Gardening can be a wonderful sensory experience. A number of simple tips can reduce the workload and increase your sensory pleasure:
Use Landscaping Fabric or Mulch
- Try using landscaping fabric, mulch, or even corrugated cardboard around plants and seedlings.
- Using these materials can reduce the need to weed and water as frequently.
Use Colorful and Tactile Borders
- Use commercial edging products, such as crushed stone, bricks, pavers, pieces of lumber, or fencing to mark where one area ends and another begins.
- Use planking, long boards, rocks, or bricks to mark off the outer edges of your garden or raised beds for easier location and separation from lawn or play areas.
- Paint your existing fencing or stones in contrasting colors, such as white or yellow, that will contrast with the green grass.
- Use textured and/or colorful materials, such as crushed white marble chips, natural wood chips, and crushed seashells.
- Old car tires can contain spreading plants like pumpkins and squash.
Choose Plants for their Sensory Qualities
- Explore new plant varieties and focus on each plant's sensory qualities.
- For example, in addition to planting geraniums, also consider mint, lemon, lavender, a variety of roses, and plants with different textures and scents.
Create Your Own Plant and Row Markers
- If you have low vision, create large print signs/labels with index cards and a wide-tip black marker. Laminate the cards or seal them in plastic sandwich bags. Attach each card to a small craft stick.
- Use brightly painted stones in different colors to indicate the type of flower or plant. For example, white stone=daisies, red stone=tulips or tomatoes.
- Tie beads to small craft sticks. For example, one bead=carrots, two beads=onions, three beads=lettuce.
- Yogurt cups with the bottoms removed can protect young plants. Sink the cup halfway into the soil and and plant inside it. It will outline the area in which your seedlings are growing and can also help with weed control.
- Lay down a fishing line or a cane and use it as a guide for planting straight rows.
- If you form rows by running strings between stakes, you can secure old tennis balls or another type of tactile reminder on the top of each stake for identification purposes.
- See Labeling and Marking for hints on making large print and other types of labels for your plants.
Additional Gardening Tips
- Use an egg carton as a planting spacer. Poke a 1-inch hole in the bottom of each egg portion and position the egg carton/spacer on the soil. Place one seed into each hole and cover with soil. Gently remove the spacer and continue planting.
- If you have low vision, look for commercially produced garden tools with brightly colored handles that will contrast with the ground or with your plant bench.
- You can also apply contrasting tape or paint to the handles of your favorite tools or paint the tines of your rake to help with locating your tools and identifying your work area.
- A long-handled garden tool can also become a measuring stick by placing contrasting tape along the handle every six inches, or whatever distance you need to measure.
- Use an apron, utility belt, or plastic carryall container to hold your gardening tools.
- Always return your gardening tools and supplies to their proper storage locations. Do not leave them in the garden or on the lawn.
- Grow fresh herbs or vegetables in large pots near your kitchen door.
- Consider using natural or organic fertilizers and pest control treatments, especially if you use your uncovered hands to feel your plants or tend your garden.
- Use protective techniques to protect your face and eyes from injury when bending down in the garden.
Additional resources for sensory and container gardening:
- Gardening for the Senses by Larry Caplan, an extension educator in horticulture at Purdue University
- Gardening for the Blind: Tips for People with Impaired Vision, also by Larry Caplan from Purdue University
- Use intensive-yield gardening techniques, such as those described in Square Foot Gardening.
Practice Safe Lawn Mower and Lawn Care Basics
- Wear long pants and sleeves to protect your legs from flying debris, branches, and insects.
- Wear sturdy shoes with closed toes.
- Always wear safety goggles. Flying debris can cause eye injuries.
- Before starting your lawn mower, prepare your work area by removing obstacles such as toys, loose plants, rocks, and branches.
- Use protective techniques to protect your head, face, and eyes from injury when bending over your lawn work.
- If you have low vision, set up visible markers or use trees, shrubs, or other landmarks to section off your lawn and help you remain oriented to the mowing space.
- Always turn off your lawn mower before cleaning out clogs or clearing obstacles in your path.
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