you needn’t throw in the trowel either.
“People need to know that gardening is a life-long hobby,
and it can be adapted for them,” explains Jean M. Larson,
MA, CTRS, HTR, and Coordinator at the Center for Therapeutic
Horticulture at the Minnesota Landscape Arboretum in Chaska,
Minnesota. In fact, herb gardening offers additional benefits
to folks limited by physical disability —beyond the exercise
and joy that all gardening affords—because herbs engage
a variety of senses.
Larson notes the use of the scented geranium in South Africa,
where the herbs are traditionally planted along walkways
leading to the gardener’s front door, their heady fragrance
releasing as passersby brush against the leaves. Since varieties
of this species emit a powerful fragrance (even without
being handled), tending them provides aromatherapeutic benefits
for any gardener, especially those with disabilities. Lacy
Gage of Santa Fe Greenhouses in Santa Fe, New Mexico, points
out, “Since [herbs] are, generally speaking, quite fragrant,
that offers a dimension for those with limited vision.”
There are a number of ways to amend your current garden
plot or design a new gardening area that can meet your physical
limitations. And, best of all, a wide variety of herbs successfully
grow in any gardening spot—no matter what changes you’ve
made to keep gardening enjoyable.
Moveable containers make gardening accessible for those
who find it difficult to bend over and reach plants growing
in the ground, and plenty of herbs flourish in this environment.
“Mediterranean herbs are good choices for containers,” explains
EagleSong, head gardener at The Herbfarm Restaurant in Wood-
Tending Your Accessible
Soil Requirements: For containers,
EagleSong recommends a soil composition of one part
compost to one part Perlite to one part peat, with
“a bit of loamy garden soil thrown in for good measure.
Worm castings are a very useful amendment to promote
pot soil health, [as well as] a balanced fertilizer
for nutrients and lime for pH.” She prefers a pH
of 6.5. If you use commercially available potting
mix, include a water-retaining polymer, since potted
plants dry out faster than those in the ground.
Try adding a controlled-release fertilizer at planting
time, as well.
Watering: Dryness is relative,
of course. Heat- and sun-loving rosemary may never
need watering in a moist environment like Florida—Cook
claims never to water his— while over in Texas,
Varney waters his herbs “every day during the summer—and
if they look thirsty by the afternoon, water then,
too.” What’s an herb grower to do? Use common sense:
If leaves droop and the plant looks thirsty, give
it water, but don’t overdo it.
Which herbs are likely to be thirstier? Water
requirements vary widely, explains EagleSong, “with
mints at the wetter end of the spectrum and the
lavenders, thymes, and oreganos at the drier side.”
Generally, the more shade-tolerant an herb, the
more likely it is to grow well in moist soil. These
herbs include lovage, angelica, woodruff and sweet
Sunlight: Oil accounts for an herb’s
flavor, and is best produced with at least 6-8 hours
of exposure to direct sun daily. If your plants
receive at least six hours of sun (or 14 hours of
fluorescent light), and the soil is welldrained,
and neutral to slightly acidic (a pH of around 6.5)
but they still don’t grow, feed them houseplant
fertilizer at the recommended strength. For herbs
in raised beds, Varney swears by fertilizer that
contains fish emulsion and compost.