by Nate Nate

Building adaptive garden spaces
to productively overcome physical limitations.

The key to long term enjoyment and productivity of your garden space is proper preparation. Taking the time to plan your garden layout, bed heights, and container styles to address your limitations will save you lots of hassle and work in the future while reducing the discomfort of certain tasks and make it possible for you to garden more easily. This is Part 3 of our 3-part Gardening Series.

Elevate the garden to your height.
One of the most common challenges gardeners face is with bending over to pull weeds and care for your plants. For those with back injuries, weakness in legs & hips, or those confined to a wheelchair, this back-breaking or nearly impossible part of gardening can be virtually eliminated with raised garden beds. Raised garden beds come in all shapes and sizes. You will want to find a height that is comfortable for you to work at.

Raised Garden Beds
Ability Solution 1:
Raised Gardens

Raised gardens provide back relief for individuals with back injuries or pain. They can be built from a variety of materials and styles to fit any aesthetic, and be a solution for any mobility limitation. An ideal depth for raised gardens is 18-24 inches. Garden boxes should be no more than 4 feet wide so that any area in the bed can be easily reached from either side. In addition to reducing back pain and stress, raised gardens will tend to have higher productivity as the beds tend to drain off excess moisture, and the soil stays more aerated, allowing roots to grow faster and plants to grow healthier. You’ll have fewer weeds, and you’ll be able to get rid of that cumbersome old rototiller!

Tip: Raised garden soil only needs to be 6-12 inches deep depending on what plants you wish to grow. To save money on garden soil, you can fill the bottom half of a deep garden box or planter with wood chips or rotted logs (be careful NOT to use walnut), then fill the top half of the garden bed with rich compost or a garden soil mix from your favorite supplier.

Raised Barrel Gardens - photo courtesy of Keller Homestead.
Ability Solution 2:
Table Gardens

A table garden enables anyone in a wheelchair to garden. It also provides a comfortable height to work at with no need to bend down. Table gardens can easily be built to a comfortable height for any situation. A simple and economical way to have container gardens is to construct a frame from treated 2×4 lumber and use food-grade 55-gallon plastic drums cut in half as your container to hold the soil. For just a few dollars and a short weekend project, you can have yourself a GREAT raised garden that is accessible and allows anyone to grow their own fresh vegetables in comfort!

Tip: Fill the bottoms of the barrels 1-2″ deep with pebbles or stones and drill six 3/8″ holes into the bottom of the barrels to allow excess water to drain away.

Buried water lines to easily water raised gardens. Photo courtesy of Keller Homestead.
Ability Solution 3:
Watch your step!

Pathways are often overlooked and under planned, but they can make or break the usability of your garden space. Be sure to factor in adequate space to move around your garden comfortably, especially if you utilize a wheelchair or suffer from mobility limitations. Pathways should be built to be at least 6-12 inches wider than a wheelchair or any cart that you plan to use while gardening. A great way to eliminate weeds from growing between your garden beds  is to lay down weed barrier and wood chips. This keeps nice clear pathways for you to walk on stable ground. Brick pavers, compacted stone, and other landscaping materials laid between the garden beds can also provide an aesthetically appealing, and more importantly, accessible pathway for you to navigate around your garden.

Tip: Consider incorporating an integrated irrigation or watering system into your garden to save you time in watering and remove the trip & fall hazards of garden hoses laying around.


And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times,
you may abound in every good work. As it is written, “He has distributed freely, he has given to the poor;
his righteousness endures forever.” He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply
and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. – Apostle Paul