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Outdoor Living and Gardening Made Easy

Gardening doesn't have to be a chore, you can even have the garden come to you.

People often assume they can no longer do something they enjoy simply because they cannot continue the way they've always done it. Like most things universally designed for the home, your outdoor living areas and activities can be accommodated and inclusive for people of any age or circumstance so nobody should have to give up hobbies and activities which make them happy.

This is particularly true of flower and vegetable gardening. If you've got a deck, patio or yard of any size, you can garden by choosing an efficient and accessible method from numerous options. Before I list some alternatives and resources, let's review the ideal conditions for any outdoor activity.

Similar to accomplishing life tasks inside the house, outside the walls should also be universally designed and constructed to promote ease of use, efficient movement/transport, control and safety. Just as with inside, you want to eliminate or at least minimize the occurrences of stretching, stooping or reaching. Similar to indoor flooring, outdoor ground cover and pathways, whether in the yard or a deck, patio or sidewalk, should be firm, non-slip and spacious enough to allow turning. Avoid elevation changes, tripping hazards or anything that might cause loss of control or potential for falling.

So with gardening, whether in the yard or on a deck/patio, use raised beds, planter pots, boxes or hanging baskets. One of my favorite, collapsable containers is Smart Pots, which hold a deceptive amount of soil and stow away easily for the winter.

If raised beds, have a top shelf or rim wide enough to sit or place items if you'll be working alongside in a chair. Make certain the planting area within the box or bed isn't too expansive for you to comfortably tend the middle area without overextending your reach. Plan a path around the entire bed/box so you can easily plant, weed and water without straining, ideally from a seated position for the most versatility so you can choose to sit if you feel like it.

Other options, planter boxes can have table legs (knee space) or be clamped to deck rails or fencing at a desired level for easy reach. Planter pots and boxes can be on caster wheels or rolling carts. Employ pulleys for hanging baskets or combine different containers and methods, like vertical growing using lattice, racks, poles/stakes or cords/string. Just because you cannot or don't want to wrestle a tiller doesn't mean you have to give up gardening.

Among on-line resources to learn more, home retailer Lowe's provides plans and specs for a Four Square Garden which includes features I just described. A Georgia Tech engineer, Mel Bartholomew, innovated Square Foot Gardening (SFG) simply because he was too busy with work to fool with a full sized garden. And gardening has become so specialized, manufacturers and retailers offer custom tools to make the hobby less of a chore for anyone of any ability.

I could do an entire post about different ground applications but whether in the yard or sidewalk/patio, you want a level, firm, non-slip surface which redirects or drains water. Plastic mesh products called "grass pave" or "long life lattice" permit grass to grow while providing support underfoot. There are roll-out path systems made of recycled rubber and glass, pervious concrete/pavers and porous asphalt. What's best for you depends on your property characteristics, goals and personal preference.

One final note, make certain your watering devices (e.g. hose, sprinkler) don't pose a tripping hazard.

Use these ideas to take the hassle out of gardening. It can be as simple as planting in a pot so get out there, dig in and enjoy!

Final stop on our tour of a universal home, the garage, which often isn't noticed until it becomes an unbearable mess or obstacle course.

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President Todd Hawkins preaches building science and Universal Design (UD) to teach the benefits of an efficient, convenient, comfortable and flexible Lifetime Home. Also follow him on Twitter @BuilderFish for short tips about how kid-friendly UD makes home life easier and more secure for any person of any age or ability.

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