Get Your Green On: Gardening for Everyone

Anyone can garden, indoors or out, by thoughtfully choosing their level of commitment and accessibility. Gardening can be as simple as herbs and bean sprouts on a window sill to the complex planning and creation of large pathways between raised beds. It is possible to have a garden in urban areas by transforming lawns, using window space, or patio space economically. Growing plants with others gives you extra sets of hands to help with the work, increases mind power by planning, and creates or strengthens friendships.

IMAGE: Photograph of garlic cloves, green onions, carrots, and cucumbers. Wikimedia Commons Public Domain

The Benefits

Maintaining a relationship with and understanding nature is a sacrament in some Pagan traditions. Reclaiming and Faery are a couple of examples. Gardening is part of my spiritual path. It is what keeps me connected to Gaia, the Earth goddess and my home, and the natural world. It’s a way to touch the earth, smell it, and taste it. I see the miracle of a tiny seed growing into something that enchants the senses and nourishes me. I can share this gift with others when they come over for dinner.

“Each time we learn how to join together and mend our ties with our own little place called home, we link our souls with the soils that sustain us, and nuture the network that is healing the Earth.” (Shapiro)

My husband, Michael, and I are both disabled. Last year was our first attempt with vegetable gardening. A younger neighbor, David, helped with preparing the earth. We borrowed his tiller and he even did a lot of the labor. We planted rows in about a 24×18 foot spot. He and his grandmother have a spot about twice that size. Mike and I enjoyed the fresh food and grocery bill savings. We didn’t have the muscle strength or stamina to keep up with the weeds at the hight of summer. This effected our morale and the garden’s food yield.

This year, David mentioned he would need help with the garden since his grandmother doesn’t have the strength she used to. Our friend, Christina, is single and found it hard to do her garden alone last year. This year, all four of us got together to plan the two gardens. Everyone would help set up the gardens and weed for each other. It’s been wonderful fun! Mike, an artist, got out his colored pencils and landscaping tools and we spent time designing the space we dreamed of but couldn’t afford last year.

The day we all planned, we sat around munching on snacks, swapping seed packets, writing out who had what materials and what we wanted to plant. When Mike and I did plant our patch with Christina, it took just four hours to finish up the last round of tilling, prepare the soil with humus and sand, line the beds with wood, and plant five vegetable varieties. We’ll be planting more in April and May. With all of us sharing resources, we came up with weed tarps, wood, and wire for the vine plants. The space is looking just the way Mike and I dreamed it would be.

To keep weeds down, we are growing vegetables closer together in 4×4 spaces lined with wood scraps. The theory is that the closer the vegetables are together, the less room there is for weeds.

Gardening also offers the benefits of staying active mentally (deciding what the grow and how) and physically which is a key element of thriving.

Enabled Gardening

The Garden Fountain site has an extensive section on enabled gardening and an on-line store.

“An enabled garden is any landscape, garden, patio or greenhouse space designed around the needs of someone who is physically, developmentally, or psychologically unable to tend to a traditional garden. Enabled gardening allows more people to enjoy the benefits of working with plants. These gardens may include wide walkways to accommodate wheelchairs, gardening tools wrapped with padding to aid arthritic fingers, and plants with bright foliage to help visually impaired gardeners.

New equipment, methods and plant varieties mean that people of all ages and abilities can become, or continue to be, gardeners. Today, enabled gardens can be found in community centers, hospitals, nursing facilities, teaching institutions and private homes.”

The site offers essays and plans for:
Memory Gardens for Alzheimers Patients
Gardening with Back Pain
Developmentally Disabled Gardening
Knee Friendly Gardening
Making Your Own Adaptive Gardening Tools
Raised Bed Gardens
Visually Impaired Gardening
Gardening With Arthritis
Inspiration Gardens
Multigenerational Gardening
Wheelchair Accessible Gardens

Financial and Informational Assistance

In the U.S. if you get SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits can be used to purchase plants and seeds to grow household food.

In the U.K., there is a wonderful grant program called the Gardening for Disabled Trust.
“Don’t let age, accident or disability stop you from enjoying your garden. Start planning your way out of trouble, frustration and aching muscles. Bring the soil to a height that suits you, get the right tools, eliminate weeds by mulches or permeable fabric and congratulate yourself.”

What they can assist with:
Adapting private gardens to meet the special needs of the disabled.
Making grants towards tools, raised beds, paving and greenhouses.
Providing help with special gardens in hospitals, centers and schools.
Distributing information on garden aids and techniques.
Providing a forum for disabled gardeners by publishing the Garden Club’s magazine.

Book Reference:

“Restoring Habitats, Communities, and Souls” by Elan Shapiro in Ecopsychology: Restoring the Earth Healing the Mind edited by Roszak, Gomes, Kanner. (Sierra Club Books 1995)

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