hct
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Location: Bedfordshire

Looking for labour-saving tips for garden layout

I'm helping run a small gardening club in Bedfordshire, UK. Next month, we're holding a workshop on gardening for the less able-bodied - not necessarily disabled, just plain getting a tad creaky, or unfit. I'm wanting to put together a 'top ten' list of design / layout ideas that are helpful in making it easier to maintain a garden (e.g. using raised beds, to cut down on edging and digging; where's the best place to put your compost bin, to make it easier to use; do you want to keep that lawn? etc.).

I'd be really grateful if anybody has any thoughts on what has worked for them, in terms of garden layout and design. Unusual solutions could also be a good source of inspiration for our members. I've had a couple of responses on the garden design forum, which were helpful, but thought I'd throw the question open here too.

I'm also very interested in hearing what things people find particularly hard to cope with, so I can have a think about how such problems can be worked around.

Thanks in advance for any help,

regards,

Helen.
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'Plant first, mulch second' ... ooops ;o)

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applestar
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Can you list the ideas you have so far? Then we can brainstorm a bit. :D

hct
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applestar wrote:Can you list the ideas you have so far? Then we can brainstorm a bit. :D

OK, ideas offered so far include:

1. Raised beds.
2. Spreading plants and mulch to reduce weeding.
3. Putting pots on raised planks (supported by bricks or cinder-blocks), until you are happy with their location, before making something more permanent to prevent the need to kneel, in order to tend the pots.

My own first thoughts include:
1. In a small garden, replacing the lawn with paving or gravel can help, although you need to be careful - gravel is no good, despite being cheaper, if the person gardening has difficulty walking (e.g. dodgy knees or poor balance).
2. Curving ramps, rather than steps, where space permits - done well, these can be made to look quite attractive. Certainly easier to negotiate with a wheelbarrow!
3. Low-maintenance plants (e.g. naturalized bulbs, shrubs and perennials).
4. Automate watering (e.g. drip-hose) for containers, rather than carrying a watering can around.

Then I got rather stuck. Anyone else got any bright ideas, or garden usability problems they would like ideas for ?

Helen.
'Plant first, mulch second' ... ooops ;o)

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Kisal
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I had reached the point where it was painful for me to kneel. A friend recommended that I get a pair of contractors' kneepads. He told me to be sure I got the kind used by people in the building trades, not the cheap kind.

I bought a pair, and they're wonderful! I'm now able to kneel comfortably while I weed and plant. :)
"Isn't it enough to see that a garden is beautiful without having to believe that there are fairies at the bottom of it too?" - Douglas Adams

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applestar
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Those are good ideas. :D

I think one that is often overlooked is to rethink where a garden should be. Vegetable garden doesn't have to be all the way in the back. I like the idea of a kitchen garden that you can just step out and pick a few herbs or ingredients. I built one right off the patio last year, and it was a treat to be able to step out for a bit of lettuce, tomato, or cucumber for my sandwich, or garnish, that sweet pepper that would just make the past sauce special, etc. :D

You started to say it in your first post, but locating the compost nearby, and ready access to water source is another. Rainbarrels can actually situate water sources in several locations, not just the hose and faucet.

I'm a fan of sheet mulching to start a new raised bed. No digging involved -- just fracture the soil with a garden fork (and this isn't even strictly necessary), then spread a layer of high nitrogen organics like manure or alfalfa meal (unfinished compost heavy on kitchen scraps works too) directly on the existing lawn, lay cardboard, set up the surrounding structure and fill. Simply cardboard and mulch the paths.

Will post more if I think of anything else. :wink:

cynthia_h
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Be sure to plant veggies/flowers with the same water requirements together. That way, hand watering needn't cover the entire garden every time.

Low-water requirement plants can be looked at but not watered when one visits the garden to water the high-water requirement plants, which will (of course!) have been planted in the same area, minimizing walking.

Cynthia H.
Sunset Zone 17, USDA Zone 9

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rainbowgardener
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Make your raised beds tall enough and wide enough (I use 4x4" fence posts stacked) so that you can sit on them to work!

Keep your compost pile(s) handy to the garden. People tend to want them out of sight, but you want to be able to get to it for adding and subtracting.

Be sure your tools are handy and easy to get to. I have my bigger tools like shovel, rake etc. on a pegboard, right outside the back door. I also have one of these and love it:
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00004W430

so you can sit to work without being all the way down on the ground and you can have your hand tools with you without having to carry everything.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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rainbowgardener
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PS I will pass on one from Ozark Lady (thanks OL!) : Paint the handles of your tools RED, so you can find them easily in your garden and don't waste a lot of time looking for them.
Twitter account I manage for local Sierra Club: https://twitter.com/CherokeeGroupSC Facebook page I manage for them: https://www.facebook.com/groups/65310596576/ Come and find me and lots of great information, inspiration

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1chichi
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Have you seen Garden Tables? I have seen them somwhere on the net a little deeper than those below.


https://www.cedarwoodfurniture.com/container.html

https://www.marthastewart.com/article/salad-table

https://www.flickr.com/photos/mookmonkey/4332071268/

Phil's Place
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I have the problem that I can't bend down to weed my garden and have a problem with a lot of weeds so I went and got me a couple of tires (truck tires works best) and had the inside cut out to within about an inch from the tread on both sides of one tire. The first tire, that I didn't have cut, I placed on the ground and filled with the dirt from my yard that had all types of weeds in it and made sure that I got the dirt back in the tire to help hold the sides up. Then I took the weed block screen fabric and placed it over the first tire and placed the second tire on top and added potting soil to this tire so that I don't have the weed problem. I use the square foot gardening concept and planted my garden vegetables. It is just the right height that I can set in my chair and tend to the garden and not have to bend over. The best part is that I can go to a tire shop and get the old tires and they are happy to get rid of because then they don't have to pay to hall to a landfill. The tires can be painted whatever color you would like to go with your landscape. I really enjoy mine!
Phil

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supagirl277
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Maybe you could plant your rows so that when you walk towards them you can just walk straight into the rows instead of going around them to get veggies that are in the back.
Use stepping stones.
There is a stool/knee pad out there that when you unfold it, it's a stylish little bench seat and when you flip it over it has foam under it to kneel on.
The legs of the bench helps as a rail to help you down and up.
And you can lean against them if you just want to sit on the foam instead of kneel.
It helps wonders with my mom because of her back. The cushion for the seat is also water proof.

SWMOgardens
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I love ground covers like Vinca or Liriope to cut way down on weeding. I also use drifts of Hostas and Coral bells as groundcovers. I find the less bare ground the less weeding.

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