Gardening From a Wheelchair: An Enabled Garden

Gardening From a Wheelchair: An Enabled Garden

Part of Ep. 803 Gourds, Ponds and Herbs

Learn how to transform children's swimming pools into raised, accessible gardens. Sylvia Mitchell overcame a massive stroke and has been in a wheelchair for 10 years. She and her partner came up with an interesting way for her to continue gardening.

Premiere date: Aug 26, 2000

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
This is the story of an avid gardener. Ten years ago, she lost the use of her left side due to a stroke. For many of us, being trapped in a wheelchair would effectively end any avid gardening. But not for Sylvia Mitchell. This is her story and her garden. Sylvia, tell me a little bit about what happened.

Sylvia:
Well, I had a massive stroke and was very suicidal the next spring because I thought I'd never get dirt under my fingernails again. It was clear I wasn't going to get down on the ground. So, my partner, Tom Roberts, and I tried to think of a way so that I could garden.

Shelley:
What did you come up with?

Sylvia:
Well, we decided we'd use some of those wading pools that kids wade in.

Shelley:
That makes no sense to me. How does that help you garden?

Sylvia:
Well, it's up on legs, and it has a ball bearing on the bottom and I can turn the whole thing with one finger.

Shelley:
Tell me about this. So, you've raised up the kids' swimming pools?

Sylvia:
They're on four by four post legs. And they rest on-- The pools are 62-inch diameter, and 14 inches deep and they rest on two three-quarter inch exterior plywood rounds that are glued together. There's a 12-inch ball bearing lazy susan under it, which allows it to turn.

Shelley:
So, you basically wheel up and turn this thing.

Sylvia:
That way, I don't have to go all the way around to the other side to weed or sow seeds. I can just sit there with my seeds and just garden.

Shelley:
It's 500 pounds of soil and you can still turn this.

Sylvia:
I can grow almost anything in it. I grew potatoes in it one year.

Shelley:
Really?

Sylvia:
It was not massively successful, but we got little potatoes. It was fun.

Shelley:
Hey, all gardeners make mistakes. So, it sounds like just about any crop does well in there.

Sylvia:
Yes. I haven't tried corn yet, but I will.

Shelley:
I notice also, well, I'm sitting on an idea that was borrowed from the enabling gardens and Chicago Botanic. Are these working well for you, too?

Sylvia:
Oh, yes, they do. They're four feet wide and eight feet long. They hold quite a bit of soil. And I can put many plants in it. And even though they don't revolve, I can manage to get around, so I can garden from all sides.

Shelley:
So, between your revolving gardens and these, you've got quite some...

Sylvia:
I'm quite satisfied.

Shelley:
You received something rather different for Mother's Day. Tell me about that.

Sylvia:
Shelley, you'll love it. I got a cement mixer for Mother's Day.

Shelley:
It wasn't on the top of my list. Why?

Sylvia:
With that, the soil can be mixed for the revolving gardens, just like that. It takes only about 20 minutes to mix. It's very nice.

Shelley:
So, this is a gift you were pleased with?

Sylvia:
Oh, very much. Actually, I had wanted one for a long time, so this is absolutely great.

Shelley:
Thank you, Sylvia.

Shelley:
Here's another way to make gardening easier. If plants or the watering can have simply become too heavy for you, put your container plants into kids' wagons. When it's time to water them, simply pull the wagon to the nearest source of water. This is also an easy way to move plants around the garden, adding a spot of color wherever it might be needed.

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