by Penny Leslie, Beverly Clark, and Ignacio Muñoz, El Paso Master Gardeners
Most gardeners agree that gardening is good for the mind, body, and spirit. However, for many people completing gardening tasks in a traditional way is difficult due to physical, cognitive, or emotional challenges. Fortunately, there are countless ways to adapt the gardening environment. As part of our vision to make gardening accessible to everyone, we created a beautiful garden area with multiple examples of garden adaptations.
Our Accessible Garden within the Ascarate Teaching and Demonstration Garden provides a wide variety of raised garden beds and benches, each with unique details that can be tailored to meet specific needs. We have great handouts and lists of resources with additional information about specific techniques, as well as gardening adaptations and tools that can be used to create further accessible gardening opportunities. If you love gardening but find that health conditions are impacting your ability to get the job done, or if you know people who are giving up gardening or not even considering gardening because of physical or cognitive challenges, adapting accessible gardening techniques may be the answer!
The entrance to the Accessible Garden features a beautiful sign painted by Master Gardener Alison Wells when she was an Intern. Also shown mounted on the entrance posts are information boxes like those which are posted throughout the garden and contain information on accessible gardening.
The Accessible Garden project was the vision of Master Gardeners Penny Leslie and Beverly Clark. It was constructed through the collaboration of Master Gardeners, Interns, and even an El Paso Community College student earning Community Hours. The endeavor was a long process due to the 2020 Covid-19 pandemic which forced our gardens to shut down in March 2020. It was after the second shutdown in October that the project was completed with a few touch-ups that were completed in January 2021.
Master Gardeners Can Help You Learn More:
- Creating an Accessible Garden
- Accessible Garden Design
- Safety Tips
- Ergonomic, Enabling and Adapted Tools
- Stretches for Gardeners
- Disability Specific Accessible Options
Get in the Know:
- Resource Lists
- Personalized Group Presentations
- Adaptive Tool Samples
- Help Desk Assistance
- El Paso Master Gardener Website
- Tours of Ascarate Teaching and Demonstration Accessible Garden Area
This rectangular raised garden bed features a resting bench where people can take a break from working. It can also be used for people to sit on while working from the bench. The garden bed can be accessed from all sides. With the recessed lower edge all the way around for people’s feet to go under, gardeners can move in close and work from a comfortable position.
This split barrel raised garden bed was constructed by cutting two 35-gallon barrels in half and mounting them on a frame which splits them into four different containers for planting. Drainage holes were drilled in the bottom. It is recommended that plants or vegetables with smaller, not deep roots be planted in this type of raised bed due to the shallow bottoms of the barrels. The raised bed also has a countertop for elbow resting and can be accessed from all four sides.
This bench was constructed by building a frame from construction blocks and putting them together with construction adhesive. The bench and backrest are pressure-treated 4 X 4 posts. The bulletin board is weatherproof and will display information on accessible gardening which will be updated periodically. The small golden sign on the side of the board is a dedication sign to honor Penny Leslie’s parents who taught her the value of gardening and helping others. Penny made a generous donation to go towards the construction of the garden.
The galvanized metal raised garden beds were purchased through a local supply store. Trellises were added for climbing vines.
The keyhole garden beds have easy access from a wheelchair or a garden stool. The wire mesh in the middle of the keyhole garden bed is for compost and vegetable waste, and it has a sprinkler inside of it. The nutrients from the compost in the wire mesh leaches out which helps fertilize the plants and keeps the soil rich with nutrients.
The wheelchair-accessible raised garden bed has ample room to accommodate two wheelchairs in its inner recessed area, so it allows two gardeners with special needs to work together at the same time. The raised bed also has access from all other sides and its height allows gardeners to comfortably work from their wheelchairs.
This multilevel raised bed offers three gardening heights for gardeners with different abilities. The taller section can easily be reached from a wheelchair or when standing. The shorter section is a comfortable height when using a gardening stool. This multilevel garden bed can also be accessed from all sides.
The vertical barrel garden bed, in the foreground, provides many options for planting a variety of different vegetables in a small space. The plants are watered from the inside of the barrel with water coming into the top of a pipe that runs
to the bottom and has holes for water to
spray inside the barrel.
This is an overall view of the Ascarate Accessible Garden. The pergola in the background has inside benches so it can be used as a resting place after hours of gardening. You can also meditate and enjoy all the beauty and joy that comes with gardening which helps you relax as you become part of Nature and Mother Earth!
Photos by Ignacio Muñoz, El Paso Master Gardener