Identify Potential Locations
Mature tomato plant only 24 inches high loaded with ripe tomatoes growing in a planter 18 inched high.
Dinosaur Kale a great texture plant with 18 inch long and 3 to five inch wide edible, heavily crinkled, blue green strap like leaves emerging from central cluster.
A wooden deck with a cluster of four large accessible containers ranging from 15 to 24 inches high and round billowing with a wide variety of colors, fragrances and textures of plants.
- If there is a choice of locations, consider the gardener's mobility, energy, and endurance that may mean that the best option is a site closer to the house.
- Does the site have the minimum 6 hours of direct sunlight to grow sun-loving plants such as vegetables and most herbs? Perhaps there is one small sunny spot within an otherwise shady garden that can be used. A shady site will limit the plants that will grow; yet the list of shade plants is still long.
- What is the average length of the growing season - last spring frost to first fall frost date - and what are the minimum winter/maximum summer temperatures? Note that there are many cool-season plants that tolerate a few frosts that will considerably extending the growing season. A Florida garden will clearly be different than one in Vermont. That's why local information is so important when deciding what to plant, where, and when.
- Is there a nearby water source to attach a hose? This is essential because carrying water is usually not practical in all but the smallest garden of a window box or two.
- Is there a place to store tools and other items that naturally begin to accumulate as a result of having a garden? Convenient storage as near as possible, even a small cabinet somewhere in the garden, is very helpful.
All this preliminary information will serve as a guide for decision making about the garden layout and how to equip the gardeners who will use it. For most, if an accessible garden is needed, the initial setup is best left to others as heavy containers, soil, and other construction are likely beyond the capabilities of the gardener. Even if others must build the garden, do the necessary homework so it is set up for the gardener's needs. Are the plans ambitious enough to require the services of a landscape architect or contractor? The more information provided to them the better, particularly because their understanding of disabilities may be limited.
Gene Rothert is Manager, Horticultural Therapy Services, of the Chicago Botanic Garden in Glencoe, IL. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.