Find tips to keep time in your garden accessible and enjoyable.
Getting ready to garden
Taking a bit of time to get ready before you garden can really make a difference.
If you are just starting to garden with sight loss, you may want to get comfortable moving around your garden first. Go all around it at different times of day until it feels familiar.
Before you begin an activity, gather all the tools and equipment you need. If your shed or storage area is tidy, this will help you find what you need more easily.
If you find it difficult to carry things, plan activities near the house or where you keep your equipment.
Warm up with some simple bending and stretching exercises. This will loosen your muscles and reduce the chance of any strain.
A sound beacon or small radio can be really helpful as part of equipment, guiding you back to where you are working.
Find what equipment works best for you. You may find a lightweight plastic watering can easier than a hose. If you use a cane, a hose may be your preference.
If you have hanging baskets, you could put them on pulleys so you can lower them to your height to water.
Place pots and containers close together, so watering them is easier.
You could put in an automated watering system. Some help may be needed to get the system in place, but in the long-run they can save effort and water.
You could grow drought tolerant plants that need less watering. Grasses, agapanthus, lavender, hardy geranium, geum, rock rose and sedum are all good options.
If you are digging at ground level, a kneeler seat with handles or gardening knee pads with straps can help protect your knees.
If you are digging larger areas, you may find a right-angle guide useful. This home-made guide can be laid on the ground and pegged in place. It gives you a set area to dig, fork, or rake.
Some people find raised beds, elevated planters or containers easier to work in than borders at ground level.
Very big digging tasks can be quite a physical workout. You may want to ask a friend or family member to work together with you. You could also use the no-dig technique for your soil. Add a thick layer of compost to your soil each year and let the worms do the rest.
You may learn to recognize some common weeds by touch.
A good way to help spot weeds is to place a bright coloured label in front of your most treasured plants. This will stop you accidentally removing them.
You could also plant in blocks or lines, so it’s easier to tell the plants you want from the weeds.
A simple lightweight hand trowel, or sometimes just your hands, may be all you need to weed. For plants with deep roots, like a dandelion, a bulb planter can be helpful to remove the whole root.
Mowing the lawn
A small rectangular lawn with a path down one side can be easiest to manage.
You can mow by placing a sound beacon at one side of the lawn, opposite the path if you have one. Mow towards the sound beacon. When that strip is done, move the beacon around 30 cm to the side and mow back to the path. Move the mower 30cm to the side and head back to the beacon. Continue until you have finished. An alternative to a sound beacon is two traffic cones either side of the lawn.
You could mow less often, allowing flowers like clover and daisies to grow. This will also help your lawn stay green and the plants are good for wildlife.
Work out what needs pruning by feeling upwards from the base of the plant. You should be able to identify the main stem or stems and a number of side shoots. On the stems / side shoots you will be able to feel the ‘nodes’ (bumps on the stem that buds and leaves grow from). Cut above a node.
Once you’ve cut your first stem, you could tie a piece of string at the end of it. You could use this as a guide to help cut all branches roughly the same length.
Put bright coloured bamboo cane toppers or old plastic pots over pruned branches. This will offer some protection from sharp ends.
Cut and hold pruners and secateurs are very useful. These have a gripping device that locks onto and holds plant stems. They stop pruned material falling to the ground, making it easier to dispose of. Ratchet secateurs are also good for pruning thicker branches. They may take some getting used to.
You may choose to wear gardening gloves when pruning to avoid scratches - some people prefer to go without them.
Some plants need less pruning than others. Shrubs including rhododendrons, daphne and viburnum will be happy with minimal effort.
A good way to make your hedge easier to maintain is to have a chicken wire frame around it. This will help you tell if it needs a trim and to safely trim it.
Use single handed shears (sometimes called grass shears) if trimming yourself. Look for ones with blades that swivel 90 or 180 degrees.
If you have a chicken wire frame in place, you can use this as your trimming guide. If you don't have a wire frame, peg a string at the required height instead. When trimming, keep the blades as flat as you can. Work slowly along the top of the hedge feeling the wire / string as you go. A steady pace is the best way!
Hold your cutting tool close to your body and don’t be tempted to over stretch. Tackle a section at a time to avoid getting over tired.
Have a leaf tarp or plastic sheet beneath where you are cutting. This should help catch most of the trimmings and help make tidying easier.
A lovely low maintenance alternative to a hedge is a wall or fence with climbing plants.
You may find sweeping of hard areas, like patios, easier if you kneel to do it and use a dustpan and brush. This allows you to sweep and feel as you go. Choose a brightly coloured dustpan and brush with a good size collection pan. Or, put bright coloured tape around the edge of your dustpan. Use a kneeler seat with handles to protect your knees.
If you have some vision, a long-handled dustpan and brush can be easier and involve less bending.
Use a light leaf rake to clear leaves and debris from your lawn.
When raking the soil, you may find it easier to rake kneeling close to the ground. Feel the soil as you go, raking towards you and removing any stones and debris.
If you are raking standing up, use a rake of the right length and weight for you to avoid bending and strain. You could put add on handles on your rake, along with arm support cuffs, to make it easier and more comfortable to lift.
You may find it easier to sow seeds in trays or pots first instead of straight into the ground. You can then plant the young plants in the ground in blocks or rows.
A garden tidy tray provides a good working area for seed sowing. You could add bright coloured tape around the outside to make the working area clearer.
Sow seeds into modular seed trays (these are simply seed trays already divided into small individual sections). This avoids the fiddly step of ‘pricking out’ seedlings that are too close together.
When sowing seeds, first put the seeds in a small container with upright sides. You want to be able to easily get your finger and thumb in it. To sow, take a pinch of seeds from the container. Gently rub them between your finger and thumb until you can feel that you have just one seed. You could also use a seed sowing dispenser if you have some vision. With your spare hand, find the corner module in the seed tray. Place the seed in the centre of it. Move your free hand on to the next module, either above, below or to the side of the sown module and take another seed and place it in the centre. Work systematically from one side of the tray to the other, making sure that you do not miss any sections.
Once done, add labels. Some gardening companies produce extra-large plant labels. A range of colour indicating buttons and braille labels are available from the RNIB.
Keep the the soil moist as the seeds grow. To tell if your seeds need watering, feel if the soil is dry. The tray will also feel lighter. Another option is a self-watering propagator.
You could use seed tapes instead of individual seeds. These are paper tapes with seeds added at regular intervals. You can use these in troughs, elevated planters, raised beds or in beds and borders.
Another option is to buy plug plants instead of growing from seed. These are young plants where someone else has done the first stage of growing for you. You can get a wide range of food and flower plants this way.
When planting in the soil, a brightly coloured string line fixed across your plot can help keep planting rows straight. If you are planting a circular area, you could peg down a hula hoop and use this as a guide to plant inside.
Before planting, you may want to put all plants in the space first, still in their pots. This will help plan exactly where they will all go. Allow enough space for the plants to grow to their final size.
A bulb planter can be a great tool to create planting holes. Once you’ve made a hole, put the plant in it still in its pot to double check it’s deep enough. Then you can carefully take out of the pot and plant.
Water each newly added plant as you go. You could use a plastic cup filled from a bucket of water to do this.
Put plant labels in a consistent place, such as in front of each plant. You could also make a recorded message of what you have planted where.