FOR all the romantic notions about gardening, it can be a strenuous effort. Digging, planting and weeding can burn plenty of calories depending on how vigorously you work. Gardeners whose movements are restricted either due to a recent injury, advancing years or disability, may conclude that it's time to hang up their trowel.
Raised beds, though, can be built at a height and width that allows plants to be easily and comfortably tended either from a seated or standing position to make gardening more accessible.
Darlene McPherson, an avid St. James gardener who was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis several years ago, has never forgotten the advice of her occupational therapist, May Chan: "Don't stop doing the things you love to do -- just change the way you do them".
Raised beds in McPherson's butterfly garden help to minimize the stress on her joints and muscles.
"Raised beds cut down on the distance that you have to bend. If you are in a wheelchair, you can still garden", she says.
Raised beds are also utilized in areas with minimal space and can be found in almost every community garden in Manitoba. A strong design element in the home landscape, raised beds provide different levels in a garden and can be constructed from many types of materials that range from very affordable to custom designed.
Railroad ties are useful for low beds, but another affordable option is to create a bed using natural stone that is laid dry (without mortar). Also called drystone walls, each stone should slope inward slightly for stability.
Do-it-yourselfers may want to make a trip to the U-Pick rubble pile at Gillis Quarries in Garson for a selection of limestone (production offcuts with at least one side sawn). A load can range in price from $20 to $65, depending on the size of your vehicle.
Today's contributor is Laura Rawluk, a West Broadway area gardener who decided last year to change her approach to gardening. After consulting with Urban Eatin Gardener Workers Co-op, her traditional perennial borders and square vegetable garden neatly planted in rows were handily replaced with spacious triangle shaped raised beds.
"Give it a try -- start small, and ask an expert if you don't know where to start", recommends Rawluk.