ATU319 – Super simple accessible gardening with Jim Rinehart


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Super simple accessible gardening with Jim Rinehart
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Plants in swimming pool on pallet

Plants in baby pool

plants in baby pool

——-transcript follows ——


JIM RINEHART:  Hi, I’m Jim Rinehart. I’m an assistive technology specialist at Easter Seals Crossroads, and this is your Assistive Technology Update.

WADE WINGLER:  Hi, this is Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals crossroads in Indiana with your Assistive Technology Update, a weekly dose of information that keeps you up-to-date on the latest developments in the field of technology designed to assist people with disabilities and special needs.

Welcome to episode number 319 of Assistive Technology Update. It’s scheduled to be released on July 7, 2017.

Today we are going to break from our traditional format and do an interesting interview with a good buddy of mine, Jim Rinehart, who happens to be one of the assistive technology specialist at Easter Seals crossroads. In his off time he’s been doing a simple but accessible gardening project that he wants to share information about.

We have an app from our friends at BridgingApps and hope you’ll check out our website at, sent us a note on Twitter at INDATA Project, or give us a call on our listener line at 317-721-7124.


Each week, one of our partners tells us what’s happening in the ever-changing world of apps, so here’s an app worth mentioning.

AMY BARRY:  This is Amy Barry with BridgingApps, and this is an app worth mentioning. This week I’m sharing an app called companion:  mobile personal safety. Companion is an app designed to help you reach your destination with peace of mind that someone you trust is standing by. This app allows you to designate a person or several people as your companion for a specific journey or timeframe. Your chosen companion does not need to have the app installed on their device so long as they are able to receive text messages and have a web browser. While you’re on your journey, your companion can ensure that you are on track by viewing your location on a map. When setting up an account, it’s important to allow access for the app to use your location. There is an option to set a passcode within the app should need to confirm that you are okay if danger is detected. We recommend setting a simple passcode. There is also an option to provide health information in your profile. This could be extremely useful for anyone who is concerned of danger for health reasons. Only fill out as much information as you’re comfortable with.

Two options are available for your type of journey. You may either choose “Point A to Point B destination” or “wander” mode for a specific amount of time. When you choose Point A to Point B, point is automatically set from your current location. Near the top of the screen is a blue banner labeled “Where are you going?”  Tapping this banner allows you to type in an address as your point B location. If you did not have a planned end location, choose wander mode instead of typing an address. Wander mode is ideal for a journey through a park, mall, or any place you plan on exploring. After choosing wander mode, tap the white banner to set the amount of time you think you’ll be on your journey. There will be options to end or increase the time later on.

When you begin using the app, your companion will receive a message telling them that you are going out and about and ask if they are willing to keep an eye on you. A notification will come up letting you know that your contact has agreed to be your companion, and they will have a text message link to open a map with your location in a web browser.

There are two important buttons on your screen while on your journey. One is “I feel nervous”; the other is called “Call police.”  The “I feel nervous” will send an alert text to your companion asking them to check on you. “Call police” will ask you if you would like to dial 911. It’s very important to be mindful of where your device as well on your journey. If your device is dropped, it is interpreted as a potential danger by the app. The screen will show a 15 second timer where it is asking you to respond if you are okay. If you do not respond within 15 seconds, an alarm will begin to sound in your companions will be alerted. In order to turn the alarm off, you’ll be asked to provide your passcode if you have one set up.

This app could benefit a wide range of users, from parents wanting to keep in contact with children while they are out and about, to adult who enjoy exercise alone. Companion is available for free at the iTunes and Google play stores and is compatible with iOS and android devices.

For more informationon this app and others like it, visit


WADE WINGLER:  Here in the US, it is summertime, the days are getting warmer, and the sun is shining brightly, and periodically we have rain. The reason those things matter to me so much is it helps me to know that the things in my garden are going to grow. I’m excited to have a conversation today, a little unusual for our format, but I think it will be delightful, with a good friend of mine Jim Reinhardt who is one of the assistive technology specialist right here at Easter Seals crossroads. He is into gardening and assistive technology. We are going to have a conversation today about adaptive gardening and some of the things that Jim has been doing.

Before we jump into that topic, Jim, welcome to the show. How are you?

JIM RINEHART:  I’m doing very well. Thank you very much.

WADE WINGLER:  I’m excited to have you back on the show. We are going to have a less technical conversation today, but I know you and I know it will be a fun conversation. Before we jump into gardening stuff, why don’t you tell the people in the audience who don’t know little bit about your career path and how you ended up working and assistive technology and a little bit about what you do.

