I posted an article from another blog on my facebook feed a while back called “Gardening for those with autism and special needs.” I’ve been wanting to plant a garden for the last two years, so that post was extremely motivating. I put the word out on my facebook wall and my pals at Urbivores sent me a short list of recommended veggies.

Our garden started out like this:

And now it looks like this:

So why gardening and autism? The blog post I mentioned discussed a study by the Royal Horticultural Society that concluded gardening is “conducive to development” for people with special needs. From a personal perspective, I see the simple OT applications. Gardening is a very tactile activity that has a ton of different textures. Its also measurable, ie you plant something and something grows. Its not instant gratification, but it is gratifying.

However, when I began writing this post I thought “someone might want to know more about this so I should back it up with more info.” To that end, I found the links below as both evidence and inspiration.

DESIGN GUIDELINES OF A THERAPEUTIC GARDEN FOR AUTISTIC CHILDREN – thesis from a grad student at LSU. Great overview of the healing and restorative power of gardening as well as a guide for creating a therapeutic garden. Full of good tips.

Article from the Autism Education Trust – more info on the RHS study. It makes some good points about the relaxing nature of gardening.

Sensory Gardens article from Autism Blogger – another great blog post that goes into the sensory aspects of gardening.

For our garden we built a square foot garden as suggested by Mel Bartholomew. His book is worth reading, and his soil mix is top notch. Everything we planted has come up. Mine is a basic 6′ X 1′ box that I have screwed onto the rail of my deck. Not the most efficient, but the most logical for me and Raymond for two reasons. First, our deck has a gate so we’re in a contained environment. Second its convenient so I know the plants will get watered!

This year we didn’t start til midsummer so we were limited in our crops, but next year I hope to expand a little and have the full growing season at my disposal. Right now we have cucumbers, yellow squash, zucchini, short carrots (the box is only 6″ deep) and spinach. I also put up a smaller planter with basil and lettuce. I’m not really sure how the lettuce and spinach will do, as they are a spring/fall type plant and I planted them in august. Also, the basil might not come to fruition before the frost as the packet said it was a 70-80 day time frame. Still, I’m glad we tried some stuff and now I know that we can do it.

Raymond is super excited about it. He helped me plant the seeds and he helps water them almost every day. We check on the plants every day and he comments on how much certain ones have grown. He is really interested in it. We were a little overzealous in planting and may have some stuff too close together, but I figure we can cull a little once the plants get a little older.