Gardening While Using a Wheelchair: How One Man Recovered from Injury to Grow Again

| 3/9/2016 10:31:00 AM

As a child in the 60s and 70s, it was always a treat to get to help my grandfather, who we called Bop, in the garden. Riding the school bus to Bop’s house after school is a vivid memory that I cherish. In the spring, I was constantly asking, “When is the man with the tractor going to come plow and disc the field?” which was Bop’s garden.

Eventually, when the ground reached the appropriate temperature and moisture level, the man would show up and the smell of newly plowed earth would fill the air. The entry-level position was tilling and in time, you graduated to opening rows, dropping seeds, and closing rows.

Eventually, he allowed me to raise my own garden next to his. Soon, another wonderful man, the local agriculture teacher and FFA adviser saw me in the garden as he drove by. He stopped and gave me the recruitment spiel. I was hooked. Before long, gardening was joined with showing pigs, forestry, and soil judging. I graduated high school with hopes of becoming a veterinarian, but little did I know there was a fork in the road coming up quickly.

Approximately six weeks after graduating high school, I pulled up to a stop sign in the little town where I lived and was accidentally shot in the neck by a 14-year-old boy playing with a rifle in his home. This injury left me a quadriplegic. After months of hospitals and rehab, I was able to enroll in college. My desire for growing things began to reignite and I started with houseplants and a terrarium. That grew to lettuce and tomatoes on the patio. Then, I put gardening aside for several years while I started and ran a small business and got married.

One day, I saw my dad reading Square-Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew. I got my own copy and couldn't put it down. Wow, raised beds were the answer for me. From my electric wheelchair, I could reach the soil if it was raised 8-12 inches. I had someone construct four 4-foot-by-4-foot squares. My love for growing things was not just reignited, it was fully engulfed. Eventually, I was bringing so much dirt into the house on my wheels that I elected to concrete the walkways around the beds. Since then, I’ve expanded my raised-bed garden several times. I may not need to tell you, but I am a confessed overdoer.

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