When You're Too Old And Tired To Till The Soil: Well That's One Way To Do It

Categories: Tips & Tricks


After suffering with the debilities and tiredness of ME for many years, I know how difficult traditional gardening can be - but also how much simple enjoyment a garden can give...

So, I hope that by helping to make gardens accessible and enjoyable, to as many people as possible, I can help more people experience this feeling.

a garden can be a place of enjoyment for anyone with disabilities or the infirmness of age

Low maintenance gardening idea: Put plants in containers at a higher level, so watering and dead-heading is easier

Planning your Garden

Every garden user will have their own special requirements, which will need to be carefully considered, when planning a garden for their specific needs.

I recommend that you follow the design process here - taking particular notice of what's needed at the initial questionnaire stage - and then create a low maintenance gardening design that's particularly geared towards individual requirements.

Although needs and requirements may be somewhat specialized, and may also change over time, I hope to bring you some useful and practical garden design ideas which you can use for planning a garden suitable for elderly and disabled users.

Safety First

Consider moving around the garden from the point of view of someone who might have physical mobility issues, and/or be unsteady on their feet.The first aspect to consider in your low maintenance gardening design is safety - is it safe?


** Are pavings, or other hard surfaces:

  • smooth
  • free of tripping hazards, such as uneven surfaces or cracks
  • not slippery, with good grip, even in wet weather
  • level
  • are steps, edges and changes of level well-defined, easily visible and in good condition

** Are water features safe?

  • raised water features can be safer
  • secure fencing and sturdy grilles can also help

** Are paths wide enough? ...what about on corners?

** Are there hand rails along pathways, and at steps and doorways?

** Can extra seating be provided?

  • For extra resting places around the garden, and as places to stop and tend the garden from a seated position.

** Are ramps needed?

  • Avoid ramps which are too steep, and make sure there is plenty of space to maneuver at top and bottom.

** Avoid canes and stakes, or other pointy features, in garden beds.

** Reconsider gravelled areas, as these can be unstable

** Reconsider areas of grass or bare earth, as these can be slippery, or boggy, when wet

** Sliding doors can be easier than swing doors, for wheelchair users, and people with walking sticks, or other mobility problems

** Look out for potential tripping hazards

  • tree roots
  • hosepipes
  • garden tools

** Advise extreme caution in icy weather - no nipping out to feed fish or birds


a garden suitable for elderly or disabled users

This garden is well designed for the elderly or mobility impaired:

  • wide flat path for wheelchairs or walking aids
  • sturdy seating (but no so heavy it can't be moved easily if space is needed to get around)
  • Plant which can easily be enjoyed at a seated level - this is rosemary so has a pleasant, distinctive smell that sensory impaired individuals can enjoy the garden, too

You will also need to think about how the disabled or elderly user will move about and use the garden.

Much of this is covered in the section on safety, above, where we consider things like:

  • width of accessways
  • safety and practicality of surfaces underfoot
  • providing ramps for wheelchair use
  • providing handrails
  • providing places to rest

Braille signs can be added to walls, seats and rails for blind and partially sighted users, to help them move around the garden.

Raised Bed Gardening

Also consider how the elderly or disabled user will be able to enjoy, and even tend the garden.

In many cases, a good low maintenance gardening solution is to create a raised garden bed.

raised garden bed with raised pond for safety

Low maintenance gardening idea: Combine a raised bed with wide, level paths, on-wall seating and a pond with raised edge as a good safety feature - there's even running water for added interest

  • Raised bed gardening is very suitable for many people in wheelchairs, or who have difficulty bending or stooping.
  • A raised bed garden can be created at waist height, or at whatever height is most suitable for the individual garden user.
  • This makes planting, weeding and plant care much easier.
  • Try not to make the raised bed garden too wide. A single 'reach' is ideal - the maximum width is about 1 meter. The raised bed can be as long as you like.
raised bed gardening makes gardening in wheelchairs possible and enjoyable

This raised garden bed has been designed with special 'insets' to help wheelchair users reach into the garden for easy low maintenance gardening

You can create interesting shapes with your design, and make raised bed gardening easier, by creating 'insets' in the raised bed (as above), which can be used for access, or seating.

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