Thursday, March 27, 2014

No-Stoop Gardening Opportunities

It was a rainy day today (at least not snow) but we had a busy day at the Horticulture Center with some activity out in the gardens.  My blog topic today is about some ways to enjoy gardening without having to stoop or get down on our knees (and then back up!).  Above is Janice's mom who has this neat planter on her back patio for instant gardening enjoyment (note the rod for hanging baskets too!).  This structure was built by a RBG volunteer with RECAPPER assistance.  I'll talk more about these structures further down in the blog.
We had a solid Grumpy morning with plenty of projects being accomplished.  Gary B., Del and Dr. Gredler all worked on painting projects while Gene continued some of his wood sealing projects.  Vern and Bob K continued work on a nice fan that will help with air circulation during our projects that involve chemical odors (painting, staining, etc.).  Dave and Jim worked on more carpentry tasks while Dick H. helped with various projects including some work on one of our trucks.  Maury ran errands and is helping with a project that will involve replacing damaged bricks in front of the Parker Education Center.   Gary S. worked on labeling duties and spent some time cleaning up the laser engraver prior to major usage in the coming weeks.  Pat and Bob C. went out in the gardens and worked on Holiday Lights Show (HLS) takedown and grass cutting respectively.  Larry and Terry worked together on myriad projects including rotating different obelisks and other structures in and out of the Horticulture Center based on their status (already painted, still needs painting, repairs needed, etc.). 
Gardening should be enjoyed by everyone.  However, some of us have (or develop) mobility limitations that make traditional gardening at ground level awkward, difficult and possibly painful.  There are many ways to "bring the garden upwards" in to a comfortable range for planting, watering, maintenance and of course, enjoyment!  Larger containers are certainly a logical option although providing gardening opportunities at "waist level" can be more involved and significant.  The planter above was made by our Grumpies and our volunteer Jordan (seen below) planted and maintained this planter as his assigned garden.  This was built at a perfect height (32") for working at waist level which was ideal for Jordan to plant and water.  There are many options and opportunities for this raised planter gardening which has the benefit of access but also has some inherent challenges as they relate to soil preparation and winter storage.  We only use these planters for annuals and vegetables as they are actively used between April and October with all the plantings and soil ultimately added to our compost pile at the end of the season.  Overwintering plants in these raised containers would be extremely challenging, particularly with a winter like the one we just experienced.  We custom mix a soil blend of 1/3 mushroom compost with 2/3 "soil-less" mix for a well-drained soil that isn't too heavy when wet.  We also add slow-release fertilizer and may apply additional fertilizer as needed throughout the summer.  Once these planters are emptied at the end of the season, we clean them up and store them dry for re-use (and new soil) the next spring.  The photos below are just some of the many non-stoop gardening opportunities that I've photographed over the years and I've included some vertical garden shots as well.  Vertical gardens also have similar challenges but allow for access at different heights and take up a minimal amount of ground space.  When I reach an age as a gardener where it's difficult to get up and down and work on my knees, I will explore these opportunities to continue to enjoy the activity of gardening and the appreciation of plants. At RBG, we continue to build and develop some of these opportunities for evaluation by our volunteers and visitors.
RBG volunteer Jordan with his garden space
RBG planter (too shallow!, go at least 12" deep!)
planter at Allen Centennial Gardens (UW-Madison)
planter at Allen Centennial Gardens (UW-Madison)


planter at Allen Centennial Gardens (UW-Madison)
small, "build-it-yourself" kit at the Garden Expo (unknown brand)
RBG planter - nice and deep and good for most veggies
rolling planter seen on RBG Home Garden Tour
simple raised trough with 5 gallon bucket planters (Rock County Farm, WI)
desk planter at Chicago Botanic Garden (CBG)
RBG desk planter (inspired by CBG planter above) - those metal planters are ultimately set flush
RBG volunteer Victoria planting desk planter seen above
multi-level raised bed at the Buehler Enabling Garden (CBG)
raised bed at the Edgerton Hospital Healing Garden (WI) - wheelchair accessible too
vertical planter at RBG (plan from CBG)
same as above with 'Brazen Brass' mustard (Brassica juncea)
neat wall planter at CBG with spring pansies (Viola) and parsley (Petroselinum)

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