One of the stereotypical images that might spring to mind when you think of someone gardening is someone on their hands and knees with a trowel. After all, the soil is at foot-level and that’s where you sow your seeds. Of course, not everyone finds it so easy - or possible - to work in that way. There are those of us with mobility issues, back pain or chronic pain who find it difficult to bend over or kneel down to ground level for periods of time. Wheelchair users will find it easier to work at an elevated level. Plus as we age in general, it pays to avoid straining ourselves as much as possible. Actually scratch that - it’s good to take care of your back at any age!
Fortunately there are ways that we can raise our vegetable beds to a more accessible level and create for ourselves an ‘elevated garden’. This is where tall raised beds, planters or containers come in. Raised beds have a number of advantages when it comes to vegetable growing; one of those advantages is to make tending to your crops more comfortable, accessible and ergonomic. Then of course there’s the additional benefits of raised bed gardening:
- They make it easier to till and prepare soil for planting, or adjust the soil make-up
- They can reduce pest problems (as well as family pet mischief!)
- In general they have better drainage than traditional vegetable beds, which can prove invaluable during a wet summer
- Extra depth of soil in the beds allows for bumper crops
- The soil tends to remain light and uncompacted, as you never walk on it
- They warm quicker in the spring, which can give you a headstart on the growing season
- They are a great way of organising the garden in an aesthetically pleasing way!
Vegtrugs are wooden trough-shaped planters on legs that keep them off the ground. They are typically around 80cm in height, which makes them one of the tallest raised beds you will find supplied.
As well as the posture-friendly height of the planter, the unique V-shaped design provides space on either side for easy wheelchair access with plenty of knee room. This means that a wheelchair user or someone using a stool to sit on can tend to their crops facing forward, as opposed to turning sideways to work the bed (as with other planters or beds).
You can grow a real variety of crops with the Vegtrug. People like to use it as a herb or salad planter and keep it close to the kitchen, but anything from carrots to brassicas to potatoes can be grown in the raised planter. The bottom of the planter is up to 17 inches deep at the centre, allowing room for roots to stretch out. An added benefit of the V-shaped design is that you can combine shallow-rooting plants on the outside of the bed with deeper ones in the middle. It’s like a little microcosm of garden planning!
Vegtrugs are supplied flat-packed with simple instructions to follow - it can be put together in about 15-20 minutes and comes complete with a fabric liner (this keeps the compost or soil separated from the wood). Feel free to take a handful of worms from the garden and ‘introduce’ them to your Vegtrug soil; they can really get things moving and foster a healthy soil.
Needless to say, the Vegtrugs are a very good solution for urban gardeners who may not have a lot of outdoor growing space in the form of a big garden and so on. They’re also a really encouraging way to start growing on a small scale if you’re not quite ready to go about digging your garden or preparing larger areas for planting.
As well as the ‘V’ design, there are other easy access Vegtrug models like the Herb Garden or the Raised Herb Planter: the Raised Herb Planter features eight neatly and equally divided sections for growing herbs, with a storage shelf on the bottom for keeping equipment, pots etc. The Herb Garden is similarly divided into sections, and can hold 40-50 litres of compost.
Castleton Raised Beds (28 Inches)
Our Castleton Raised Bed comes with a choice of two heights, with the taller of the two options coming in at 28 inches (72cm) high, which is a very accessible height for gardening.
It makes for a very attractive flower or vegetable bed, strengthened by 10cm square posts at each corner. A distinctive feature of the Castelton raised bed is the 7-inch wide finishing top extending all around the bed. This can be used for seating or support as you tend to your crops, minimising strain or the amount of time you spend on your feet.
Premier FSC Timber Raised Beds (21 Inches)
These beds look great and are easy to work with, whether you use them in the garden, polytunnel or allotment. Made from pressure treated spruce timber with a smooth planed finish, the boards are 1.25 inches thick and the beds themselves come in a range of sizes and dimensions. They are very easy to assemble using the supplied instructions leaflet.
The taller versions of the Premier Raised Beds we supply come in at 21 inches high. This can make tending to your vegetables more comfortable and reduce the need for bending and back strain. Some options come with a ‘lip’ that extends around the frame of the bed, in effect providing bench-type seating to use while you tend to your vegetable bed. The lip can also serve as a support when gardening.
Whether 21 inches will be high enough for accessible gardening will depend on personal circumstances. It’s a fair bit lower than waist height, and if you’re a wheelchair user or have a bad back, hip pain etc then it may still require you to garden at a level that can cause discomfort as you reach into the bed. In these cases the Vegtrugs or other waist high beds may be a better option.
There is also the option of our 20 inch high Premier Raised Bed that includes bench seats on both ends. This 6ft x 4ft bed comes in an easy to assemble kit.
Remember: the higher the bed the more soil you will need: a 6 ft x 6 ft 21 inch bed will take roughly 20 x 60 litre bags of soil to fill it completely. When choosing a width for your raised bed, keep in mind that you should be able to reach the centre of the bed from all sides without straining yourself.