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Issue No 106
Spring 2006
page 54

Accessible Herb Gardening

That which we persist in doing becomes easier, not that the task itself has become easier, but that our ability to perform it has improved
—Ralph Waldo Emerson

Janet Cass gardens, freelance writes, and edits Upholstery Journal (www.upholsteryjournal.info) in Minnesota.

 
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border of your raised bed from pressure treated lumber, be sure to line it with heavy-gauge plastic to prevent arsenic or other chemicals from seeping out of the wood.

In fact, many areas of the country require raised beds, due to climate conditions. Bill Varney explains: “On the Texas coast they have to grow herbs in raised beds because it’s so humid”—an environment that can breed horticultural disease. Actively avoiding soilborne disease proves much easier than eradicating it, so Ken Cook of Plant Creations in Homestead, Florida advises: “Herbs should be trimmed regularly, whether they are used or not, and should be especially trimmed up so no leaves are touching the soil.” This also allows air to circulate under the plant and promotes drying.

Find Your Path
If you plan to garden outdoors but have limited mobility in your legs or you use a wheelchair, you need to create a path to maneuver around your beds. A 4-foot wide path allows wheelchairs and walkers to make 90-degree turns, and a 5-foot width permits a 180-degree turn without reversing. Your path should be level, slip-resistant, and low-maintenance. Textured concrete and asphalt require relatively little care, and wooden walkways work well with gravel underneath to keep weeds from poking through cracks between the boards. Gravel itself can be used for a path, provided the pieces are very small and tightly packed.

When constructing a path for outdoor beds, keep your needs (or the person for whom you’re building it) in mind. People with limited vision will welcome the sound of chimes to help orient themselves within the garden. Herbal groundcovers that release scent when trampled by feet or wheelchairs can provide the same assistance. Low-growing mint (Mentha requierii) is one option that successfully grows in the shade. For sunnier spots, try creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum) and ‘Treneague’ chamomile (Chamaemelum nobile ‘Treneague’), also known as “lawn” chamomile. Using herbs as groundcover also reduces the amount of time and strenuous effort that lawn care requires.

Enjoy your Herbs
Don’t think you have to give up the pleasure of growing herbs just because physical challenges make it harder. Making gardening accessible really just means gardening more efficiently—with more time available to enjoy your harvest.

 
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