Let’s face it. You want to get outside and enjoy our short, but beautiful Minnesota summers. Accessible outdoor spaces are making that possible for people with mobility challenges and those who wish to age in place. There is a wide range of modifications that can be made to make your outdoor space safe and easy to move around in with a cane, wheelchair or walker. These modifications are based on good design that reflects your style. If gardening is something you enjoy, there are many options for landscapes and gardens that are accessible and easy to maintain.
Access Design + Build is pleased to collaborate with Minnehaha Falls Landscaping (MFL) and their branches, Giving Tree Gardens and Minnehaha Remodeling to create beautiful and accessible outdoor environments for entertaining and relaxing. Chesney Engquist is the General Manager at Minnehaha Falls Landscaping. Together, we offer the following information with hopes of giving you a better understanding of what’s involved in making your outdoor space more accessible. If you invite us into your backyard, Chesney and Jeannine will work together to assess your space and create a plan that will include smooth transitions, with no tripping hazards such as stones, pavers or standard decking.
Here are 11 things our team can do to help you age in place and move freely in the great outdoors:
- Mitigating the rise on the thresholds
Thresholds can be up to 3-4 inches high. Temporary attachments, called threshold ramps, make it easy to migrate the rise. You can put the ramp in place and keep it there until the end of summer, or you can build something more permanent out of textured concrete that prevent slipping. It’s also possible to stamp the concrete with pigment stains for an outdoorsy look.
- Replace steps with accessible pathways
The overall goal is to create flat hardscapes with accessible pathways and walkways, retaining walls, decking, and ramps to make it easy for people with walkers and wheelchairs to move around and enjoy the yard. We strive to create safe havens where you can interact with nature, surrounded by healthy ecology, which is good for the mind, body and soul.
- Perforated decking
This is a new product. Decking pieces are placed tightly together to eliminate spaces that can cause tripping and gripping of wheelchair wheels between the slats. Decking and other entertainment areas can be designed to be flat. Three season porches can also be added to an inside home remodel to bring the outdoors in.
- Covered pathways
From garage to house, these pathways keep you protected from rain and snow, and reduces water puddles that lead to ice.
- Accessible grilling
Selection spans from adjustable to customized.
- Outdoor accessible kitchens
Cook outside in the summer! Surfaces and cabinetry can be adapted to meet your needs. Long-lasting outdoor cabinets are available and they’re low maintenance and recyclable.
- Raised Garden Beds and Containers
Retaining wall gardens at tiered levels for flowers and vegetables can be designed to the any scale you like. They can be made from your favorite materials. MFL’s specialty is custom-made cedar wood boxes that are long-lasting and sustainable. There are also durable iron stone containers that can remain in place year-round, so you can reach easily to change the plantings and decorations with the changing of the season.
- Reducing irrigation and lawn maintenance
The goal here is to make it easy to maintain a beautiful yard. One way to do that is to select plants and choose management practices that create conditions for lawns and gardens to thrive while receiving water through its natural flow. With low-impact, low-maintenance landscaping options you don’t have to worry about watering and can also enjoy reducing your environmental impact. It gives you more time to relax and refresh in the outdoor space you love. It’s important to assess the watershed and drainage on your property. Rain gardens are a great way to redirect, capture and cool run-off. They can be any size or shape, but we recommend rounded, half moon, or kidney shaped. We might also suggest installing or adjusting down spouts and a new, safer sidewalk, if needed.
- Adaptive gardening tools
Avid gardeners who are finding garden tasks more difficult and those looking to overcome challenges have been successful in using adaptive gardening tools. Garden scooters, pot caddies, ergonomic and extendable handles, and arm support cuffs are just a few of the items available.
- Low maintenance plant selection
Native plants and spreading shrubs are a great low maintenance strategy. Plant groupings of plants that will establish well together within various conditions of your landscape. You can plant layers of green canopy to protect soil and improve air quality. Add a food forest with native food such as fruited shrubs and greens that will feed people and wildlife. Blooming plants in small and medium spaces are a good choice along with bee-friendly lawns resulting in no mowing and reduced watering.
- Transitioning to organic, non-toxic lawns and gardens
Organic gardening is safer for older adults with health issues, people with allergies, and children. Throw away the signs that say, “it’s not safe for kids and pets to play here” and replace them with a “Bee Safe” yard sign. Bee lawns mean less watering, mowing, mulching and maintenance, and safe landscapes that are low maintenance and beautiful.
Our accessible outdoor spaces are integrated seamlessly, look fabulous, and set the stage for you to relax and enjoy the seasons of Minnesota. We would love to help you make it happen!