JIM RINEHART:  Starting more recently, I’ve been with Easter Seals crossroads just over three years as an assistive technology specialist. Prior to that, I worked in vocational rehabilitation for five years before that, as a counselor and supervisor, and prior to that date some training in counseling work in the employment division of work one for the state of Indiana. Going back even further than that, I was a supervisor of factories and retail as well. A pretty eclectic path to get to where I am today.

How I got to assistive technology was one day I was meeting with our director Brian Norton and asked if he had considered having a trainer that wasn’t based in Indianapolis. If you must later, here I was. I’m happy he decided to take me on.

WADE WINGLER:  You are one of our employees who doesn’t spend most of his time at our headquarter location. You are based out of Fort Wayne Indiana. We see you on a regular basis down here pure

JIM RINEHART:  I’m usually down a couple of times a month at least.

WADE WINGLER:  Tell us about your job. What a day in the life like?

JIM RINEHART:  I spend a lot of time away from home meeting individuals in either their homes or workplaces or schools, wherever they need to meet at, conduct evaluations as far as assistive technology needs, trying to help them come up with solutions to help them meet their goals. Other than that, when I met with a customer, I generally work from home.

WADE WINGLER:  When you are not working, it sounds that at least part of the time you’re in the garden.

JIM RINEHART:  I call it my small accessible garden in the backyard. It started as a lark idea. I got the original idea from a friend of mine who is a disabled veteran. The VA had bought him a raised flower bed that was made out of wood. What I had noticed with his was over the years the wood had started to deteriorate and rot. Now it didn’t look so well. I was trying to think of a way to come up with a similar idea that wouldn’t rot. One Sunday on the way home from church, I was talking to my wife and I said I would like to grow some green beans. We stopped at a dollar store, and they had those plastic kids swimming pools. I looked at that and wondered if I could grow anything in that. We brought one home, put it on a pallet that I had in between sawhorses and drilled some holes in the bottom of the pool for drainage, put some soil in it and planted some green beans. About two months later, right on cue that they were up and doing well. That was the first year. This year I have five going.

WADE WINGLER:  You are growing vegetables at waste level or higher in swimming pools?

JIM RINEHART:  That’s correct. There are two benefits to that. Being on the sawhorses and the pallets, the first part is they are about waist high. I’m about 5’7”, so they come about waist high. The first benefit is anybody who has back issues, trouble bending, stooping, issues with knees or ankles, you don’t have to do any of that bending to attend your garden. It’s all right about waist level. The second side benefit to that, at least where I live in Fort Wayne, we have lots of urban wildlife, tons of squirrels or rabbits and possums and critters that roaming the neighborhood. They tend to stay out of it. Being on the sawhorses, there’s not really a way for them to easily climb in.

WADE WINGLER:  That’s fascinating. I’ve heard about different kinds of rates but guns but I don’t know if I’ve bumped up against anybody using kiddie pools to do that. They are not terribly expensive, right?  10 or $15?

JIM RINEHART:  Usually I catch one for under $10, especially early in the season. There are two sizes. One runs around eight dollars, at least at the store I shop at, and then they had a larger ones that are $20. I generally use the smaller ones. There are about 24 to 36 inches across. For the dirt, I buy a 50 quart bag of soil. Usually one of those will fill it up half full or better.

WADE WINGLER:  You drilled holes in the bottom for drainage?

JIM RINEHART:  I take a half-inch or one-inch drill and drill several of those in the bottom for drainage.

WADE WINGLER:  You said you grew green beans the first year. What are you going now?

JIM RINEHART:  This year I’ve got to pools of green beans, and I have tomatoes, a couple of different varieties, some bell peppers, some eggplant going as well. That’s the mixed bag for this year. I got zucchini squash and some Italian squash going.

WADE WINGLER:  Because I know more than you about our listeners, I imagine between you and your wife you’re going to make something delicious because she is quite the cook.

JIM RINEHART:  She’s a chef so I usually turn them over to her and she can make something out of it. We are country people at heart and were raised that way. I had a lot of fresh green beans when I was a kid. I learned to like zucchini. She will make zucchinis 100 ways.

WADE WINGLER:  Where I live, everyone has zucchinis. You never have to grow up because your neighbors have it running out their ears.

JIM RINEHART:  Absolutely.

