A friend who suffers from arthritis in her hands has high praise for Bionic gloves, designed by a hand surgeon. Both she and her husband wear them for gardening. See them at www.bionicgloves.com . The Arthritis Foundation has given this product its "ease of use" commendation.
BEWARE: If you're offered a remote control for your sprinkler system, be very cautious. It sounds like a great idea for someone whose mobility is impaired, but it isn't, and here's why: It only runs each station for ten minutes. That is NOT long enough for lawn watering.
Sprinkler salesmen may tell you 15 minutes every day or every other day is adequate watering time, but they're selling sprinklers and are not responsible for residential lawns. A reporter from The Statesman got information from a sod grower that one should water for 15 minutes every other day. That's fine for sod growers, who expect to cut off short roots, roll it up and sell it to homeowners. It's not accurate information for homeowners who plan on permanent lawns.
A residential lawn needs about 1" of water each week (depending on grass type). And little 15 minute or ten minute bursts of water are going to create short roots that will not tolerate a bit of drought or unusually high temperatures. Those little soggy sessions will also set the stage for disease and insect attack as well.
I am very unhappy about that sprinkler remote. It should not be offered for sale to the general public since it's really for the convenience of the installer to make sure each station runs okay. It's also not cheap.
Getting myself back into the garden after amputation and physical therapy was to be a two-step process: buy a scooter, and build raised beds. Raised beds hold a huge amount of soil, and itís a herculean task to fill them. My husband had recently had surgery, so I sought an alternative.
Years ago, I had built raised beds that were oriented east-west, and five feet across. Thatís far too wide for me to care for, so when we set out to build more raised beds, I narrowed the beds to 4 feet wide. I was told this was too wide, and really it is a bit too wide. I plant things down the center that don't need a lot of tending.
I hired a fellow with a front loader on his tractor, and he scraped up my garden soil (that I had been improving for over 25 years by adding organic matter every year) into ridges, leaving four foot pathways between ridges and at each end. We started out with four raised beds, 4 feet wide by 17 feet long. We bought 2X10 and 2X6" fir and 4X4 cedar fence posts for corners, then hired a handy fellow to build containment boxes around those ridges. Paths were now four inches lower than the adjacent lawn after the scraping off of the topsoil, but that was not a problem for my scooter. It easily made its own ďrampĒ into the garden. Once the containment boxes were finished, I got on my scooter and got a rake, and started raking the ridges down into the containment boxes. That worked just perfectly.
That left quite a bit of ground-level garden that was too low for me to access, so this year we had more raised beds built, including some low ones for my tomato patch. I grow my tomatoes in a Vee shape, two beds each about 20 inches wide and made of 2X10" fir. Last year I grew tomatoes in the ground, and couldnít keep them weeded. This year I could at least keep them weed free about 3/4 of the way around each plant.
We use soaker hoses for watering, with quick connects for the hose at one end of each bed. Weíre still thinking of refining this, so Iíll keep you up to date. The connecting hose necessarily bows out into the path, and I have hooked it as I passed, pulling the hose loose. Some of the four feet wide beds have four lines of soaker hose running the length, others have six lines. When you first plant out, it looks as though you can use all six lines, but the reality is that four lines works better. Bush beans, for example, seldom remain bushes. Most varieties tend to develop runners, and sprawl or overcome other things planted in the bed.
The way I deal with the hard-to-reach middle is to plant things there that will not need frequent attention until harvest. Thatís usually peppers or eggplants.
My raised beds are used to grow vegetables, since that's what I most enjoy raising. They could be used for flowers or other ornamentals, of course. As an alternative, you could plant in tall pots or troughs such as those made of hypertufa that would be reachable from the seat of an electric scooter.
I had a rock garden bed built that is primarily vertical, but we're still working on that, so will include information about that later.
About tools for raised bed gardening: Extendable tools are available at many garden centers. Zamzows is carrying Corona brand, that when the ends of the handles are twisted in opposite directions, the trowel/rake/claw at the end may be pulled out, extending the handle two more feet approximately, or it may be used as just a long-handled hand tool. Some of the dollar stores are carrying barbecue tongs that are 14 inches long, and they're very useful for handicapped people, indoors and out.
Each handicapped gardener has a different disability from others. Some aids are not useful for some gardeners, but are for others. It would be nice if there were a library where one could check out this wrist-braced trowel or those side handles that fasten to a rake handle. Then a gardener could try these tools and if they worked for him/her, they'd rate purchasing.
Folks with eyesight impairment may want to garden in containers, or they may garden in the ground. Varying the texture of the ground leading to the beds will alert the sight-impaired gardener which bed he or she is approaching. One bed may have a gravel path, another a wooden path, still another have pavers on the approach, for example.
It's probably a good idea to grow plants with tactually different textures, some with smooth leaves, others with fine "furry" feel to them. The gardener should know how to maintain the plants before beginning. If you live in an area where there are apt to be poisonous snakes or scorpions, you should probably have a sighted person go over your garden bed before you start.
If one just has difficulty kneeling then rising, there are stools available with handles that would aid one in rising. There's no real reason why you should have to kneel, if you use troughs to put seeds or plants in the ground. Botanist Kay Lancaster pointed out that plants started in styrofoam coffee cups could be slid into a hole made by a bulb planting tool, and firmed with the foot. Seeds could be planted by letting them slide or tumble through a pvc pipe. It just takes a bit of practice to space seeds using this method.
See Favorite Tools for specific tools.
Rose Marie Nichols-McGee, owner of Nichols Garden Nursery, was in charge of the award-winning Garden Writers' of America "Plant a Row" For the Hungry display at the recent Pacific Northwest Flower and Garden Show. For that display, she used straw bales as raised beds. This is a great way to get inexpensive, easy and fast raised beds. Reprinted here with permission: