Designing Barrier Free Gardens
Barrier free gardens provide an opportunity for all people in your neighborhood to participate in gardening. Barrier free gardens remove physical barriers that prevent people with mobility or sensory challenges from taking part. These gardens may have accessible places for wheelchairs, and/or features for the visually or hearing impaired.
Some fey features of accessible gardens include:
- Minimum width of the pathway is 152 cm wide with a gentle slope of 2.5% or less.
- Firm porous pathway surfaces are ideal like concrete, brick or decomposed granite.
- Raised garden beds for wheelchair access is on average 61 cm high and 76 cm–1.5 m wide depending on access from one or both sides of the bed. Table planters are another option. Wheelchairs can be rolled up to the table and have space for leg clearance. This type allows for greater comfort of the wheelchair user and range of motion.
- Raised garden beds built at varying waist heights are great for people with difficulties bending. These beds can be 76-91 cm high, depending on the height of the gardener.
- Visual markers provide guidance for people with poor eye sight. Use yellow paint along the edge of pathways to highlight steps or yellow tags to bring attention to other important features.
- Communication boards or signs are important communication tools for the hearing impaired.
- Aromatic plants or wind chimes add extra sensory stimuli. Scents are activated from plants like rosemary or basil when the leaves are touched or crushed. Running water and wind chimes provide sounds that help orient people in the garden.
- If purchasing communal tools, remember that extendable tools made from light weight aluminium alloy that have gripping and other design features are easier to use. Please visit Thrive for more information on how to choose gardening tools and equipment.
For more detailed information, please see the Barrier-free Community Gardening in Waterloo Region toolkit that outlines the steps for planning and designing a barrier free garden.
Barriers free gardens are designed in a way that all people in the neighborhood can participate. Your neighborhood garden could be designed to eliminate some of the barriers that prevent people from participating in a community garden.
Here are some more links to accessible garden resources:
- Dowling Community Garden Raised Bed Project
- City of Vancouver Accessible Community Garden Guidelines
- University of Florida; Gardening in a Minute
- This Old House video on building a raised bed
- Thrive Carry on Gardening is full of ideas on how to keep gardening whatever your disability
- You Tube video on Building a Vertical Pallet Garden
- You Tube video on a Bottle Tower Garden
Here are some ideas for raised beds:
- Raised Garden Beds
- Earth Easy
- Building wheelcair accessible raised garden beds
- Video - The Best Rasied Garden Bed
- Video - Method of constructing a group of raised veggie beds
- Video - Corrugated raised garden bed
- Video - How to build a simple elevated garden bed
- Counter height garden boxes
- Examples of stock tanks: note taller tanks have been known to buckle
Several community gardens within Waterloo Region have begun to include accessibility features. Below are some examples.
Chandler Mowat is a garden located at the Chandler Mowat Community Centre situated on City of Kitchener land that has added accessibility features such as a conrete pathway to the garden, garden shed and picnic table that is wheelchair accessible. Raised beds were constructed in a u-shaped at varying heights to allow wheel chair and standing access with pathways ¾ surround.
Trinity Village is a non-profit retirement community owned and operated by Lutheran Homes Kitchener-Waterloo. The garden services are open to all members of the community. The garden has installed a concrete path to the compost, rain barrels and garden shed. Raised beds were built with ¾ surround access. And as many gardeners experienced sun sensitivities, a shade structure was installed.
The Good Earth Garden is located on the St John's Evangelical Lutheran Church Property. It is nestled in a large piece of land which formally was a trout lake for the Seagram family. It has great soil and hard surface pathways to the newly built raised beds. The water access was through a sand filtered well and a hand pump; this necessitated trenching water from the nearby apartment building. Three raised beds were constructed at varying heights.
Water Tower Gardens is located on a former water tower site owned by the Regional Municipality of Waterloo. The Region sold the site to the Cambridge Kiwanis Village with a condition that a garden site be included in the building plans for the 25 affordable housing units. The soil has been tested and is free of contaminants. The design was intended to keep the theme of the water tower. The pathway was created with two feature colors in keeping with the theme and provides a central gathering spot for community events. The accessible portion of the garden site was created before the rest of the garden build.