Enabled garden design information and tips

An Enabled Garden is a garden designed and constructed to enable physically disabled and elderly people to access and enjoy being outdoors again.

I design and landscape enabled gardens 
enabling people with a physically disability to carry on gardening. 

Our gardens can become inaccessible when we use a wheelchair or have difficulty bending, walking or kneeling. 

Sometimes becoming just something we look at through the window, watching the tidy borders gradually being taken over by weeds and the lawn left overgrown. 

We could stay indoors surfing the net or watching television and pay someone to weed the borders and mow the lawn 

BUT there's a better way! Make the garden accessible, enabling folk to get out again. 

flowerpotman landscapers
Enabling elderly and disabled gardeners. 


What is an Enabled Garden?

What is an Enabled Garden?

It's quite simply a garden that has been made user-friendly by designing and adapting pathways, surfaces and levels to make access easier, to be able to work, or simply spend time in your garden relaxing.


Some times these simple pleasures are denied us, made difficult by age, illness or injury that might make bending, stretching even walking painful. Put another way, it's a garden for a disabled person or a garden for an elderly person who still wants to get out into the garden.

How do we design and construct an enabled garden?

Consult with you to work out your priorities, maybe it's as simple as access to the garden to sit and relax on sunny days or to tend your plants, it could be you want access to the whole garden. You decide, we point out the practicalities. Send a written quote detailing the cost for the work and materials, you then decide if you want to go ahead.

Build wider paths. 

Build pathways with sound surfaces. To tenable us to walk with our sticks and use our wheeled seats or wheelchairs and other mobility aids to get into and around the garden. Hard surfaces are much better for wheelchairs and walking sticks than gravel. Width and materials are discussed on my garden layout for the elderly page.

If your garden slopes, lay pathways with ramps instead of steps.

If your garden slopes, build pathways with ramps instead of steps, Gentle slopes are easier to walk or get a wheelchair up than steps.

1:20 is the preferred maximum gradient. A gradient of 1:12 is the maximum given in the British Standards. In practice, this is a bit steep for older people and wheelchair users. Although a slightly steeper gradient over a shorter distance may be easier to handle than a gentler one over a long distance. 

Long gradients should have level resting areas set at about every 3meters.

Raised garden beds can be installed making weeding and planting less of a challenge for our bad backs, shaky legs and arthritic joints. 

Sleeper raised beds, laid on their sides are great for sitting on, to weed and sow or just to sit and relax. Plan the width to allow you to be able to reach into the center of the bed without leaning or stretching. Many materials can be used to construct raised beds, I have listed some on my raised beds page.

Containers like pots or buckets can be placed on a table or raised frame to use as smaller plant beds. Set the height to make them comfortable for working  from a standing, leaning or seated position.

Have plenty of places to sit and rest.. Place benches or anything sturdy enough to take your weight at strategic intervals around the garden.

Handrails are cheap and easy to fit 
alongside steps, ramps, abrupt changes in level or where people with walking difficulties are likely to need extra support and around ponds.

Handrails and grab rails are an important part of an enabled garden design.

Watering a garden, raised beds and containers. Can be made easier in an enabled garden. Light plastic, flat-sided watering cans are easier to use than round shapes and water butts and stand pipes at convenient places around the enabled garden make watering easier.

Who Can Benefit from having an Enabled Garden built?

Anyone who is finding gardening more and more difficult can benefit from an enabling garden.

Raised beds can make it easier for gardeners with a bad back to work without stooping.

Wide paths fitted with handrails can enable gardeners in wheelchairs.

People who suffer from lack of strength or finger flexibility or arthritis.

Enabled garden tips for gardeners with Chronic Back Pain.


Back Pain. 

For gardeners with chronic back pain. Bending, lifting and twisting are movements which can exacerbate the problem, but by making even basic changes to garden layout, like wider pathways and raised beds, gardeners with "bad backs" can be enabled to keep on gardening.

