Gardening has many health and therapeutic benefits for people with disability and older people. Garden beds, equipment and tools can all be modified to create an accessible garden. Read the accessible gardening tips here.

Watering can, trowel, secateurs and a gardening bag on top of a reclaimed wooden bench

Gardening has many health and therapeutic benefits for people with disability and older people. Garden beds, equipment and tools can all be modified to create an accessible garden.

Gardening is beneficial:

  • Is an enjoyable form of exercise
  • Increases levels of physical activity and helps mobility and flexibility
  • Improves endurance and strength
  • Helps prevent diseases
  • Reduces stress levels and promotes relaxation
  • Provides stimulation and interest in nature and the outdoors
  • Improves wellbeing as a result of social interaction
  • Can provide nutritious, home-grown product

Making a garden easy to use for people with disabilities


To provide easy and safe access and to accommodate people with a range of disabilities, you may need to make some modifications when planning your garden, including:

  • Raise garden beds to help people with physical restrictions, and to avoid bending and stooping
  • Provide tables that are wheelchair accessible where people can do potting and planting together
  • Use pots, window boxes, wheelbarrows and raised containers to make gardening more accessible – these can also be used when space and sunlight are limited.
  • Provide retractable hanging baskets that can be pulled up and down so they are within easy reach
  • Use containers with wheels, which can be moved around easily to accessible positions and to catch the sunlight
  • Keep paths smooth, non-slip, accessible and level
  • Have a water supply handy and place plants together according to their water needs
  • Have an equipment storage area or shed nearby
  • Provide shade for working in the garden in summer (remember to use hats, sunscreen and other sun protection)
  • Provide ready access to toilets

Garden equipment for people with disabilities


Garden equipment can be adapted in many ways to suit people with varying disabilities. Consult an occupational therapist for expert advice. Suggestions include:

  • Use tape, foam padding, bicycle grips and PVC pipe to improve grip and handle length on tools
  • Find specific ergonomic (designed to reduce discomfort) and enabling tools – these are available at some hardware shops
  • Use gloves that have a sticky surface or gloves with gripper dots
  • Use of splints and supports may also be appropriate – consult an occupational therapist
  • Look for lightweight tools that are easier to handle

Plant selection for people with disabilities


Consider using varieties of plants that have sensory and textural qualities. Sensory plants include those that have special sound, smell, taste, touch and visual qualities.

Examples of great sensory plants include:

  • Touch – woolly lamb’s ear, succulents (such as Aloe Vera), bottlebrush species, snapdragons
  • Taste – basil, strawberries, peas, rosemary, carrots, cherry tomatoes
  • Smell – jasmine, sweet peas, lavender, pelargoniums, native mint bush, lemon balm
  • Bright colour – daffodils, rainbow chard, marigolds, pansies, sunflowers
  • Sound – corn, bamboo and grasses rustle against each other when the wind blows.

Garden activities for people with disabilities


People with disabilities can be involved in many gardening activities, including:

  • Watering
  • Digging, planting and sowing
  • Pruning and clipping
  • Weeding and mulching
  • Flower picking and arranging
  • Craft activities using materials from the garden
  • Harvesting garden produce
  • Cooking food from the garden

For more information on accessible gardening and to find local accessible gardening in your local area, contact IDEAS on 1800 029 904. 

Information sourced from ‘Making gardening accessible for people of all abilities’, Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney, Gardening – People with Disabilities, Better Health Victoria