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Adaptive Planters Installed at Sautee-Nacochee Community Center

Mason Westmoreland Scholarship Recipient
February 3, 2019

By Carol Balaun

The roots of this project go back a long way. The principal recipient, Carol Balaun, is a retired pediatric nurse with a long history of working in Intensive Care and Home Care, with specially-abled children. A few years ago at the White County Farmers' market, she was approached by a patron who wanted information on container gardening for those unable to garden at ground level. The seed was planted.

Last spring she asked interested Headwaters Master Gardeners for assistance to nurture the seed. Two other members showed interest. The Soque Garden Club was already involved refreshing and caring for the landscaping of the Sautee-Nacochee Community Center. A cooperative plan was developed. Together with then facilities manager, Hamilton Schwartz, and then director, Judith Barber, a site was selected for the installation and approved by the grounds committee of SNCA. Three different style planters to demonstrate container gardening for the physically challenged were planned and approved.

„Cindy Love and Carol Balaun are pleased with the accessibility of the installed trough planter! Photo and build by Jim Balaun ”


The installation was done in three phases.

The first phase involved the construction of a trough- like planter, the height and knee space in keeping with ADA guidelines for wheelchair accessibility. Cindy Love illustrates this fit in the photo below. This planter was used as part of an EAGLE Adult Enrichment Class on container and adapted gardening in the fall of 2015. It was planted with donated material by physically challenged members of the Soque Garden Club and used as a “nursery bed” for spring plants. The construction of this planter was adapted by Jim Balaun after the commercially available Veg Trug. No printed plans are available as much of the construction was “seat of the pants” after the basics design was laid out.

The second phase was the construction of a bi-level bench planter. The plans are a This Old House design available on line. We substituted pressure treated lumber for the cedar two-by-fours to increase durability and cut costs. The materials in each of these first two planters are a combination of pressure treated lumber for durability and cedar for beauty. The wood is finished with red cedar stain and sealant. They were lined with pond liner cut and fitted to size to help protect the wood soil interface.

The third planter is constructed of Ashland Stacked Stone retaining wall block. Construction took place on site abutting the wall of the center. The wall is protected with heavy rubber lining to prevent staining the building and limit insect access. Signage, explaining the purpose and use of each bed, sponsored by Headwaters Master Gardeners, completed the construction phase.

All the planters were sown in early spring with veggies and herbs. Indeterminate cherry tomato plants were added to vine over the sides as weather warmed. Flowers finished the look in summer. During construction we were approached frequently by visitors and staff. We seized the teachable moment!


In January 2016 Patrick Brennan became the new director of SNCA. His motto for the association is, “Changing People's Lives”. He expressed belief that the Adaptive Planters fit well with this objective and expressed his willingness to provide the remainder of the funds as proposed by his predecessor. An educational brochure is being prepared.

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