Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Handicapped Prepper on Container Gardening

As a handicapped prepper I am on the lookout for ways to adapt prepping to my situation – take gardening for example.  Part of a self reliant life style, gardening is both practical and fulfilling.   
Where large scale gardening is out of the question for some, gardening in a container can be very doable ... if the container is made accessible by raising it to a comfortable working height. 
Following are photos of the herb garden that I made this spring on the top landing of the wheelchair ramp by the back door.  It’s totally accessible from the bottom of the ramp without compromising personal safety, something about which one with special needs has to be vigilant.
The garden was made in a recycled washer tub.  It’s about 52cm (20.5 inches) wide and 32cm (12.5 inches) deep. 
I’ve been fascinated by a new-ish gardening method introduced by an Austrian named Sepp Holzer called hugelkultur (hill garden) where the topsoil is built up on top of a felled tree trunk.  Here is a short video that describes some of the features.  And here is a more in depth article on the subject.  
Hugelkultur gardens are up to six feet high their first year.  By thinking ‘adaptation’ I decided to try the method on a much smaller scale just to see how it would work.  You will see what I mean in just a minute. 

There was an empty washer tub on the property when we bought it 5 years ago.  So, it went into the tinkering pile for safe keeping ........ until now.
Cleaning up the tub.
I got some doudy wood from my father-in-law.  The first rule of handicapped prepping - don't be afraid to ask for help when you need it.  Actually, that goes for any prepper.  Connections are man is an island...etc.
Rotten wood goes on the bottom of garden.
The wood is supposed to act as a sponge to help hold water, and an aerator to give the roots spaces to grow around and air.  It goes in first.  Oh!  There are drain holes in the bottom of the tub, and fiberglass screen to cover them.

I got some potting soil.  You can mix your own, but it's less expensive when gardening small scale to buy it already done.  Pour it over the wood.  (It took 60 liters to fill this container.) As far as I know potting soil is best for containers because it has fertilizer in it.  In containers plants don't have the option of pulling nutrients from around them like they do in a regular garden so they need a helping hand.

Organic Potting Soil

I got some gifted plants from my sister-in-law.  (There's that no man's an island thing again.) 

Gifted Herbs

I got some mulch.  Being on the Eastern coast of Canada I'm using sea grass.  Any organic mulch is good as long as it's put on thick enough to keep the moisture in the soil.  Container soils are susceptible to wind and evaporation so they do dry out very quickly and usually need to be watered often.  Like once or twice day.  But, with mulch not as often.  Put the mulch on top after the plants and seeds are in.

Sea Grass

I made some labels.  Not necessary, but cute.  I can't help it, I'm a girl!

Polished, Stamped River Rock 

What you don't see yet is the parsley and cascading nasturtium seeds in there, but they'll germinate.

Dime in the middle for size perception.

Baby Chives
I thought it was interesting that a spider set up housekeeping on the container right away.  I would like it to stay to help protect the plants from harmful insects.

Pollen Covered Spider's Web
To recap you need:
A container at comfortable working height - with drainage holes and something to cover them to keep soil in
Wood (or something that will act like a sponge to hold water)
Organic potting soil
Plants and seeds suitable for container gardening
Friend to help if/when needed
Spider optional

This project may take days, or even weeks, to accomplish depending on how much mobility one has, and how many people need to be coordinated for drives and tasks that the handicapped person needs to delegate. 

Good luck!

Mini Hugelkultur Herb Garden


  1. excellent article. Have you thought of doing a salad garden the same way?

  2. Nice herb AD mentioned, a salad garden done the same way would be nice. I have an old clawfoot tub on my front yard that would do the trick. If you want it, just pick it up...LOL.

  3. Thank you! Yes, indeed I have thought of building a salad garden in a container too. I'm just waiting for my husband to build the box to fit on the ramp landing.

    I had not thought of a bath tub though. How fun! Wish you lived closer, Denob.

  4. you know, it might be an interesting experiment to see what you could do with elevated container garden next year. Once it was set up at a workable height for you, with rollways for a wheelchair if needed, I imagine you might be able to grow a heckuva lot!