Gardening in West Virginia

    "A garden is a grand teacher. It teaches patience and careful watchfulness..."
- Gertrude Jekyll, garden designer and writer  

 Gardening is one of the most popular leisure activities in the United States. People who garden can experience benefits, such as relaxation, learning, exercise, satisfaction of accomplishment, mood elevation, quality food, environmental impact and the curb appeal of a beautiful garden.

 Yet, gardening can be a challenge for people with chronic health conditions. Unfortunately, a person might stop gardening because it becomes too difficult. Another person may not choose to take up the hobby because of barriers or limitations.

Accessible Gardening

 People with disabilities can enjoy the benefits of gardening too. One solution may be accessible gardening. Accessible gardening is about matching how people garden with their skills and abilities - matching what they can do with how they can do it. Accessible gardening uses universal design to create gardens that people of all ages and abilities can enjoy. It focuses on finding other ways to do things, like using Assistive Technology e.g., a trowel with a wide curved handle and adaptive gardening methods e.g., raised garden beds or container gardening. 

Assistive technology and adaptive gardening methods can offer effective options for individuals with a variety of limitations who want to begin, continue or return to gardening. To learn more about accessible gardening, visit our factsheet series

Garden Groups

 There are a variety of gardening groups available in WV, such as state and local garden clubs and community gardens. For more information, visit the West Virginia Garden Club

Another way of gardening together is by participating in a Master Gardener group in WV. The Master Gardener Program is operated by the West Virginia University Extension Service through the county Extension offices. The Program provides training to gardeners "with the opportunity to improve their horticultural knowledge and skills and then share their experience with the public through organized volunteer activities". There are over 1,200 active master gardeners in WV. 

    "My green thumb came only as a result of the mistakes I made while learning to see things from the plant's point of view."
- H. Fred Dale

Green Thumbs, Healthy Joints

The Green Thumbs, Healthy Joints Project is an excellent example of combining accessible gardening with community gardening. Since 2007, Green Thumbs, Healthy Joints has provided 90+ mini-grants to Master Gardener groups and non-profit organizations, for the purpose of making gardening accessible to West Virginians with arthritis and joint limitations. It provides organizations with the opportunity to perform community service by making gardening accessible.

 Since its inception, the Project has worked hard to increase awareness and educate West Virginians about joint health, ergonomics, assistive technology and alternative planting methods. Hundreds of seniors, master gardeners and volunteers have united in a shared learning experience about using accessible tools and techniques. Through the Project, individuals have collectively applied that knowledge to growing flowers, herbs, fruits and vegetables while cultivating an inclusive agricultural community throughout the state. The results are evident in the vibrant gardens they grew together at community centers, senior center centers, fair grounds and public parks throughout the state of West Virginia. 

    "The projects have inspired senior staff and seniors to maintain their plants and expand their outdoor gardens..." - Mineral County Family Resource Network   

The Green Thumbs, Healthy Joints Project is funded by the West Virginia Division of Health Promotion and Chronic Disease, WV Osteoporosis and Arthritis Program. Their mission is to "reduce the prevalence of Osteoporosis and Arthritis in West Virginia by providing information on prevention and education, making available information on treatment, and lessening pain and disability by encouraging individuals to maintain productive lives". For more information, visit the West Virginia Osteoporosis & Arthritis Program

Green Thumbs, Healthy Joints is administered by the West Virginia Assistive Technology System (WVATS) at West Virginia University Center for Excellence in Disabilities (CED). To learn more, call 800-841-8436 or visit the Green Thumbs webpage.