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Mark Lane: Gardening tips for people who thought they could never garden

Mark Lane, wheelchair user and presenter of the award-winning BBC Gardeners’ World, as well as the RHS Flower Shows, discusses getting out into the garden and how to make gardening easier if you have mobility issues…

It doesn’t matter what level of ability you have, you can still enjoy gardening. Gardening makes you feel safe and secure and it has a positive effect on mental and physical wellbeing. With these simple tips you can get outside, enjoy nature, be alone for personal reflection or socialise with family and friends.

Gardening tips

1.    Think about your limitations and how you may have got around an issue unrelated to gardening, ie how to pick something up from the floor – solution, use a grabber. This can be used to reach or to hold a plant. If I cannot get to the plant, I bring the plant to me.

Mark Lane is an afeard-winning landscape gardener and TV host, Gardening tips for people with mobility issues

2.    Use lots of portable camping tables of differing heights – these can be assembled around you when planting and sowing. Non-slip surfaces are better as are tables with a lip to help stop a pencil from rolling off. Also, consider all-terrain trolleys or a hand cart.

3.    Find a comfortable place to sit, somewhere out of the wind and in shade to do some gardening. Keep hydrated, carry pills with you, sunscreen and a snack.

4.    Compost bags are heavy and it is uneconomical to buy smaller bags. Ask someone to help open a bag of compost and using a scoop transfer the contents into a bucket.

5.    Soil as a muscle strengthener – I’m not suggesting that you eat soil, but squeezing soil in your hands starts to strengthen your hand and arm muscles, and bare hands in soil releases serotonin to the brain, making you feel better.

6.    Pace your activities, especially if you tire quickly. Set a timer to 5 minutes. Try working for this period-of-time and then rest for 5 minutes, repeat. It is better to do things in shorter time periods with gaps in between than it is to work solidly for 30 minutes, after which you will probably be exhausted. 

7.    Find the right tool for the task. Long handled, lightweight tools are great but try them out in the shop. Long-handled tools are great for people in wheelchairs and for people who cannot bend or kneel easily. The ones with interchangeable heads are a good idea.

8.    If you have difficulties with dexterity, then consider ergonomic tools. From moulded handles that sit comfortably in your hand to rotating handles (ie secateurs). Also look at relief grip bionic gloves, which help improve dexterity.

9.    Use a vertical planter or raised planting table to bring the plants up to a manageable height. You can either position your wheelchair or mobility scooter underneath or position a chair ready to sit and enjoy sowing, planting and harvesting. Raised tables do not have a lot of depth, but you can still grow salad crops, as well as herbs and alpine plants

10.    Think about using pots. Half fill a pot with polystyrene and top up with soil. This will keep the weight down. If arranging pots together, turn a couple of empty pots upside down and position your planted pot on top. You can create a whole garden with a combination of pots.

11.    Use clear plastic tubing to sow seeds in borders or on allotments. Cut to a comfortable length, either from a seated or standing position without the need to bend. Make planting holes in the soil either with a bamboo cane, position the tube above the hole and drop a seed into the top of the tube. Let gravity do its thing and with minimal effort a seed is planted in the hole. Either using the cane or a long-handled tool cover the seed with soil.

See for more information on Mark Lane’s work.

For more on accessible gardens, click here.

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