Spring is finally here and this week it's National Gardening Week so what better time to get stuck into some gardening. The benefits of gardening are huge, it can be a brilliant form of exercise, a positive distraction and form of relaxation as well as being enormously rewarding.
Whether you're injured or living with a disability or long term condition, the thought of gardening can be physically overwhelming but it doesn't need to be.
Perhaps it's lockdown, perhaps it's my age or perhaps it's just a natural result of relocating from a city to the countryside - who knows why I've ended up taking up gardening but having been quite reluctant (I had visions of face planting into flower beds / trolleys at the garden centre), I can say I've been hugely surprised at how relaxing and rewarding it is.
So with the weather finally warming up, I wanted to share some of the things I've learned which will hopefully help anyone else reliant on crutches or walking sticks to start gardening this Spring:
- Pick your starting point - whether you've got a shared garden, private garden or live in a flat with a windowsill, decide where you're aiming to fill with plants, fruits, vegetables or flowers and go from there.
- Get inspired - once you've decided where you would like to garden, the next step is to find things to grow which you love. From fruit and vegetables to cut flowers or house plants, the choice is enormous. To narrow it down try looking at a local garden centre or check out some of the incredible gardeners on social media - my favourites include Sarah Raven, Lizzie from The Rose Press Garden and Daisy from Garden to Garnish.
- Find the right kit for you - the tools you need will vary depending on what you want to grow and what your limitations physically are. There are some great websites to help understand what adaptations you may need when it comes to tools. Thrive is a charity for people to start or continue gardening with a wide range of disabilities, they have a tool guide which will help match the right tools to your needs. Everything from easy grips to add on handles & grips, finding the right gardening equipment will massively help ensure you are pain free and comfortable.
- Choose your station - setting up a potting station that works for you is key, this can be in your garden or at your kitchen table but ideally needs a chair / wall / step so you can pull yourself up from the ground safely. If you can recruit a friend to carry everything to one spot that will help enormously. If not then it may be worth considering a wheelchair for gardening but above all else, be sure to buy smaller things e.g. compost bags, pots etc. so you can carry them safely.
- Kneeling pads - these are brilliant IF you can kneel, likewise you can get knee pads if you find these easier or even a kneeler combined seat for anyone (like me) who suffers with balance. If you are more of a bum shuffler (if you know you know) - get a pair of trousers that are comfortable and you don't mind getting muddy!
- Find your local garden centre here - I have only ever had the most positive experience at a garden centre, firstly plants are pulled on trolleys so garden centres are completely accessible - ramps galore and the people who work there are used to lugging enormous things around so are more than happy to help lift / carry for you.
- Consider pots & raised beds - if you have space for either or both of these they will make a difference, firstly they're contained so you can plan and plant easily but most importantly they are raised so there is less bending / stretching / physical exercise involved. To reduce a pot's weight, fill half of it with polystyrene then add soil.
- Pace yourself - bear in mind gardening is a physical activity, do little and often and you can build from there but it's important you take breaks so as not to exhaust yourself from something that's meant to be relaxing!
Still keen? Check out the below resources for some additional support and inspiration:
- Living Made Easy - accessible tips and support for those living with a disability, a wealth of tips, tricks and product advice
- Gardening for the Disabled Trust - aims to help those who are disabled and would like to actively participate in gardening, it offers financial assistance as well as practical help and advice
- Lets Grow Girls Podcast - particularly brilliant for anyone wanting to grow cut flowers
Finally, have fun! It doesn't matter if things die (sadly it's inevitable), you only need one to sprout a flower or a leaf to feel a huge sense of achievement. Plus a few dead legs / face plants along the way (as I discovered trying to take these pictures), are to be expected so if they happen - don’t worry you are not alone!