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Wheelchair gardening

Hi. My partner was wheelchair bound after complications from aortic dissection last year. We are keen on gardening and have invested in some long reach tools and a greenhouse (I just need to finish the ramp and he can get in) but I am wondering what other innovations can make his life easier in the garden.

next year we plan on some raised beds, money's a bit too tight for this season but it gives us time to plan it as this year we've just converted a flower bed into a temporary veg patch.

be grateful of ideas and to hear from other disabled gardeners.

Many thanks.



  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,847

    Hi Tina.  The RHS offers this advice for disabled gardeners and it includes links to charities that may be able to offer advice - 

    Every now and then GW features an item from a garden designer who does everything from a wheelchair so keep an eye out for him on Friday's progs. 

    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • yarrow2yarrow2 Posts: 782

    Tina - well done you.  My husband is now bed-ridden (MS) but in the years when he used wheelchairs (manual and battery powered), I took on our communal garden which no-one used, in order to get him and myself outside and to give us a project which would keep him interested in life beyond mobility difficulties and give me a challenge to enable us to do something together which was both new and a challenge.  Team spirit exercise and to keep his confidence going.

    This garden had not been used by neighbours for 20 years and was 4ft high with weeds from boundary fence to door.  I dug it all up with a fork and spade and started from scratch with my first priority being access for the wheelchair, it's turnaround space requirement and with the battery-powered one the weight was a huge consideration.  It sank into everything, especially the little lawn area which was the only place where he could have a free space to turn around and see the entire garden.   I discovered that large rubber bottomed mats bought from a pound shop could be placed upside down on the lawn with the carpet side down on the grass and rubber side up was perfect - no sinking wheelchair and no lawn damage.  Just put them down when we were going out and picked them up and put them in the cupboard until the next venture out.

    Raised beds were a consideration but the downside was that sticking to ready-made packs meant they were square, round or rectangular and he had to have the wheelchair side-on all the time and had to try and turn himself round from the side to do anything, which was energy consuming and could be painful.

    There were so many things that we managed to do - but sadly his deterioration was very quick, particularly the eyesight and all mobility - and our initial intentions did not come to fruition.  He also wasn't really interested in gardening - it was just one of those desperate ideas you come up with to enable you to maintain 'things' you can continue to do together without 'requiring assistance' or outside well-meaning interventions.  I became a keen gardener - but his eyesight deteriorated as well and the garden became, for him, another thing to add to the list of things he couldn't quite enjoy.  However, he is chirpy as anything, though bed-ridden and loves to laugh like a drain when I recount tales of my disasters in the garden, slug tales and all sorts.  But he also loves that I have my little space just outside his bedroom door where he can see me not far away and know that I am happily engaged in something which makes for a very contented wife! 

    I found lots of things on the internet at the time which gave ideas - but I found that local disability and gardening groups had come up with all kinds of innovative things locally.  By talking to other disabled gardeners, ideas were many, practical and genius.

    I've typed this post more by way of support and understanding of your circumstances and I am sure you will manage to come up with and find that there is a lot you will be able to create yourselves and with the ideas of others.  All best wishes.

    Last edited: 03 May 2017 11:25:59

  • I'm glad to hear your husband is still chirpy, MS is a tough one I know. My mother suffered with it for over 20 years, her deterioration was very slow. It is wonderful that you still enjoy the garden and that he can feel part of it when he watches you.

    I am fortunate that my partner shouldn't deteriorate particularly, his disability comes after damage to part of his brain when it was starved of oxygen during an aortic dissection last year. I have learnt I am stronger and more capable than I thought, it's amazing what you can do when you have to, but were now at the point where it's important my partner can get stuck in. I have done the heavy shifting, cutting back and building for now.

    I love the carpet idea, we will be making some paths but they'll be brilliant for parts we want to keep grassed. Raised beds will be our main option but I get what you say about working sideways on, I might think about how to raise them with depth at the back but room for feet and knees underneath at the front.

    I wish you and your husband joy in your garden. You are an inspiration.

  • SussexsunSussexsun Posts: 1,444

    If you buy or build rectangular beds you can get a wheelchair face on

    some thing like

    my mum has ms and is wheelchair dependent and with this sort of planter you can fit a wheelchair close enough to work face on.

    To see a world in a grain of sand and heaven in a wild flower Hold infinity in the palm of your hand and eternity in an hour.

  • Thanks Sussexsun and yarrow2, it's great to hear from people who are, or have been, dealing with issue successfully. Although my Mum had MS she only used a wheelchair for outings whereas my partner cannot stand or walk at all so it's really important I get these things right.

    I'm really grateful for the ideas and can begin planning and building ready for next season.

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