people think that vision impairment will prevent them from enjoying their
gardens. Not true! The French painter, Claude Monet, was an avid gardener who
loved flowers almost as much as he did painting. Although Monet eventually
lost most of his vision, he did not stop painting, nor did he ever lose his
love for gardening. Vision impairment does not have to spoil your enjoyment
of gardening, either’ (Kaplan, 2007).
Moving around the garden
For those of us with a sensory impairment it is important to keep life simple. Ease
& safety in moving around the garden is the first thing to consider.
Accessible routes to the garden and to tool sheds, greenhouses etc, from indoors as well as around the various areas of the garden, is the first thing to consider.
Design the garden so that ground surfaces that are smooth, firm, with good
traction & level. Grass & loose materials (loose gravel, mulch) are
not ideal as they can can hide uneven ground. Having said that, well laid gravel can give an auditory clue as to which path you are on so can be a good thing. Remember that timber decking and boardwalks can
be slippery when wet. Verda
sustainable softwood is an ideal choice for decking as it conforms to nonslip standards, does not splinter, and feels great with bare feet.
- Design pathways with
clear beginnings, ends & detours for features of interest.
Auditory cues from water features, or chimes can provide a means of
orientation in the garden.
perspectives, symmetries and colours to define spaces in the garden.
- Path edges should
have a distinct difference in texture, (e.g. smooth concrete to grass)
to indicate their presence. Avoid raised edging which can be a trip
Install a strip with
a change in texture of approximately 30 to 50 cm wide
(12”-20”) to indicate the presence of a seat, a patio or a
feature of interest.
structures such as raised beds, containers, planter boxes & vertical
elements (e.g. trelliswork, pergolas, arbour seats) can make gardening
easier by bringing the soil & plants to within easy reach. Ideally
these structures should be stable & heavy enough for gardeners to lean
The edge of a raised bed should be wide enough for
gardeners to sit on & work.
tools that are lightweight, durable, safe & easy to use.
layout of the plantings can help the visually impaired gardener locate
& care for plants. Group plantings of the same plants together, in
drifts or rows. For example, vegetables can be planted in evenly spaced
rows. To assist spacing them, run a string with evenly spaced knots and
plant a seedling at each knot. Plants can be readily identified by touch.
For example, tomatoes feel different to carrots, which in turn feel
different to roses or lavender.
Feel the size of the rootball with your hands. Dig a hole of matching size,
with your trowel or hand & insert the rootball. The top of the rootball
should be the same level as the rest of the garden soil.
When sowing small seeds, sprinkle them in a row, and then gently cover with
a light layer of soil. When planting large seeds, plant each seed
individually. Push the seed into the soil to a depth 2-3 times the size of
the seed. Seed tapes make it even easier (available from some nurseries
& seed order companies). Lay the tape along the soil to guide your
planting. The paper tape will biodegrade over time.
Tag plants with a label to help you identify them. Waterproof labels that
can be printed with large letters are available, as are labellers that can
imprint plastic tape in Braille or large print.
plants with similar watering needs together. Use a hose (taking care to
keep the hose off paths as they can be a trip hazard) or a lightweight
watering can. Feel with your hand along the rim of the container plants to
make sure you do not over-water. Insert your finger into the soil to feel
how moist or dry it is. Drip irrigation tubes can be run along the garden.
how long it takes for water to reach the base of the root system, then you
can set the irrigation system on automatic.
are strategies to help identify weeds.
Plant in evenly spaced rows as anything growing in between spaces is
probably a weed.
Mulch the soil surface (for example with straw, leaf litter, bark chips) to
suppress weed growth and provide a tactile medium to find weeds in (this
also improves soil structure & moisture retention).
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