Raising the level of your garden from ground level to waist high by installing raised garden beds. Reduces the amount of bending to tend your plants, helping to alleviate any stress to chronic back pain sufferers.


  • The higher the raised bed or retaining wall is, the more drainage rubble and topsoil will be needed to fill it and the heavier the bed will be. So make sure the bed or retaining wall is well built with adequate drainage. If you are suffering from chronic back pain don't design your bed to be any wider than two feet from either side, or you will have to stretch to reach the middle.
  • If you prefer to have raised containers or your enabled garden design does not allow for large raised beds. Pots are a great way of raising your plants to waist high. Pots and containers can easily be arranged on sturdy fixed shelves or a table.
  • Another way of raising plants to save bending, including tomatoes, beans and cucumbers is to install a trellis and train the plants to grow upwards.


Enabled Garden Layout for arthritis sufferers.

Arthritis sufferers.
Not only does gardening encourage beneficial gentle exercise. A well-designed garden and use of adopted tools can help minimise wear and tear on joints for arthritis sufferers. The very act of creating a well-tended vegetable or flower bed can also provide some distraction from the pain.
As well as the enabled garden design tips I have outlined on this page, like wide, smooth pathways and raised beds. To further help minimize wear and tear on joints for arthritis sufferers. In areas of the garden where you must kneel, install handrails and benches that you can use to lower and lift yourself.
  • The rails will help take some of the weight and stress off of your knees. Installing a water supply in a sensible place will save carrying heavy watering cans, which can stress the forearm, wrist and fingers.
  • Using the correct gardener's tools will help a lot, thin handles can be painful to grip for arthritic hands. So use lightweight tools with thick, padded handles. . Ergonomic gardening tools like hoes, shovels, spades and cultivators are all available with crossbars to make handling easier. 
  • Wearing gloves can help cushion your finger joints and help grip tools. Wearing knee pads and using a good kneeler with side bars makes kneeling easier.

A few more tips to enable gardeners with Arthritis to carry on gardening.. 

Garden in raised beds or containers that minimise bending and stooping. 

Make the garden accessible by installing  pathways three feet wide, with a non-slippery surface with handrails or hand grips.

Use light-weight tools with thick handles that are easy on your joints. Use kneelers and pads. 

Specially adapted tools for easy grip are available from this page on my site  tools for the disabled  

Above all else pace yourself and  take a rest now and then.

Enabled Garden Layout for Wheelchair users,.

Enabled Garden Layout for Wheelchair users,.

Most of the changes to enable a garden I have written about in this article, will also help gardeners who use a wheelchair. However, probably the most important and helpful thing we can do is to build a pathway to and throughout the garden area that is easy and safe to use. 

A Clear Pathway that is easy to navigable and is unobstructed. 

  •  A wheelchair-friendly path should provide a firm and stable surface. Block Pavers are ideal as they are permeable and because they are small can be used to form smooth slopes. Gravel is not a suitable surface material for a wheelchair. 
  • They should be at least 3ft (two 18" slabs) wide with a turning circle large enough to turn a wheelchair around in. 
  • If your path is going to run over different levels, gradual slopes are better than steps. It's also a good idea to fit handrails on the slopes.  
Dimensions. How wide should a pathway for a wheelchair be ? 
1.8m for 2 wheel-chairs or two people side by side. 1.2m for a wheelchair with person alongside. Paths running along the house should take account of windows that open outwards

Gradient of paths

1:15 - recommended maximum gradient.

1:20 is the preferred maximum gradient. A gradient of 1:12 is the maximum given in the British Standards. In practice, this gradient is to steep for older people and wheelchair users. Although a slightly steeper gradient over a shorter distance may be easier to handle than a gentler one over a long distance. Long gradients of more than 1:20 should have level resting areas at about every 30m.

1:100 - preferred maximum Cambers present difficulties for both wheelchair users and people with visual impairments.
More info to help with enabled garden design can be found on my gardening for the elderly and disabled page and pages linked from it.
Above all else pace yourself and  take a rest now and then.