Life hacks: gardening without sight
If you have space in which to grow plants or fresh produce it can bring much pleasure. During London Vision’s ‘Life hacks: everyday living’ session we often discuss ways to continue gardening when you are blind or partially sighted. Below you will find some of the tips and tricks group members have brought to the discussion, followed by a series of links to useful websites and videos.
Watching or listening to videos can be extremely informative; there are many on YouTube hosted by blind gardeners and many more which explore how to grow and care for plants and produce.
In preparing to write this article I searched ‘gardening without sight’ and ‘gardening when you are blind or partially sighted’; both with great success. However, the go to organisation for information about gardening while blind or with sight loss is Thrive.
Your top tips from our Managing Sight Loss sessions
Before you start any task in the garden take, a moment to think about your safety:
- Are you wearing the appropriate clothing for the task? Gloves, shoes peaked hat, eye shield?
- Are you aware of potential tripping hazards in your garden?
- Have you put stoppers on the ends of your bamboo canes to prevent facial injuries?
- Are your electric power tools protected by circuit breakers?
Orientating yourself in the garden
Depending on the size of garden, level of vision and other factors, it is possible to become lost or disorientated in your back garden. People have told us they have become lost after hanging their washing out; others whilst hosting garden parties. A few things you can try to keep you orientated:
- Create sound clues in your garden: windchimes or water features can provide cheap, audible clues. You can purchase solar powered water features at very reasonable prices from stores like home bargains and B&M.
- Key finders can prove a useful audible clue: press a button on a remote control and walk towards the noise (check to ensue your audible fob is waterproof before leaving it the garden).
- Strategically place pots or ornaments to provide directional landmarks.
- If you have useful vision then using solar powered lighting can provide directional information during darker evenings, you can usually expect about 6 hours of light following a full charge.
- Keep a torch handy for taking into the garden in hours of darkness.
- Security and flood lights can be used to light darker areas of your garden. Reasonably priced options can be found, or in certain circumstances, garden lighting may be a reasonable adjustment your landlord could make. Be sure to check local planning laws about light pollution before installing lots of light in your garden.
- Apps such as Be My Eyes can be used to orientate yourself. This app connects to a volunteer who will use your phone’s camera to provide you with directional information or you might wish to make a video call to a friend or family
- If you have physical difficulties with steps or slopes on the exterior of your property talk to your landlord or local authority about having handrails installed.
More lighting tips can be found in Thomas Pocklington Trust’s updated lighting guide.
Keep a sun hat on hand for using in garden. You told us in the groups the darker the brim the more reduced the glare. Overspecs can also be used to filter unwanted light.
Organisation and planning
However big or small your gardening task, pause before you begin. Plan your task. Gather the tools you need. Break the task into manageable logical chunks. Don’t forget to read the instructions. Be My Eyes app could help here as could an app like Seeing AI or Envision.
A brightly coloured bucket is useful to carry smaller tools, gloves and other equipment around the garden. Tools with colour contrasting handle can be purchased widely, however, beware colours quickly fade if tools are left in the sunlight. Wilko, Homebase, or B&Q are good places to look. You can alternatively use florescent tape to highlight handles.
Designing your garden to meet your needs
Pots and containers can bring many advantages as can raised beds as these are simpler to control and manage. There many garden design apps and videos but you might want to consider:
- The position of the sun to avoid glare.
- Use of colour contrast to provide directional information and planting you can see.
- Scented plants for direction information and a multi-sensory approach.
- Soft and tactile shrubs along borders and pathways tor tactile information – the wind may make these rustle to help you orientate yourself.
- Lengths of brightly coloured hose pipe can be used to separate out planting areas, or you may wish to use planks of wood.
- Tactile grids of bamboo cane can be made to highlight planting areas.
Here’s your top tips:
- Raised beds and pots can be simpler to control and manage.
- Minimise weeds by using membranes and bark toppings.
- Familiarise yourself with the feel of your plants to prevent accidental removal.
- Use the Be My Eyes app for guidance; volunteers may be able to advise you.
- Google Lens can be used to identify plants – this works on both Apple and Android devices.
- When planting out, leave labels attached as an identifying feature.
- Create labels for plants. These could be as simple as a strip of ribbon.
- Brightly coloured sticks next to plants can be useful identifiers.
Mowing the lawn
Take a look at Blindspot top tips for mowing the lawn
Here is what you told us about lawn care in the Managing Sight Loss sessions:
- Pay someone else to do it.
- Leave the lawn long, it’s good for wildlife!
- Use a an RNIB sound beacon or something similar as an audible reference point when mowing the lawn. Move the beacon about 30cm after every trip up the garden with the mower.
- Brightly coloured buckets or cones might provide a visual clue, or maybe a target to aim for with the mower.
- Path edges or planks of wood can help keep you straight.
- Keep the cord over your shoulder.
- Place rings of fluorescent tape on the cord to make it more visible.
- Always use a circuit breaker.
- Don’t use mowers after you’ve mown the cord without getting a safety check.
- Try a cordless electric mower (buy spare batteries).
- Consider a robot mower.
Most modern power tools such as hedge trimmers are designed to be operated two handed as a safety feature; this means you can’t readily use a free hand to determine where to cut. Single hand shears might alleviate this difficulty. With electric tools keep the cable behind you or over your shoulder to prevent accidental cutting. Creating fluorescent bandings on the cable may allow it to be seen a little easier.
Useful links and sources of advice
- Lucy Edwards plants veg; later in her series Lucy demonstrates how she mows the lawn
- The Insight Channel
- The Blindspot top tips for lawn mowing
Get in touch and tell us how you got on with gardening!
The team at London Vision would like to hear how you get on in your garden so why not get in touch and share your tips and tricks with the team! firstname.lastname@example.org
Want more resources? Try these:
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