Is your school garden accessible? You may think it is but after spending months in a wheelchair over the last couple of years, I will tell you they probably aren’t. For any garden to be accessible it has to allow a wheelchair to roll with ease around the garden area. Bark mulch is commonly used and as long as it has packed down it isn’t as bad as a grass path. Ideally an accessible path would be made of concrete but this option is very costly. I would recommend a road base mix for a pathway. This material is made of finer pieces of gravel and packs down hard after getting wet. You could also install interlocking pavers like the above photo shows. This community garden is in Delta at Winskill park and is very accessible.
Another factor to take into consideration is the distance between the raised beds in a community garden. We have all taken a wheelbarrow into a tight corner and tried to manoeuver out of a tight situation. The same goes for a wheelchair. We aren’t always so good at three-point turns. Be sure to leave four to five feet between your beds. The photo above is the Ladner Community Garden. Here we made sure each bed was four feet away from each other on all sides. Several of these beds have been raised this year to make it easier for the allotment holder.
This photo was taken at the Terra Nova Rural Park in Richmond. You can see the pathways are wide and made of a combination of gravel and dirt which has packed down well. The only problem in this garden is the allotment beds are very close together. As a visitor I could take in the children’s garden and the demonstration area but this garden was not easily reached.
The children’s garden at Kirkland House was a good example of the height for gardening if you have physical limitations. The beds were raised to about two feet high so that you could easily reach to plant without bending and the bark mulch was easy to roll on. Turning around was difficult as the beds were only three feet apart. I will use this height for the children’s school garden that I teach at. Not only will raising the beds another notch make it more accessible but it will allow for deeper root crops as well.
Over the last two years I have spent six months in a wheelchair. I never knew how hard it was to get around until then. Here I am in September of 2011 teaching my first school garden class. I had help to get around as our community garden is not as level as it should be. If your students were in a wheelchair like myself, they should be able to come to a school garden too. I firmly believe in that saying” No child left behind”.
Entrances to the garden can be tricky. Our garden is a leased area that does not include the front boulevard. I can no longer access the garden through the front as the land dips down from the sidewalk and I would most likely face plant myself. The solution would be to work with the city to fix this area as many elderly walk through there in walkers and families come by with strollers. Lets make our school gardens and community gardens an easy place to access. After all everyone should be able to access these beautiful gardens.