Wheelchair Accessible Garden

Wheelchair Accessible Garden

Part of Ep. 1603 Bailey's Harbor

UW-Madison horticulturist, Dr. Astrid Newenhouse shows us how a functional, attractive and wheelchair accessible garden can be created on a budget with the use of recycled materials.

Premiere date: Sep 17, 2008

TRANSCRIPT+
Wisc Gardener Transcript: 

Shelley:
As far as I'm concerned in gardeners have three inalienable rights.  Life, liberty and the pursuit of gardening! I'm here in a garden to show you just how important gardening can be.  We're with Dr.  Astrid Newenhouse, horticulturist.  This is the garden of one of your friends, right? 

Astrid:
Yeah, in fact, this is Elk and Sara's garden.  Elk uses a wheelchair.  And so, Sara, her partner, and I designed a garden that she could use while still using a wheelchair. 

Shelley:
That is really a neat thing to do. 

Astrid:
What we're after here is low cost chemical free, as much as possible using recycled materials.  We used re-used materials.  And then, accessible for Elk. 

Shelley:
So low-cost, no fancy brick paths.  We're gardening on a budget today.  Let's start out with the raised beds.  I know that if you're in a wheelchair it's hard to get your hands down to the ground where the plants usually are. 

Astrid:
That's right.  Sara got some cedar and she built these beds.  This is not chemically treated wood.  She built the beds at the height that Elk needs. 

Shelley:
This is built and designed just for her reach. 

Astrid:
Then Sara filled it with compost.  The idea there is, if you have really good soil in a raised bed, then you can get incredible yields in a really small space. 

Shelley:
Very intensive gardening. 

Astrid:
If you don't want to do the work yourself of filling the bed, you can have compost delivered. 

Shelley:
Good to know, especially if you do have some mobility issues.  And vertical gardening is another aspect.  That is one of the more unusual trellises I've ever seen. 

Astrid:
You're looking at what Elk really likes, glitter

Shelley:
I love it!

Astrid:
There's even beads on that trellis. 

Shelley:
That works for me!

Astrid:
The idea here is to create more space in the garden.  Growing up.  And also create an area where Elk can roll under and then reach and grab whatever is growing on there. 

Shelley:
So when the beans are ready to harvest they're practically in her lap.  It's much easier for her to grab them. 

Astrid:
There's lots of things you can grow on a trellis, cucumbers or pumpkins.  I think last year there were pumpkins on there. 

Shelley:
Some great ideas.  What is this? 

Astrid:
This is an agro-tower.  It's a professional strawberry production system.  We've just used it here in the garden to raise the area and to have more space for us to garden. 

Shelley:
More surface area, again, vertical. 

Astrid:
It's three separate pots.  And you can stack them to any height that you want. 

Shelley:
I could use them on the ground.  Again, if I didn't want to get down on the ground I could stack them as high as I wanted to. 

Astrid:
Pay no attention to that skunk.  Actually, I really like the skunk! (both laugh) Again, there's some design problems here I see! I think I'm on Elk's side on this one.  And you've got a different tool, here.  You said Elk has some limited hand and arm strength.  

Astrid:
Yes, so we tried different tools.  The point I want to make is there is no one good tool.  Just try what works for you.  This one works like this, the cuff here helps brace it.  If I have less forearm strength, this is easier to use. 

Shelley:
What about bringing water to a raised bed? 

Astrid:
We raised the height of the hose, so it was easier to reach. 

Shelley:
It's not on the ground, so you don't have to worry about rolling over it with the wheelchair. 

Astrid:
You could also lay drip irrigation in here. 

Shelley:
And speaking of rolling over one of the most important aspects of gardening for someone who uses a wheelchair are the paths.  These aren't made out of brick. 

Astrid:
Check these out, Shelley! This is locally junk-picked carpet. 

Shelley:
I love the color, Astrid. 

Astrid:
I don't, but that's another story! The thing that we really like about it is that it makes for a really good roll.  It keeps the weeds down, so there's no weeds.  It keeps the soil compacted.  Even in the recent floods we had, this carpet held the soil in place. 

Shelley:
Perfect.  And you've got stakes of some sort holding it down. 

Astrid:
The stakes here hold the carpet down. 

Shelley:
If you don't want to use carpeting, you've also got this.  What is this? 

Astrid:
This is rubber.  It's cow comfort pads from a dairy barn.  This is also junk-picked.  It's a thick pad of rubber.  It's also used in exercise studios.  It's an anti-fatigue mat, for people, on concrete. 

Shelley:
Another option for those of us who don't like color. 

Astrid:
Something else I wanted to show you, for laying out the garden keep in mind that you might already have paths.  Like here's the driveway.  Behind me over there is the sidewalk.  So we placed the garden near already available paths. 

Shelley:
So it's already accessible to someone using a wheelchair.  You have one last path that I'm just intrigued with. 

Astrid:
Isn't this wild? 

Shelley:
This is my favorite path!

Astrid:
Elk and Sara are both fabric artists.  The idea here, these are old wool sweaters. 

Shelley:
I love it!

Astrid:
They're tacked down to the ground with bobby pins.  Elk is planning to roll over them and felt them in place.  She has her own business making and selling felted purses and bags.  And so, this was her idea. 

Shelley:
I like this.  This would be my favorite one.  Thanks, Astrid. 

Elk, I really like your taste in garden ornaments.  Where did you get this one? 

Elk:
This one came from my friend Astrid Newenhouse!

Shelley:
It's perfect for the garden.  I've noticed you've got a lot of toys in the garden.  Tell me about those. 

Elk:
We get them and scatter them throughout the various gardens, so kids can see them when they walk by smile, and play with them. 

Shelley:
It's not just the kids that are smiling and playing with them.  I love the joy they bring to your gardens.  Tell me about some of your favorite places.  You said this is one of your favorite spots. 

Elk:
This, you could say, is my very favorite spot.  It's planted with cosmos, and zinnias, and morning glories.  The morning glories are going to climb really high.  Everything is in a variety of colors.  But for the moment, it's not, so I can spend time decorating the trellis and deck. 

Shelley:
Again, I love the colors you've already got on it.  Even when it's not in bloom, it's gorgeous to look at.  I really like it.  Astrid told us about the paths and how she made them.  How do you like them? 

Elk:
Oh, the paths are wonderful.  They make getting around very easy.  I used to get stuck, but I don't get stuck with the rugs and the other pieces around. 

Shelley:
You know, Elk, all in all, you've got a wonderful garden.  Thank you so much for sharing it with us. 

Elk:
Thank you. 

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