How to create an accessible garden

Just because your needs have changed, it doesn’t mean that you have to stop enjoying your garden. Make it more accessible with some smart changes and adaptations!

Gardens and gardening. A great British passion and pastime. Your garden might be your haven in a hectic city and a busy life. A place where you entertain guests on summer evenings. A place where you grow plants, flowers and vegetables. Or maybe it’s just the place you hang the laundry when the sun is out!

In any case, we all love this special part of our home that lives and breathes outside of the four walls we spend most of our time in. Many people would love to spend more time in their gardens, if they weren’t harder to get around now that their health has changed. Some people find it daunting to downsize to a patio or terrace, or tackling a garden that’s now overgrown.

There are laws in place now that advise on how accessible new build homes must be, but there are no rules around gardens. It’s well known that gardens can help with mental health and wellbeing, so why not transform your garden into a place that is accessible to you and anyone that enters it.

Accessible garden paths enable access for all

The first thing that you might think of when making your garden more accessible is paths. The path certainly needs to be wide enough for two people to walk side by side. It may need to be slightly wider if one of them is a wheelchair user. The path doesn’t necessarily have to be brick or tarmac. Concrete doesn’t quite scream garden does it! However, laying gravel is a cost-effective way of making a pathway that is also safe, even for wheelchair users. As long as it is laid properly with a secure base and a top layer pounded down to compact it, it will be absolutely fine for wheels.

Anyone using a wheelchair or with a visual impairment will greatly appreciate decent edging. Edging means clear borders showing where the path ends. You might consider raised brick, stones, coloured timber, short knee-height hedges, and LED lighting running along the path when it’s dark.

Your needs will determine how to make the garden accessible

Some things will be dependent on your specific needs. For example, low hedges might be hard for you to trim yourself if you can’t reach down or kneel. However, for a wheelchair user, they can be at the perfect height. It’s also important to think about who will be joining you in your garden. It’s a good idea to have a variety of seats and benches at different heights if you’ll have tall or short guests, young children, or those who might find it difficult getting on and off low chairs. You might also have benches or seats with and without armrests – wheelchair users will find it easier to transfer to a chair without an armrest.

It’s worth considering lightweight folding tables and chairs too. That way you could host a party but still make your garden accessible at other times when you’ll need the space. Remember that a garden by its nature might not always be accessible for everyone, but you can do as much as you can to make it as simple and as easy for yourself and the main group of people who will join you in your garden.

Handrails can make your garden easily accessible again

Handrails will make sure that anyone who needs some support whilst walking can access parts of the garden that they otherwise wouldn’t reach. Kee Klamp rails are very strong and secure galvanised tubular rails that won’t rust. You can have them painted or buy powder coated ones that will complement the garden or stand out so that they are easy to spot for those with visual impairments. You may also be interested in some bespoke rails; there are many steel and iron railings that might add some style to steps or raised platforms for a fancy finish as well as extra safety.

we care home improvements accessible garden rails older disabled person
We Care’s Handyperson service can help by installing rails

Raised beds are a great idea

If you’re looking to keep working in your garden then making sure that your garden is at a manageable height is key. Raised beds are great for those who can’t kneel or are wheelchair users. Raised beds are good for plants and flowers like perennials, shrubs, vegetables and soft fruits. They are easier to manage and water, with a bigger soil volume than containers. Just make sure that they aren’t too wide and are definitely at the right height for you.

They also need to be in a place where you can easily access them, but also where the plants contained inside them are going to get the amount of sun or shade that they need. Clever planning here is key, which means that the layout of the garden will need to be considered before any raised beds are put in. Alternatives would be smaller tabletop style beds or containers, preferably ones with locking wheels if you need to move them about to give them more sun or make space at any point.

raised bed accessible garden wheelchair user
An example of a raised bed

Vertical gardens are quirky and easy to reach

Another alternative to a raised bed is a vertical garden. This means vertically suspended panels either free-standing or attached to a wall, that contain plants, flowers or vegetables. Some even come with the ability to store pots inside so you can easily swap out the plants that are growing in them. They are great if you are short on space or can’t bend over or twist your body to access a raised bed. They can also liven up drab walls!

It’s a good idea to think about where plants and branches might be hanging. You don’t want to be brushed or hit in the face with something sharp or that obscures your vision. If you want plants that are low maintenance then grasses and perennials are the best, as you won’t need to do much pruning or cutting.

Garden maintenance is important

It’s easy for gardens to get overgrown during the autumn and winter, especially if you find it harder getting around than you used to. Making a garden accessible is only possible once it’s cleared and tidied. It’s worth getting a home maintenance technician or handyperson to tackle the lawn, bushes and weeds. That way the rest of the improvements can be made with ease. An experienced gardener might need a few hours to take care of everything efficiently, saving you time and money. Tell them what you want them to do and what you’re planning to do to the garden afterwards. They’ll be able to give you some great advice about what is possible with the space you have.

If you need advice about accessible homes and gardens, you know what to do

Contact us to discuss your needs. We’re always happy to help, even if it’s just mowing the grass or giving some practical advice. We’ve got experience in garden maintenance as well as home independence. We’ll do what it takes to improve your home around you. After all, you should be able to enjoy your garden, now and always.

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