Tips from a Disabled Gardener

I wanted to call this little corner of the blog, Tips from the Crip but was struck by the fact that it sounded like Tales from the Crypt. Though I am up for lounging around in a coffin as a half decayed zombie providing a segue from one horror story to another it didn't seem to fit gardening. I did think of lying in that crypt and saying such things as: 'The terrible tale of the young couple consumed by blackfly' or, 'The blood curdling cries of Nancy as she saw her lettuces consumed by slugs!' but in the end Carol pointed out that the term cripple could be offensive to some (tell me about it, as I have had it as an insult from people who I've challenged about parking in a blue badge bay when they have no blue badge). Personally, I wanted, like many have in the disabled community, to reclaim it but this is not a blog post about that. This is a post about gardening with limited mobility and the tips, tricks and common sense that must prevail around it and that doesn't really gel with Tips from the Crip. Here is my serious face so you are aware that what I am about to tell you may collapse into fits of laughter. I am prone to do that, because you can't take life seriously when you spend most of it lying down.

Disabled gardener, life on pig row

You will notice that I am in the potager, this is an intimate disabled friendly space for me. That's the first tip, you can't buy your garden off a peg (this goes for any gardener), you have to build a space that works for you now and in the future. You have to future proof your disability and as much as I would have liked to have put wheelchair friendly paths in, I am on a hillside, and when or if that time comes I won't be able to garden here anymore because a wheelchair on a hillside is just crying out for a Frank Spencer comedy moment with all the crassness that comes with seventies sitcoms. So my tiny potager has several steps that I know I can manage and the final paths will be gravel because it gives me more traction. Sounds odd that, but gravel is easy for me to walk on and feel safe on, and that is tip number two. Have surfaces you feel safe on and boundaries to your path that you can reach and in the event of a fall will break it and not you. It's great having open borders but raised borders are easier. Now, we're not talking concrete everywhere and ramps to take me on and off pathways beside beds. I am talking about borders you can reach on either side, this stops the need to get in a border or bed, this lowers the chances of accidents. For example, today, in a large border I nearly went face first into a patch of nettles. This is largely due to nerve damage or as I like to put it: I tell my left leg what to do and then my left leg decides to have a comedy moment. My left leg is on work experience. So, I am planning some simple but nifty hacks to stop the need for using a watering can or even a garden hose and all those golden but painful comedy moments that can arise from them. I am slowly constructing a gravity fed watering system that will water all these beds by just turning a water butt tap. As much as my left leg would love to screw that up it will have little to work with in terms of watering cans and hoses. I need to rest sometimes, this doesn't always mean sitting down, it often means having something to lean against or balance myself against. I don't want to put a safety rail up throughout the garden, so I have purchased a heavy duty garden arch and made myself some very sturdy obelisks - one of which saved me from a fall into the chicken run. I don't want to have a garden that looks like it should have a stair lift attached to it, it's not that I am embarrassed by having a stair lift in the garden but part of me doesn't want to be treated differently because I am disabled. I want you to see my self worth and a big problem still in today's society is that people only see the disability and not that person's ability. There's a tip for us all. See the person and buy things you can lean against or sit on.

Garden chair

My in-laws bought me this garden stool last Christmas. It's lightweight and has easy storage pockets, it's not cumbersome so doesn't threaten to put me off balance or allow my left leg to wander off. It has some necessary tools stored in it, a hand fork and trowel, secateurs and string, a tiny modified hoe and gloves. I have a grabber stick too - the kind you pick rubbish up with if you are doing community work - for me though this stool became central to how I would plan the potager. The more keen eyed among you will have noticed that it is just lower than my raised beds, this is not fortuitous, it was done on purpose so I can sit at each bed and reach across them with ease to sow seeds or plant plug plants without damaging my spine. In the end you need to design beds that work for you. I designed mine with corner posts to help me stand up but also act as a support for netting or stops the hose from tangling around plants. I don't want to be trying to get a hose out from among my brassicas, it will only end in disaster and A&E. These are only a few tips but the best one I can give you is to sit down - many of us do - and plan what you want from a garden and then work with others to help you achieve this. Think outside the box but work within what you know you can achieve each time you're in that space. Be comfortable doing what you are doing and if you know you are about to hurt yourself doing something, stop, and change the garden so it won't happen again. Garden happy and safely, and if possible put in a water slide that takes you home.

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  1. Well I am so impressed with your effort! I must give it 10 out of ten!

  2. Amazing nice work. This is very useful article. Thank you. For more