How to make your garden more accessible

 In Garden Design, Landscaping

Struggling to use your garden as much as you’d like to? Here’s how to make your garden more accessible.

With some clever garden design tricks, almost any garden can be made more accessible. Whether you struggle with steep slopes, slippery paths, or narrow entranceways, Dan Richards from Silver Birch Gardens can help. In this article, he reveals some of his trade secrets.

accessible garden with raised beds

Designed with easy to maintain surfaces and just one small step, this garden in North Curry is easy accessible

  • Ensure gates are wide enough and easy to lock/unlock
  • Re contour slopes so that they are safe and manageable
  • Check the levels and avoid unnecessary steps
  • Make paths and patios wide and easy to manoeuvre on
  • Choose surfaces wisely – they need to be slip-resistant but wheelchair friendly
  • Provide plenty of resting places – give each one a point of interest
  • Use raised beds to allow for gardening without bending
  • Get the lighting right so that everyone feels safe

Gates and entranceways

My first thought when designing any garden, is, selfishly, “which of my landscaping machines will fit through the garden gate?” So I understand perfectly how frustrating it must be if your own garden is out of bounds because there’s no suitable entrance.

An accessible garden needs to be just that – accessible. Is there a huge step from the back door to the patio? Are the gates wide enough to accommodate mobility aids? Does the driveway slope so steeply that getting to the front door feels like climbing a mountain?

When I’m designing a garden I try to consider all of these aspects and find a way to work with the levels and the access to make sure that everyone who wants to enjoy the garden can do so whenever they like. I’ll also confess that I do tend to futureproof every garden I design. Think forward 10 or even 20 years – as needs change, the garden must be able to adapt.

patio level with door sill

Recessed lighting and careful levels create a great indoor-outdoor experience for these homeowners

Slopes and accessibility

Working as a garden designer and a landscaper in Somerset, sloping gardens are a part of everyday life. I try to find imaginative ways to turn slopes into attractive features.

Re-contouring your garden to make slopes more manageable is a worthwhile investment for any garden. Creating a series of broad, flat areas means that each part of your garden feels safe underfoot.

Terraces can be really exciting. You can use straight lines or curves, zig-zag the flat surfaces to minimise the drop between them, use swooshing ramps as a transition rather than steps and create a choice of routes from one part of the garden to another.

Planting on terraces offers the opportunity to see plants from different angles. It never ceases to amaze me how seeing foliage and flowers at eye level is so different to looking at them from above.

Seating spots and points of interest

small intimate seating area

Well placed seats offer somewhere to rest awhile

A garden should be somewhere that encourages its owner to sit and spend quality time with a book, a podcast, or just contemplating life.  For garden visitors that tire easily, punctuating the journey around the garden with places to sit is crucial. Knowing that it’s possible to enjoy your outside space without worrying about overdoing it, will hopefully create the confidence to spend more time out of doors.

Each seating spot should have a point of interest. Something to stimulate the senses. Depending on the garden and the person, I might design in a scented plant, a great view, a shady tree or a water feature.

Choosing Landscaping Surfaces

I do try to specify hard landscaping surfaces that are in keeping with the property. However, I’ll also be thinking about practical matters too. How easy will the surfaces be to maintain? Would artificial grass be better than a natural lawn? Textured stone more practical than porcelain paving? What about colour? Edging steps with a lighter coloured stone can be a big help to the visually impaired.

Raised beds for easy gardening

accessible raised beds

There’s plenty of scope for planting in these raised beds.
With a wide, smooth path beside them, they can be accessed from a mobility scooter, or alternatively, they’re a good height to sit on while you work.

Bending and stretching can be difficult for some. Raised beds mean that you don’t need to stoop to smell the flowers, the plants are at a more manageable height. How high do you want your raised beds? Do you want to sit on the edge of the bed to tend your plants? Will you be working from your wheelchair? Or would you prefer a tactile, low maintenance living wall? Every accessible garden I design is tailored to the homeowner’s needs and personal taste.

Lighting your garden

Lastly, but by no means least, garden lighting can make a huge difference to accessibility. By illuminating paths, steps, gates, etc the garden feels so much safer. Lighting also means that the garden can be used later into the evening. And looking out onto a beautifully lit garden completely changes the ambiance inside the house.

Lots to think about……

There are all sorts of factors involved in designing and building a garden that is beautiful and accessible. If you are thinking about making your garden easier to use, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. I’d love to help you overcome your challenges.

Contact Dan

Related Articles

Take a look at the range of landscaping services offered by Silver Birch Gardens

How to make the most of a sloping garden

Case study – a low maintenance accessible garden in Templecombe 



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