WADE WINGLER:  Have you had any other expenses with adaptive gardening situations, any container gardening or adaptive tools?

JIM RINEHART:  I haven’t. Like I said, I got this idea from this friend who was a disabled vet. I had also seen in Indianapolis on my way from gadget camp, I think it’s a 46th and College, there is a corner lot that has a bunch of raised bed garden. Those were wood raised bed. The only concern I had with that with them my own is I guess I didn’t want to feel like I had to redo them every few years does by the wood rotting. I didn’t want to make it out of treated lumber because I was concerned about the chemicals they use in the treated lumber getting into my vegetables. I opted for this plastic idea. The other benefit of it is when I get to the end of the season, I take the dirt out, put them in a garbage can for the winter, and the pools will stack together.

WADE WINGLER:  That’s a great idea. You mentioned you are using a skid as the platform on that. I’ve also heard of people who take two skids and leaned them together so they make a triangle. They will take and screw window boxes along the skid, so rest them on the slots in the skid and take a drywall screw and screw them through the window box into the side of the skid. They end up with these inclined gardens that are basically window boxes that work well like that. The other situation I’ve heard about and had another good friend do this as well, just gardening right out of potting soil bags. Have you heard of that?

JIM RINEHART:  I room are you telling me about that. He opened the black and plant right in the bag.

WADE WINGLER:  I had a good friend who would buy a bag of potting soil, and he would take a box cutter and cut two X’s into the potting soil bags. He loves tomatoes and peppers and would plant them right in the bag on his back patio. He happened to be a person who is blind. They would go right out of the bag. At the end of the season, when he was done harvesting tomatoes and peppers, he would take the whole bag and throw it in the trash and do it again the next year.

JIM RINEHART:  That sounds like an interesting idea as well. I haven’t tried that.

WADE WINGLER:  It’s simple and disposable. He wasn’t recycling the potting soil like you are, but for convenience it was a handy thing.

JIM RINEHART:  Potting soil is that crazy expensive.

WADE WINGLER:  I think one of the main concepts that people need to think about when they are thinking about adaptive gardening is that positioning and accessibility. I think a lot of people are sometimes intimidated by the fact that they have to have a half acre garden and a big Rototiller. What you are doing proves the point that it doesn’t have to be elaborate. Even if you’re just growing if you plant and doing it in a way that it is positioned where you can reach and you don’t have to bend over and that is a challenge, you are still gardening. You don’t have to be farming several acres to be considered a gardener.

JIM RINEHART:  This will be enough this year. When they start coming on, it’ll be as much as my wife and I will need. We are empty-nesters so we don’t necessarily need a lot. She’s not too interested in doing a lot of canning. If it does well, we are going to be fine having all the fresh vegetables we need and probably have some to give away as well.

WADE WINGLER:  What kind of tools do you use to cultivate and weed and plant?

JIM RINEHART:  I don’t have many tools. It’s interesting in that once I get the pallet in between the sawhorses and the pool up, I need a drill to drill the holes in the bottom of the pool for drainage. After that, I take a box cutter to open the bag of soil. If you’re able, just pick the bike up and dump it in; if not, I would take a cereal bowl or small shovel to scoop it in if you aren’t able to lift the whole bag. After that, I have a small rake that has three prongs on it. I take that and smooth the soil in the pool once I get it in. Then I used the same thing as a trowel and will cut three holes like you would in the ground to put seeds in and cover them up. It’s a very minimal as far as tools. I will say wondering is important because the soil is not very deep. It’s important to keep on top of watering if it’s not raining a lot in the area where you have this. I’ll take the garden hose on the shower setting and water it, or I take a water bucket and water them. My experience with this is that keeping them watered is always important, but it’s particularly important because you don’t have a ton of soil. If you go through a stretch where it doesn’t rain for 2 to 3 days, you do want to be watering pretty well. I’ll go out and water it until I see the water coming through my drains, and I know I have enough.

WADE WINGLER:  I think that’s pretty important when you’re talking about container gardening. Container gardening is the answer to a lot of adaptive needs because containers can be small and grow one plant, or like you are doing having some fairly large containers and grow more things. They just don’t hold as much water as the earth does so you have to be thinking about that.

JIM RINEHART:  Absolutely.

WADE WINGLER:  What’s in your future plans for adaptive gardening?  Are there other things you’d like to do to add?  Are you going to get one of those swimming pools that has a slide – I’m joking.

