Horticultural Therapy at Growing Gardens

Colorado may pride itself on having more than 300 days of sunshine a year, but its growing season is remarkably short. With just four true warm-weather months free from the risk of frost (although hail in June wouldn't be out of the ordinary), Coloradoans anxiously anticipate the start of spring knowing that in just a few short weeks all will be enjoying the abundance of the summer harvest.

Gardeners talking
Image used with permission from Growing Gardens

Gardeners have long known that a little sun and soil does the body good. Not only does it provide a great source of exercise, but it's also considered a great leisure activity that's relaxing and incredibly restorative. Plus, gardening is also a wonderful opportunity to make friends and engage with others in the community.

Enter Growing Gardens, an urban agriculture nonprofit that works collaboratively with the community to create learning opportunities within a garden setting. From overseeing more than 11 different community gardens around Boulder County, to offering a wide array of seasonal classes, a food donation program, and even a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program, the mission of Growing Gardens is to enrich the lives of the community through sustainable urban agriculture. In fact, local gardeners who lease garden beds within the community gardens donate around 1,000 pounds (454 kg) of food to the community each year through programs like Boulder Food Rescue!

Gardeners working in plant beds

Image used with permission from Growing Gardens

Programs at Growing Gardens range from garden maintenance and harvesting, to cooking and even urban composting. Specific programs, like the Horticultural Therapy program, were designed for seniors and groups with different abilities to help increase motor, cognitive, and psychological functions. Partnering with local agencies such as Imagine!, Growing Gardens sets aside several accessible raised garden beds for "in-the-garden" activities like garden planning and design, seeding and transplanting gardens, and much more.

I met with Taylor Drexler, Marketing and Developmental Director at Growing Gardens, whose infectious enthusiasm for gardening made me want to pick up a trowel and start cleaning up some garden beds right then and there. Leaving behind a career in the tech industry to join the team at Growing Gardens, Drexler is a long-time gardener herself who was drawn to the mission behind the organization. "Growing Gardens was founded on the belief that gardening and access to fresh food should be available to everyone in the community," said Drexler, "Through our programs, the community has the chance to come together and get involved in their local food system–from learning to garden and cooking with fresh produce, to making aromatherapy spritzers in our Horticultural Therapy classes. There is something for everyone." Drexler told me that some of the best collaboration occurs through connections between the Growing Gardens programs: "Children in our summer camps will create flower bouquets to give to seniors in our Horticultural Therapy program, and that's really special to see."

To learn more about Growing Gardens or to sign up for one of their programs, please visit their website.

Seniors making aromatherapy spritzers

Image used with permission from Growing Gardens

How to Create Your Own Accessible Garden

Eager to get a little more sun and soil into your life but not sure where to start? There is a variety of opportunities to make your outdoor space a little greener and more accessible:

Raised Beds

These higher plant beds raise the level of your plants to a height more suited to varying abilities. Ideal for those who may have difficulty reaching.

Adaptive Gardening Tools

Designed for those of differing abilities or with limited hand strength, adaptive gardening tools feature extra-large and textured grips and also work to minimize strain and fatigue.

Add Space

Wheelchair users in particular may find that wider, flatter pathways between garden beds will make maneuvering around plants much easier.

Incorporate More Seating

The best part about your garden is spending the time to enjoy it! More manufacturers are integrating benches with raised planters to make the gardening more inviting and to give people an easy spot to rest.

Self-Watering Planters

Perfect for smaller patios or apartment balconies, self-watering planters come in an array of sizes and take care of a lot of the work themselves. Simply fill the water reservoir once a week or less and you'll have happy plants all season long!

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Date: 7/9/2019 12:00:00 AM

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