Plant a Patio Sensory Garden

Frog planter with moss

If you would be happy all your life, plant a garden.

—Chinese Proverb

Patio gardens are a beautiful way to bring the beauty of the outdoors closer to you. You can enjoy the garden while sitting on the patio, but you can also usually enjoy the plants from a window. Bringing a garden to the patio makes it more accessible to folks who find it hard walking or working in the yard and need to garden from a seated position. And of course, a sensory garden is unique in that it charms all of our senses. See The Sensory Garden.

To create a sensory garden here’s what you’ll need:

  • Pots and containers of your choice-You can decide what containers are right for you and how many you would like to have. Plastic containers are lighter weight than ceramic or wooden containers, therefore are easier to move.
  • Plant caddies make it easier to move pots around on the patio. With caddies you can bring the pot right up to someone who is seated to work on. (These are available at most garden centers)
  • Potting soil
  • Plants (see below)
  • Water-See this post on Easy Garden Watering Tip.
  • Gardening tools like hand-held shovels, hand-held claws, watering cans, gloves

Plants and garden elements that appeal to the senses:

Sense of Touch

  • lambs ear
  • moss
  • grasses (those without sharp edges)

Sense of Smell

  • any of the mints (peppermint or spearmint)
  • herbs (basil, oregano, chives, dill, rosemary, sage, etc…)
  • lavender
  • Dianthus

Sense of Taste

  • strawberries (there are strawberry pots for these if you wish)
  • herbs
  • spinach
  • lettuce
  • peppers
  • tomatoes

Sense of Sight

  • Any vibrant flower that grows well in your area in pots
  • garden art like stones, animals, gnomes, plant stakes, wind socks, (see fairy gardens for one kind of garden art)

Sense of Sound

  • grasses
  • chimes
  • small fountain
  • wind socks

Tips for planting with an older loved one:

  • First plan your garden. What plants need to be in full sun and what will love shade? What plants can be grouped together? Check labels on your plants or consult a local garden center for more information.
  • Place your plant caddie under your container, then fill with soil.
  • Watch plants that will spread such as mint. I usually grow this in a container by itself as it may take over the entire pot.
  • Wheel the pots up to an older person or bring a chair up to the pot for easier access.
  • Use tools that are easy to use. See The Senior Gardener’s Toolbox for adaptations.
  • Maintenance will include, watering, cutting or pinching back herbs, deadheading flowers, and picking produce.

Tips for enjoying the sensory garden:

  • Create a nice place to sit and enjoy.
  • Wheel the pots up to someone (if you’ve used a caddie) when maintenance is needed.
  • Pinch back herbs to enjoy the sense of smell. Sometimes I like to pinch off some leaves of my peppermint plant and stick it in my pocket. I take it out and smell it throughout the day.
  • Eat fresh produce.
  • Make something from your sensory garden:  tea from the peppermint; a salad from the lettuce, spinach, and tomatoes; pressed flowers; etc…
  • Enjoy the plants through all the senses such as running hands over the moss and lambs ear, listening to the birds and wind chimes, tasting strawberries, smelling the herbs, and enjoying the colors of all the plants. Talk about and take notice of all there is in your sensory garden. Each day in a garden will be different: plants will change, grow, and produce; different animals, birds, and bugs may surprise you; and the weather will likely not always be the same.

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