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Gardening for physically challenged Veterans

Every year many veterans are affected by physical and mental disabilities. These veterans like to garden too and we as a society have the opportunity to create something of which the veterans can build on. Planning a garden for veterans can be a very rewarding undertaking but we have to keep costly mistakes to a minimum. Everybody should have some input into this project such as medical care practitioners, recreational and administrative staff family and caregivers too.

Let us not overlook the input from the veterans because they have some excellent ideas. In addition, generate eagerness and commitment toward the project. The reason for planning this veteran’s garden is towards new opportunities such as physical exercise, mental and social needs. Also to understand the age difference of the veterans we are planning for and this can also be:

  • To improve the present environment
  • Develop gardening as a hobby
  • Develop social skills
  • Encourage physical activity
  • Teach the basics of plant and animal life
  • Supply the opportunity to talk one on one in an outdoor environment
  • Inspire visual gratitude of nature

How to Ensure a Good Growing Season and Positive Experience for the veterans:

  • Always watch the sun movement in conjunction with sunny or shade plant material. A vegetable garden should be grown in a north-south direction.
  • Ensure to shelter from sun and wind, because a comfortable outside environment attracts the veteran to go outside.
  • Recognize and be aware that physically challenged veterans are sensitive to light and temperature differences.
  • Security is of great importance and the possibility of animal damage or vandalism.
  •   Purchase ‘allergy-friendly’ trees or shrubs that attract butterflies or hummingbirds.
  •   Look for plants with a strong fragrance for the visually impaired child – such plants when dried make wonderful  smelling sachets.     But…… high fragrant plants might ‘trigger’ asthma incidences.  ALWAYS check first!!
  • Attracting birds, hummingbirds & butterflies.
  • Plants for drying used for crafts indoors.
  • Choose the proper anti-slip paved stones.
  • Raised bed gardening is great for everyone.
  • Situate bird feeding stations which can be observed from different windows.
  •  Create social or shaded work corners.

The water supply at different areas should be frost-free, and the hose and tap lines need to be flushed out (empty) at the end of the growing season.

There is no greater joy than seeing plants flowering and reaching for the sunshine, as they sway gently in the breeze. All veterans regardless of their level of handicap can be filled with the wonder of nature and pride in participating in the garden.

The handicap may limit their involvement, but even holding a watering can or garden hose will allow veterans to have a part in the gardening experience. Introduce veterans to the joys of the earth and watch their reactions as they get their hands dirty and help to grow beautiful flowers and/or the bounty of homegrown vegetables.

Gardening knows no bounds!

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Peter Prakke

Peter Prakke is a horticultural consultant in Ancaster, Ontario. After emigrating from the Netherlands to Canada, Peter furthered his knowledge as a horticulturist to share his expertise in the horticultural industry. In 2014, Peter presented as a guest speaker at the Canadian Urban Forest Conference – London, Ontario his initiative on “A Plan for Cities to Combat Pollen Allergies and Asthma.” For six years, he conducted evening gardening classes, at Mohawk College, Hamilton, ranging from beginner to specific seasonal gardening topics. Peter is the recipient of the Garden Communicator Award for Canada from Landscape Ontario, Canada’s largest Horticultural Trade Association. For many years, he was a volunteer at McMaster University, Hamilton, working with cancer patients and challenged children through horticultural therapy. To honour our Canadian soldiers, Peter originated the Bravery Park™. The parks with allergy-friendly maple trees are a tribute to soldiers for their courage, bravery, and dedication to freedom. To improve schoolyards for children with allergies and asthma, Peter initiated the Allergy Friendly Schoolyard© for North America and Europe. In 2015, Peter submitted a Private Members Bill to the Ontario Government, called the Allergy Friendly Schoolyard Act, 2015. The goal is for no more male clonal, pollen producing – native or non-native, asthma causing shrubs and trees in the schoolyards in Ontario. Peter has served as board director of the non-profit group SAFE gardening, which offers a healthy alternative to the all-too-common highly allergenic landscapes. He is presently researching allergenic plants, shrubs and trees in ongoing collaboration with Thomas Ogren, American lecturer and author of the Allergy-Fighting Garden, and the Ogren Plant Allergy Scale OPALS®.

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