You can garden even if you're in a wheelchair!

A Labor Saving Garden

by Debra Karplus

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Planting a backyard garden is a growing family activity that offers a great opportunity to save money on food and eat healthier, and it provides a family-friendly activity for all ages. The National Gardening Association (NGA) reports that 35% of all American households grow food in a home or community garden. This is a number that continues to increase yearly as people opt to gain more control over their food supply. However, as you age, gardening can be tough on your body and may tempt you to stop the hobby entirely. Don't despair because there are some affordable options that make gardening possible even if you have a disability or use a wheelchair for mobility.

Make your garden more accessible.

A garden that is more accessible will be easier on your body. At, several simple options are suggested regarding your garden and its location and layout. Benches can add to the aesthetics of a garden area in addition to providing easy seating both while working in the garden and while enjoying its beauty with friends and family. Affordable benches can be found online and at most garden shops and home improvement centers.

If you are planning a garden in a spot that didn't have one previously, consider sun and shade in relation to large trees in the area, but also locate your garden as near to a water source as possible. This will make using a garden hose and watering your bounty less back-breaking.

What you plant may determine how much work your home garden will require. Annuals crops like tomatoes, lettuce, and dark leafy greens with so many necessary vitamins and minerals are fun to grow. The dark leafy greens are especially easy to grow even in shady conditions and have an extremely long growing season, producing many bushels of these tasty, versatile veggies. Remember to plant some root crops like carrots, radishes, and beets.

However, perennials require less work than annuals as they are planted only one time but produce food to eat year after year. Consider berries like strawberries, raspberries, and blueberries and vegetables like artichokes, asparagus, and rhubarb. Plan carefully where you will plant them.

A path around your garden that is at least three feet wide will make for easy access to your garden, even for people who use a walker or a wheelchair for mobility.

A raised garden bed is a great way to garden if bending and reaching are simply too tough on you. A raised bed should be 2 to 2.5 feet off the ground. A raised bed can be purchased online or in a garden shop for under $150. As an alternative, you can design, create, and assemble one with exactly the specifications that you desire for a fraction of the price, using scrap lumber that can handle the moisture and cold of winter weather while your garden is "asleep." There are instructions on the web for building your own raised garden bed. Check out as well as many other sites.

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Use tools that make the tasks of gardening easier.

If your back aches as you try to cultivate the garden and turn the soil of your garden each season, don't panic. Many labor-saving tools can be used, as recommended at Products like the Garden Weasel® that can be found in most any home improvement center or garden shop sell for under $30 and can make small work of tilling the garden.

Also, gardening tools that save your back or even arthritic hands can be purchased via Amazon. Length and design of a gardening tool handle can make the difference between gardening with ease versus gardening with pain or discomfort. If you search using the key words "garden tools ergonomics," you will find many choices of hand tools and larger tools that typically earn very positive customer reviews like a four-piece hand toolset that includes a trowel, transplanter, weeder, and cultivator. Or check out Lowes for their extended reach weeder for under $25.

With seed packets selling for approximately $3 each, a garden will more than pay for itself in the amount of food it provides for your hungry family, not to mention the intangible benefits of the fun and bonding of family members. A small, basically one-time purchase of assorted ergonomically-correct garden tools may be exactly what your family needs to maintain the momentum of keeping a bountiful garden blossoming each summer.

Debra is an occupational therapist, accountant, teacher and freelance writer. She is a writer for Advance for Occupational Therapy Practitioners. She also writes for Grand Magazine, has some items (fiction and non fiction) selling on (kindle), has written several travel articles for the Champaign-Urbana News-Gazette and several articles for and volunteers as a money mentor for the University of Illinois Cooperative Extension money mentoring program. Learn more about her at

Take the Next Step:

  • Once those home improvements are done, why not take some time to improve your finances? The TDS ebook How to Conquer Your Debt No Matter How Much You Have can provide you with the tools you need to demolish your debt and rebuild your finances.
  • Gardening on the cheap is simple. Just visit the TDS Frugal Gardening Guide and we'll show you the many ways frugal gardeners maintain beautiful, bountiful gardens for less.

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