Many gardeners mention that, as they get older, back and knee problems hold them back from spending more time in the garden. The ideas here make the garden easier-to-reach for better accessibility so you can continue gardening in a way that works for you.
For more, also see Free Plans for Building Raised Garden Beds.
Garden Solutions for Bad Backs & Knees
If you love gardening like I do, you hope to be able to grow plants and tend a garden your entire life.
Whether you have a bad back or knees that won’t bend or let you get up or down, these ideas should help.
One way to make the garden more accessible is to grow at the height you can reach. This could mean getting raised garden beds, growing on a tabletop, or getting accessories that let you raise and lower hanging pots with ease.
Whatever your needs, I hope you find ideas that will help you continue gardening.
1 Salad Tables
A salad table (in a garden) is basically a table with some sort of container on top for growing plants like salad greens that don’t need a lot of depth for their roots.
Now, if you’re a frugal person, there is no reason why you can’t just use a patio table and sit containers on top of it. Easy! There are also huge advantages to keeping your plants mobile in portable pots instead of having soil in a box.
That said, I really love all the variations of salad tables that are popping up. If you use a wheelchair or need to sit while you work, get something that accommodates the chair.
If lifting or digging is a problem, using small containers within the box to make it more manageable without bending.
Here's one on Amazon that comes with a cover for extending the growing season:
2 Staircase Plant Stands
I made this staircase plant stand from some wooden stair risers. You can buy them pre-cut so it’s really simple—basically you’re just adding boards for each ‘step’, and some side supports. I included the top bar to provide extra room for hanging planters.
Again, if bending or kneeling is a problem, but standing is okay, the more you can get your garden up off the ground, the easier it will be to manage.
3 Tall Raised Beds
Tall raised beds are my favorite way to keep vegetable plants away from the snails and rabbits and it is so much easier to manage when everything is up off the ground.
The one conundrum is, do I actually have to fill the whole thing with soil? And no, you don’t. Unless you’re growing a dwarf tree or shrub that will need a lot of root space, there’s no reason to fill the entire box with soil. Instead, consider adding a false bottom, either temporary or permanent about a foot deep in the box. From there, you can line the box with good-quality landscape fabric (make sure it is ‘food-safe’), and add soil, or, use containers instead.
Plants use up the nutrients in the soil, so, either way, you will need to replace or deeply enrich the soil each year to keep the plants happy.
This next picture shows tall raised beds created for a gardener in a wheelchair. The driveway was sectioned off to provide a nice, smooth surface for the wheels.
Here’s another style of tall raised bed. This one is built around a tree, which is not really recommended as the trunk and roots should not be covered up like this, but, I do like the height for easy access.
This is the tall raised bed in my garden. You can see the construction process here. I used the back support posts to create a privacy / wind shelter wall as well. I had extra soil available after building my pond, so I used it to fill the box.
See how it’s made:
After building the first, tall raised bed (above), I fell in love with the height and decided to update my old veggie garden beds.
This is the BEFORE:
Here’s the (almost) AFTER (just finishing up construction). I actually built them around the current veggie garden so the kale and other fall veggies could finish up for the season. I don’t recommend this as it made for awkward moments!
Here they are in the winter. When things warm up, I’ll fill them with soil (they are lined with dense landscaping fabric to protect the wood), and have a nice tall veggie garden that will be visible from the house. This will also cut down on the number of four-legged nibblers who steal my crops.
4 Raised Bed Garden Pond
I built this garden pond in a raised bed because it was not possible to dig it into the ground. As it turned out, this is a much better arrangement for a small pond. The height makes it much easier to reach the pump for cleaning. If you don’t like getting down on the ground and reaching into a pond, I highly recommend a raised pond. The instructions for making the pond in a raised garden bed are here.
5 Plant Shelves & Tables
With plants in smaller containers, growing on shelves and tables makes them much easier to manage.
This could be a display on your balcony or patio, or up on a fence or wall.
Summer is also a time to bring your houseplants outdoors in a sheltered location. It’s a good way to enjoy plants outdoors without the added cost or burden of more plants.
6 Easy-to-Reach Garden Ideas for Patios and Balconies
If you are gardening on a patio or balcony, these plant pulleys are an excellent option. You can hang the plant up high but easily pull it down for watering.
7 Helpful Accessories
If you are gardening at ground level, these might be helpful.
The garden kneeler offers a sturdy place to grip while getting up, and a surface to sit (by flipping it upside-down) while working.
Another option is the wheelie chair cart. Make sure you get one that allows you to rotate the seat. Again, this can be much easier on the knees.
~Melissa the Empress of Dirt ♛