It is important when designing a landscape to take into consideration how the family can grow with the landscape. This is an idea often considered when buying or remodeling a house but not as often with landscape renovations and I’m not sure why. Your landscape needs to grow with you the same as a house does.
When you bought your home did you look for something with an extra bedroom for a future child, or the potential of an elderly parent living with you? Did you think about how many stairs were in the home and accessing living spaces as you get older? Did you consider the same scenarios for your garden space?
Dedicating space in your garden to children
Whether it is your children or your grandchildren you are likely to want a space for them to enjoy being outside. I know firsthand how difficult it can be to draw them away from the TV, haha.
It is sad but true that your children will not be in the same phase /age for long. Many younger families dedicate a large portion of their property to ‘play space’ when the elements within that space are outgrown very quickly. There is only so long that your child will enjoy the rainbow playset. Your child might love soccer now but next year they might abandon their soccer interests for basketball and not need the huge lawn space anymore. It is impossible to know what their interests or needs of the next year or 5 might be. Planning only for current interests and making changes to the space as their interests change can become very costly.
The best way to combat this dilemma and achieve a space that can grow with the family is to focus on a family gathering space. Who doesn’t long for more family time anyways!
Family gathering space can include elements like:
- Large gathering patio space
- Space for a hot tub if you would enjoy one
- Fire pits are enjoyable for all ages
- Space for portable/temporary lawn games
Leave the ‘play space’ and activity specific elements to the local park or choose items that can easily be interchanged or transformed.
Some items that can be transformed overtime are:
- A tree house with play elements that can transform into a club house for a teen retreat
- A playhouse that can be turned into a she-shed when your child goes off to college (who wouldn’t love a chic place to sip wine and get lost in a book- provided the time)
- Sleeves in a patio or landscape space that can be used for multiple uses: volleyball net posts, tetherball pole, post for string lights, posts to tether a sheet for outdoor movies… the possibilities are endless
What about the other end of the spectrum?
Creating a garden for the home you plan to retire in
Once your children are grown and move out you can finally reclaim your yard and not feel the need to dedicate space for activities you don’t partake in. The best use and investment in your garden will again be to create usable space. That could mean entertaining space, a vegetable garden, or a place to store your project car while you work on it. Everyone’s interests and hobbies will demand different things from their space. But… what if you plan to retire in your home? You may be very able-bodied right now but many people develop mobility issues as they age. Taking into consideration the accessibility of your garden space can be very important and allow you to enjoy your garden without making further investments to modify it as you age.
Some ways to keep your garden easily accessible as you age are:
- Reduce stairs. Where stairs are needed try to split into smaller groups of stairs of only a couple stairs together. Three sets of 2 stairs with a landing in between will be easier to navigate than 6 stairs all together (not to mention more interesting).
- Consider adding handrails. Handrails are only required by code for runs of 4 or more stairs together but can be added to any number of stairs to aid those who have difficulty with stairs.
- Keep pathways wide. I prefer all pathways to be at least 4 feet wide if space allows. Small spaces often opt for narrower pathways, but the narrower pathway will make it more challenging to navigate for users with wheelchairs or walkers.
- Consider the surface for patios and pathways. The more solid the surface the easier it will be to maneuver on for wheelchairs, moving furniture around, and will not cause tripping hazards. Loose materials that do not compact such as pea gravel will be much more challenging.
- Ensure your garden is well lit. Add outdoor lighting in key wayfinding locations and transitions like stairs.
- Add spots to rest in the garden. This can be done by adding interesting places to place a bench or by placing seat walls around a patio or raised garden beds in your vegetable garden with a cap wide enough to sit on while gardening. Raised garden beds are also easier to maintain as well.
What stage of life are you and your garden in? Does your garden meet only the needs you have now, or will it easily grow and transition with you as life changes? Need more ideas for your garden, I would love to talk with you about the potential your garden holds.