JIM RINEHART:  I had not thought of that. I’ll have to work on that with my grandkids. I’m thinking I’ll see how this year goes, whether I expand it any further next year. I have someone who heard about this who gave me three two-by-four’s. He said you can put these side-by-side and make a pallet so you can have another pool. I’ve already got the word. I used up all the pallets that I’ve gathered up. This gentleman gave me as an encouragement to put out another pool. He was pretty fascinated by the idea. I don’t know how many other people have duplicated it. I’ve taken pictures of it and shown it around. They are like, that’s a really cool idea. Once you buy the initial stuff, you just recycle it and don’t have a lot of outlay from year to year

WADE WINGLER:  If people are interested in trying this, I think that’s a good idea. There are also a ton of adaptive gardening resources. If you go online, it’s pretty easy to find places like the AgrAbility project which is at, and even HGTV has sections in their website about adaptive gardening. I think those are great places to find more information.

If people wanted to see pictures of your adaptive gardening, how about we pop it up on a blog post at so people can see what you’re talking about?

JIM RINEHART:  That would be great. I send you some pictures.

WADE WINGLER:  What kind of encouraging words do you have for somebody who might like to try adaptive gardening?

JIM RINEHART:  Just do it. If you think you can garden because you can’t stoop down to the ground to tend to it, that’s the biggest thing. As a kid, I spent a lot of time out in the garden. I spent a lot of time in my youth behind a Rototiller because we had a really big garden. The harvesting, picking, reading, going to the ground, I didn’t like it as a kid. With this, if you like the idea of gardening but for some reason don’t feel that you can or you can’t get down to the ground to tend to it, I think this is a great option. I started this as a joke but I do appreciate not having to stoop down to the ground to tended to my garden. The other side benefit is that I’ve noticed the critters seem to leave it alone. I don’t do anything special to it as far as sprinkling chemicals or anything on it to keep rabbits away. They just tend to stay away. I would say somebody who is interested in trying this idea, or if they live someplace they don’t have a lot of jarred to dig up to do it, try this, whether it is swimming pool sized or what you are talking about, a shadow box or smaller. Give it a whirl and see if you like it. You can get as big as small as you want to with it.

WADE WINGLER:  You said something important that wasn’t about the total side of it. You mentioned that you were gardening as a kid with her parents and grandparents. I have those memories as well. My granddad and I did lots of gardening when I was a kid. The reason I mention that is I would encourage people who have trouble with their back or arthritis or working with kids with disabilities. There is something special that happens when families and people get together and plant and reap and sow and harvests. If you have a child with a disability and you think adaptive gardening might be helpful with them, or you are dealing with somebody who is facing the effects of aging, I think there is a nice connection to have happen. Perhaps this adaptive gardening might make that connection happen.

JIM RINEHART:  Absolutely. I’ve gotten away from doing much gardening for a lot of years until three years ago. You go out there, put in the work, and wait. You wonder if it’s going to go, and suddenly one morning a miracle happens. You show up and see a green thing sticking up out of the ground where you put the seeds in several days earlier. You watch and tended to it as they grow. Where mine are now, my squash is blooming pretty heavily. It’s going to be a good crop that it holds up. My green beans, lots of stocks are coming out. They haven’t bloomed yet. Tomatoes are lacking behind but are looking well as well. I think the whole idea is when it starts growing, it’s like this miracle is happening. Okay, you are actually responsible for these plants now. You get to reap the harvest at the end of it when your vegetables start coming on and you go out in your backyard and pick it and wash and cook it and eat it. There’s nothing quite like it.

WADE WINGLER:  There are definitely some life lessons.

JIM RINEHART:  If you have kids, or all ages, it’s in the lesson.

WADE WINGLER:  Jim Rinehart is an assistive technology specialist right here at Easter Seals crossroads. In his secret life, he’s an adaptive gardener. Thank you so much for being with us today.

JIM RINEHART:  My pleasure.

WADE WINGLER:  Do you have a question about assistive technology? Do you have a suggestion for someone we should interview on Assistive Technology Update? Call our listener line at 317-721-7124, shoot us a note on Twitter @INDATAProject, or check us out on Facebook. Looking for a transcript or show notes from today’s show? Head on over to Assistive Technology Update is a proud member of the Accessibility Channel. Find more shows like this plus much more over at That was your Assistance Technology Update. I’m Wade Wingler with the INDATA Project at Easter Seals Crossroads in Indiana.