Elevated Garden Beds
Gardening is a hobby that for many becomes a lifelong passion. Communing with nature in this way often involves a lot of time on hands and knees, but when mobility becomes limited due to illness, injury or age, traditional gardening can be a challenge.
Fortunately, gardening is adaptable and can be practiced anywhere from vacant lot to a simple pot. The basic need for soil, sunlight and water does not necessarily require strenuous effort or mobility. Raised beds, open bottomed planting boxes usually standing 12”-24” tall, are a popular solution for reducing the bending and kneeling associated with gardening, but many of the benefits of raised bed gardening can be taken even further. Set inches or feet from the ground, easily accessible gardening is possible using reclaimed tables, saw horses, garden benches or cinder blocks. Adjusted to accommodate an individual’s needs or available space, elevated beds put gardening back within reach.
An elevated garden bed is similar to any raised bed. The depth of soil should be at least 8”-12” with good drainage and sturdy walls. Once those criteria are met, the design may be adapted to meet the needs of any gardener. A bed height of 24”-30” is appropriate for wheelchair access. For those with back problems or difficulty bending over, an even taller bed may alleviate gardening stress. In most cases, the maximum width should be no more than two feet to easily reach plants, making a bed accessible from either side no wider than four feet. Construction should be sturdy, stable and tip-resistant. Unlike traditional raised beds though, elevated beds are not open-bottomed. More container than raised bed in that regard, an elevated bed must have holes drilled to allow drainage and may be lined with barrier fabric to retain soil.
Elevated garden beds make it easy to reach plants, but it is also important that the bed itself be easily accessible. Select locations where the ground is flat and free of clutter on all sides. Even easier access is possible when elevated beds are placed on decks or patios. Whatever the location, make sure drainage will not result in standing water and that sunlight is adequate for planned crops.
Choosing the right tools can also ease the process of tending to plants. Consider “wand” type sprayers, easy grip tools and extended reach accessories to reduce the need to overreach. Make sure tools are all stored in convenient locations and hoses are retractable to be kept out of the way when not in use.
Building an elevated bed isn’t only of value to those with mobility issues. The portable nature of these beds also make them a good solution for those with limited yard space or situations in which conventional gardening conditions are otherwise limited. As with traditional raised beds, elevated beds also allow the grower to provide ideal soil and placement without expensive landscape development.
For lifelong gardeners or those new to the art, elevated beds can be a rewarding alternative to conventional row gardening.