According to research carried out by BillyOh.com, gardeners spend fifty years on the upkeep of their garden over the course of their lifetime. That includes a staggering 45 hours spent watering. But how do we ensure that our garden is a place where the whole family will be happy to while away their time? I recently wrote about getting teenagers to enjoy the garden. What about the rest of us? With my recent troubles with walking, I’ve been thinking about making access and use easier for everyone.
Easy garden access
When it’s easy to step out into our garden, we find it gets a lot more use. Through winter we end up leaving all kinds of stuff lying in the way of the door to the garden. All that has to go in the Spring. From family barbecues to days spent planting together, there are lots of precious moments to be shared outside.
In recent years, bi-fold doors have become a really popular. It’s a way to open up a kitchen or living space giving direct garden access. You get to admire the view when the curtains are drawn and it’s easy to keep an eye on kids as they play. External bifolding doors like these from Vufold that open right out can give those with restricted mobility plenty of space to move through. A ramp or deck at door level will make trips and falls less likely, especially if there’s a hand rail to the side.
Raised beds are popular with grow-your-own types who know they give great drainage for vegetable harvesting. However, they’re also a fantastic way to add interest at different heights. That makes it easier for those of us who struggle to crouch or kneel to get up close to flowers and shrubs. The good news is, you can buy ready-made raised boxes that can be easily slotted into your garden. Or, build your own to your exact requirements using treated wood or metal sheets and slabs. Wood tends to be a friendlier choice in gardens where kids are roaming but with the help of outdoor paints and stain, it’s easy to decorate either option to fit with your garden’s overall style.
You could design your multi-level garden so that you have beds at differing heights or work out just the right height for everyone to be able to appreciate the plants that lie within. Don’t forget, you’ll want any shrubs and flowers to be within easy reach of the outside of the bed so that you don’t have to step into them when maintaining the beds.
A pathway provides a guide around your garden that can take visitors from feature to feature. If they’re not accessible for all, it means missing out on some of what’s on offer. If we were going to accommodate older relatives who are visiting with walking frames or wheelchairs then we shall want to make paths a little wider. The surfaces need to be easy to navigate too. I love the look of pebble pathways but they will be problematic for people with mobility issues. They’re not too friendly for bare feet either. A lawn or paved pathway is the logical alternative, though we might have to do more weeding.
If these ideas grab you and you decide to add some raised beds to your garden, your pathways will need to be close enough to the beds for them to be appreciated. If you’d like all visitors to be able to tend to the beds, you may need them to circle the beds too. For those who are unlikely to stray far from the path, lining routes with flowers will mean they always have something to appreciate, just make sure you leave plenty of room for manoeuvre.
If you have space for a swing or a slide for the kids, that’s great, but I’ve learned you don’t need expensive apparatus to get them outdoors. Research from the Royal Horticultural Society suggests that children who do gardening gain confidence. They’re more likely to be interested in eating healthily too. Gardening boxes can be a great introduction to growing plants and vegetables for younger ones. In fact family members of all ages can work together on them. Just some toys and a pop up play tent will appeal, and don’t cost much. Once worn out with running around, it’s great to have a space where we can all gather together. It’s nice to just sit and appreciate the garden.
Are you planning some gardening updates when the warmer weather comes round? If you’re a keen gardener what are your tips for designing a garden with the widest appeal?