Special Needs Gardens at McGovern Park Senior Center, Milwaukee.

Raised Beds 2

Aquaponics isn’t all we do.  There are too many great ways to help folks grow their own food,  but for some people gardening is physically limiting.  It’s hard on the back, neck, and knees to be sure (& we can vouch for it!)

So when Stephanie Harling of Havenwoods Edc asked Jesse Hull of Imagine Aquaponics to use certain parameters to design raised beds that could accommodate the folks with physical limitations, and then to lead the teams in constructing them at McGovern Park Senior Center in Milwaukee, WI, he went straight to work.

What he came up with was a raised bed design that allows people to sit and work at the same height they would if they were at a desk.

Final Design Image 1


“Jesse was an integral part of the Havenwoods team that built an adaptable garden for seniors and those with physical limitations. Jesse’s role was to assist in the design and installation of 17 adaptive gardening beds with amenities that included waist high beds, benches affixed to each garden bed, and a self watering system. This design opened up the world of gardening for seniors in the Milwaukee area that could not have done it without this adaptive design. Jesse also used this as a teaching opportunity for our youth crew to learn about agriculture, rainwater harvesting, and construction. This was truly an intergenerational project.”

-Stephanie Harling – Executive Director, Havenwoods Economic Development Corporation


Jesse had the pleasure of working with not only Stephanie and Jessica Noth of Havenwoods Edc, but also Antoine Carter,  Nick DeMarsh and several members of Groundwork Milwaukee, and the hard working ladies at Genesis Transitional Living in building the raised bed garden complex.

Group Shot 2 w Stephanie

Getting the job done is rarely the only job.  Teaching people, especially young people, the skills and values in constructing food growing systems means hope for the next generation which will be take charge of a world that will need special skills to create a better tomorrow.

Jesse Removing Staples

Jesse on chopsaw

Antoine Carter with volunteer


Separate 2’x8′ beds needed to be built first to be stacked & reinforced into taller units  later.

SAMSUNGJesse with Circular Saw & Faceshield



The women from Genesis Transitional Living were amazingly hard workers, and eager to learn as well.  They really made this project move!

Genesis Transitional Living Volunteers2SAMSUNG


Groundwork Milwaukee members installed self-watering (wicking) components into each bed and will later be adding a rain harvesting system to supply water to each.

Jessica Noth Installing Watering System

Watering System and Compost


After the watering system was installed in each bed, they were filled with The Farm’s Compost  -wonderful stuff which we’ve used many times in other projects.

Each morning we would arrive to work and find that gardeners had already started transplanting plants from home into the new beds.  So great to see them being used right away!

Plants going in as we build


Seats were then constructed and placed in triangulated positions to allow those working on their gardens full access without having to bend over or reach.

Building Benches 2

There were 17  units of various shapes (single, ‘L’, and ‘U’-shapes) built in all.

Raised Beds 1

Raised Beds 3


McGovern Park Senior Center will rent out the raised garden beds each spring to experienced gardeners or to any member wanting to try their hand at growing their own food.

Milwaukee Public Radio has said that they would like to make this project part of a story on urban gardening scheduled for the near future.


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