Is For Everyone
Katie Lamar Jackson, Contributing Writer
Donít let space, age or limited
ability cast a pallor on your passion for planting ... plan
your patch to fit your personal needs.
Itís been said that gardening is good for the soul. Itís been proven
that gardening is good for the mind and body. And, luckily, the benefits of
gardening are available to everyone, regardless of age, ability or locale.
Thatís right, you donít need access
to a yard and donít have to be perfectly healthy or fit to garden. You
just have to adjust the garden to fit your needs.
If lack of space is your greatest
gardening limitation, take heart. You can garden inside a fourth-floor
walkup or a retirement-home apartment by using containers and by growing
plants suited for your environmental conditions.
If you have no access to a patio or
balcony, choose potted houseplants that require less sunlight and are suited
for your specific indoor ďclimate.Ē If your apartment tends to be dry,
especially in the winter when the heating unit is cranked up, pick plants
that donít need lots of humidity or plan to keep plants in the bathroom
where they may get some moisture from the shower. If your place tends to be
cold or drafty, pick plants that can tolerate those conditions.
Once youíve picked the right plants
for your indoor space, put them in pots that are easy to manage ó not too
heavy or on wheels in case you need to move them about ó and make sure
they have trays underneath so the irrigation water wonít drip on your
floors. Also, fill the pots with a lightweight, well-drained growing media,
such as peat or sand, so you wonít add extra weight to the pots and
wonít promote root rot or other soil-related problems.
Not going to be satisfied with
houseplants? Try window boxes! These work beautifully for sun-loving plants
and are ideal for many annual ornamental plants, herbs and even some
vegetables such as salad greens.
Another container option for totally
indoor or small-space patio and balcony gardening is the planting bag, which
is a plastic bag filled with a soil mixture designed so you can plant
directly into the bag and also add water and fertilizer as needed. Planting
bags can be expensive, but they are quite effective and often can be used
for several plantings.
Hanging baskets are also a great option
for small-space gardening, though keep in mind that they require frequent
If you have a small balcony or patio or
access to a roof area, your options expand tremendously because you can use
containers and also raised beds on those sites to grow a wider range of
plants. Always get permission from the building owner if you are using a
roof or other public space for a garden. Once you have the go-ahead, you can
use potted plants or build wooden or brick frames as garden beds, fill these
with a soil medium, and then plant them with anything from flowers to herbs
to vegetables. Trellising or caging crops can also save space, especially if
you have plants that tend to vine and run.
Adjusting for physical
In addition to being ideal for small
spaces, raised beds and container plantings can reduce or eliminate the need
to bend or kneel and make the plants more easily accessible from a seated or
standing position, so they can be ideal for people with physical
limitations. Just build the beds to a height that suits your needs for
standing or sitting, or place pots on pedestals or risers to meet your
height requirements. Pay special attention to the height of the plants you
use. Pick plants that will not get so tall you canít reach or see them
with ease. Also, if you are mixing several plant sizes in a bed, locate
shorter plants in the front so that they are visible, easy to reach and
wonít be shaded.
If you want to grow vegetables in small
spaces, select small, compact varieties. Strawberries, by the way, often are
ideal fruit crops for small spaces because they can be grown in hanging
baskets and pots, and strawberry plantings can last three to four years if
you take good care of them.
If vision problems are limiting your
gardening options, donít give up. People with low-vision issues can still
garden by laying out the beds in a simple, easy-to-see fashion and by using
brightly colored plant markers to identify plants and areas of the garden.
They can also use plants with colorful, vivid flowers and foliage so their
visual impact is more pronounced. For those with total vision loss, using
fragrant flowers and herbs or plants, such as lambís ear, that are
pleasant to touch can keep the gardening experience alive. And using wind
chimes, rustling grasses or water fountains can add enjoyment to a garden
space, whether youíre sight-impaired or not.
Gardening is also possible and can be
therapeutic for people with memory-loss disorders, such as Alzheimerís
disease. Keep the garden area simple so itís easy to manage and navigate
and think about using plants that might trigger pleasant memories.
These are just a few ways to garden in
any environment or under any conditions, and more tips on small-space and
disability-friendly gardening can be found in books and through gardening
clubs and associations, Extension Service offices, rehabilitation centers
and many other sources. So donít let circumstance or location rob you of
the benefits of gardening.
Katie Jackson is a writer, editor and
photographer for the Alabama Agricultural Experiment Station and Auburn
University College of Agriculture, with more than 25 years of experience
reporting on science, agriculture and the environment. She is author or
co-author of three national gardening books and countless newspaper and