Introducing Harriet, our new office intern. One of Harriet’s favourite activities is Gardening. In this blog, she shares why she loves it so much!
If you thought gardening was an activity you can’t enjoy because you have a visual impairment, think again! Being in the garden is a great way to spend time in the fresh air, and also improves mental health and emotional well-being. Doctors have recently started to prescribe gardening to patients, because it is a fantastic way to relieve stress and anxiety.
If you are new to gardening, it is a good idea to start small scale. Grow plants that don’t need much maintaining and can be grown in containers. It is important to choose plants that are scented and have a variety of different textures to feel. For example, geraniums are good because they have scented leaves when rubbed between the fingers. If you don’t want to do much watering, lavender is another great plant to grow. Not only does it grow all year round, but it also smells beautiful and the bees love it. Find an accessible space to do the planting in that is easy to get to, such as a table outside your front or back door. If possible, try and place the plants somewhere you’ll be able to brush past them when you walk by and catch a whiff of their gorgeous scent!
Thrive are an excellent charity that specialise in gardening for people with disabilities, including those with visual impairment. Their work aims to use gardening as a way of changing lives, and uses plants and gardens to improve a person’s physical and mental health as well as communication and thinking skills. They have several centres round the country, but their main one is in Reading. In the summer I visited Thrive and had a wonderful tour of the gardens, where I learnt a little more about their work. If you would like to find out more about Thrive and the work they do, you can visit their website here: https://www.thrive.org.uk/
The charity has several different gardens on display all of which have been designed with a specific disability in mind, including people with dementia, stroke survivors, people with injuries from accidents and children with special needs. The one for visually impaired people is called the Out Of Sight garden. The paths were laid with gravel because this is non-slip which is important when walking round it. The garden also has rectangular raised beds which people can plant flowers and vegetables in.
If you want to begin gardening as a new activity, using raised beds can be a good way to start because they are easy to navigate and can be adjusted to a height that suits you. They are particularly good for people who need to garden sitting down or can’t bend easily. Raised beds can be bought from garden centres, and a metre square bed is a good size to start with. If you are able to it might be good to have a small water feature in the garden, as this can aid with orientation and be very pleasant to listen to. I love the sound of flowing water, and find it has a very calming effect. Also, it can provide a few moments of peace and relaxation.
Gardening has such a varied range of health benefits, so I hope this article has inspired you to get gardening or try it for the first time. If you have any gardening tips of your own, please share them!
NAB (Sight support for Northamptonshire) have a podcast from BBC Gardener’s World presenter, Nick Bailey, which shares tips on getting the most out of your garden if you are visually impaired. You can listen on the NAB YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/Zb3lUT9DInc
To find out more about gardening with your child, check out Charlotte’s article on making a sensory garden box.