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Raised beds make gardens more accessible

By Jean Gillooly
For The Salisbury Post
With the economy in question and food prices rising, we begin to think about planting some of our own food.
Using raised beds makes the task easier, especially on our backs.
The Master Gardener’s educational garden at the West End Community Park on Brenner Road between the railroad tracks and Horah Street has several examples of raised beds.
There are two wooden raised beds under the lath canopy. This canopy allows rain to water the plants and keeps the hot summer sun from burning them.
The shorter planter is 2 feet high, 4 feet wide and 8 feet long. This is the most versatile. It is the correct height for a wheelchair gardener, working sideways. The top edge of the planter is covered with an 8 inch board for comfortable seating for adults and children.
The 4-foot width allows an easy reach of 2 feet from either side.
Small children can work on the edges with little effort.
The taller planter is 4 feet wide and 8 feet long also. All of the sides have openings with a clearance of 27 inches from the cement floor toaccommodate people in wheelchairs. There are six of these openings.
When we added the box for the 6 inches of soil and the upper board, we exceeded the recommended height of 33 inches for wheelchair gardeners. However, this turns out to be the perfect height for people standing or sitting on 24-inch kitchen stools.
These two beds are held up by vertical timbers to the correct height.
This leaves an open space for drainage and foot room It also requires far less soil than if it were built solidly from the ground.
The soil should have a layer of perlite on the bottom for drainage and then a mixture of good quality potting soil and soil conditioner. All boxes require several holes on the bottom to drain off excess water.Another small combination seat-and-planting square is right for one person or tiny tots for a beginning garden. It is perfect for a little herb garden.
In the center of the garden are a number of boxes of various shapes and sizes,with wide boards to hold soil mix and built right on the ground.
It is preferable to till the area beneath the boxes first to loosen the soil (clay) for better draining. Most of these boxes are 1 foot high, whichstill requires kneeling on the ground or sitting on a rolling cart (or on a 20-inch cheap plastic table, as I do.)
Incorporating some of these ideas could make your backyard gardening more pleasant and easier on your back. Be sure that you have a convenient water source and lots of sun for your vegetables.
Jean Gillooly is a Master Gardener and Registered Horticultural Therapist.

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