DIGA – Uniquely Designed Gardens For Those With Disabilities

By Caroline Bloomfield | January 27, 2022
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by Caroline Bloomfield
January 27, 2022

What a perfect acronym for this generous, important organization! The DIGA acronym stands for Disabled Independent Gardeners Association, a group devoted to helping people who want to garden but may not otherwise have the mobility or dexterity to garden by themselves. DIGA has established 14 special community gardens (so far) in the Vancouver, BC metropolis. 

Recipients of a 2020 Gardening Know How community garden sponsorship, Shareen Pasco explains that DIGA gardens are specially constructed for those who require assistance from mobility devices like wheelchairs, scooters, walkers or canes. 

DIGA’s garden beds are uniquely built for different needs, and are a product of the good will and hard work of donors and volunteers. All DIGA’s gardens are designed to accommodate those who need to navigate with assistance  – wheelchair wheels can roll all the way up under the edge of raised tabletop garden beds, scooters can sidle up to the beds, and for those with a unique special need, the volunteers will modify a bed or construct a new one to meet it. Customized adaptive tools are available and pathways are wheelchair friendly. DIGA’s gardeners range in age between 65 and 70, although there is currently a delightful 91-year-old gardener. Gardeners become so eager to get out in the gardens again, they begin to ask as early as January.

Sea Soil

DIGA aims for organically grown everything, including mulching and fertilizing. They purchase compost and soil locally, and specifically use Sea Soil, a product of Vancouver Island. Needless to say, these gardens produce an abundance of produce and flowers.

Help and Support

Shareen tells us volunteers at the gardens are plentiful and many return year after year. Gardeners who sign up with DIGA are each assigned to their own special volunteer who assists them in learning how to have a hands-on experience of gardening and helps with any special needs so they can comfortably attend to their plots. They meet on a weekly or biweekly basis to amend soil, plant seeds, weed, water and harvest. They are knowledgeable and helpful with determining the need for custom tools and their use. The volunteers love to share their knowledge and experience and, Shareen says, they love to talk about food!

The GF Strong Therapeutic Garden

The GF Strong Center is British Columbia’s largest rehabilitation hospital. DIGA’s GF Strong Therapeutic garden was a work in progress when the application for Gardening Know How’s community garden sponsorship arrived. 

This garden, containing 10 raised beds, was completed in April of 2021. Unfortunately, due to COVID restrictions, there’s been no celebration or grand opening as of yet, and for a period of time, no one was allowed into the garden. But a grand opening on a large scale will take place here next year, when the site will also begin to offer learning workshops. DIGA’s pre-pandemic workshops featured, among other subjects, a nutritionist who gave gardeners new insights about how to use gardening as a pathway to healthy eating.

We sincerely appreciate DIGA’s excellent efforts to enrich and improve the lives of those with disabilities. Volunteers and dedicated individuals like Shareen Pasco are rewarded with the enthusiasm of their gardening visitors. Gardening brings new life energy to those who might otherwise be housebound or without an easily accessible space. DIGA’s gardeners gain increased self-confidence and a renewed interest in their own health, as any focus on their disability fades a bit with the magical process of planting, nurturing and growing a garden.

Every year, Gardening Know How awards $1,000 to 20 different, hand-picked garden projects across the United States and Canada. If your community or school garden has a growing, unmet need for more soil, seeds, fertilizers, building materials, or even just help getting the word out about your program, we’re ready and willing to help you meet those needs. As community gardens and school gardening programs spring up all over, we’re happy to do our part to help.

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