with on a regular basis. No longer having to bend down to get to your flowers and plants will make life so much easier and, once you’ve elevated everything to a more convenient level, you’ll be delighted that you did.
There are purpose-made kits and boxes you can buy from hardware shops and garden centres for raising flowerbeds but, if you want to be a little more creative, there is nothing to stop you! If you think raised beds can look a little sterile or manufactured, why not go for something different and use an old tyre, stone sink or even a wheelbarrow to give your garden the necessary elevation? If you take your time to work out what might look good, the objects that your flowerbeds are resting on will become conversation pieces in their own right!
A few safety tips
As we have already mentioned, staying safe in the garden should be your absolute number one priority – after all, there is nothing that will put you off gardening more than having an accident whilst you’re doing it.
If you have a garden that isn’t level, you may have decided to get around this problem by installing some home-made ramps. If you go down this road, though, there are a couple of points it is very important to bear in mind: firstly, the slope of the ramp should be no more than 8%, so that wheelchairs and scooters won’t be at risk of slipping back down. Secondly, make sure the sides of the ramp are edged to avoid the obvious danger of going over the side.
It is also always best to have a solid surface to your garden if possible. If you have always been used to having an extensive lawn, this may be difficult to adjust to, but remember that you could always lay down some open-work paving stones that will still allow grass to grow up through the gaps. Whatever design you choose, your first consideration should always be whether you and any other wheelchair users you know can travel across the surface without any problems.