Tips from an Experienced Gardener Who is Blind
You may wonder if you can garden after losing your vision. You can, and here are a few ideas to make it more enjoyable. Container gardening is a particularly easy, fun way. Flowers, herbs, and many vegetables grow well in containers. Whatever your growing conditions, you can have wonderful plants in your life. Even shallow 6-inch-deep pots can sit on a porch rail full of basil, parsley, or chives—fresh herbs for cooking or salad. No trip to the store is needed!
Advantages of Containers
- They make identifying plants and seed locations easy.
- They let you garden anywhere without digging garden beds.
- They allow a plant’s best soil, moisture, and growing conditions.
- They make changing a plant’s location easier.
Sample List of Plants That Grow Well in Containers
The list is divided into plants that need big containers and ones that can grow in shallow, small containers. Anything you plant in a small container, and other larger plants could be planted in a big container. Note: These containers are “outside,” on a porch, balcony, or window.
- bush beans
- red, green, or yellow sweet peppers
- hot peppers
- greens such as chard, kale, and collards
- herbs such as parsley, chives, basil, oregano, mint
- leaf lettuces of all kinds (hundreds of choices)
There are many more possibilities. Some grow best from seed and some from little “sets” or starter plants, available in gardening stores.
Soil is the foundation of a garden. Good soil lets plants thrive. Use topsoil or potting soil from a garden center to fill containers. You know the quality will be good, and it will be free of weeds and weed seeds. You’ll have to do less weeding that way later in the season!
- Use containers with good drainage holes in the bottom. Holes must be small enough so the soil stays in the pot but large enough to drain the excess water. If water pools in the bottom of a container it will damage plant roots. Put a layer of small pebbles or wood chips in the bottom of the container about a half-inch deep. It will absorb water, helping drainage.
- Next, fill the container to within about an inch of the top. That inch is so water or rain falling on the container has somewhere to go. If the container is full of soil to the rim, water might wash off the top layer of soil or wash off seeds. Try a mixture of two-thirds good soil and one-third peat moss. Peat moss adds lightness to the soil and nutrients and helps the soil retain moisture. It comes in big bags at most gardening centers.
- Next plant seeds, checking instructions for spacing them. Planting seeds and little plants in the same container is nice. You can enjoy the little plant while the seeds are germinating and sprouting. Planting lettuce or spinach “sets” and seeds in the same container means your lettuce crop comes in over time.
- You might put a parsley or basil plant in the center of a five-gallon bucket and space four bush bean seeds around the rim. The buckets have nice green plants in them while the seeds sprout.
Before spending money on expensive containers, think about recycling. An old plastic trash can with holes punched in the bottom becomes a gardening container. So does that plastic quart container from take-out food, yogurt, or cottage cheese. Restaurants, stores, and delis sometimes have five-gallon buckets for purchasing coleslaw or pickles they may give you. Spackle buckets work well, too, once thoroughly cleaned.
Thoughts About Labeling
The approach you take to labeling will vary according to the amount of vision you have and your style. Here are a few things to consider:
- Notes about your garden can include location and information about what you planted and when. Use whatever notetaking system works for you.
- Marker plants can help you identify the contents of each container. Plants with a distinctive shape (like broccoli), scent (like basil), or supporting trellis (like tomatoes) can make good marker plants.
- Use labels in large print or braille to mark containers. The labels can be placed on the containers or markers made of wood or metal, which can be bought from garden stores or made from popsicle sticks. Waterproof tape and markers can be used to create your own large print labels.
Gardeners always ask each other questions. We form gardening clubs. Some societies are dedicated to one plant, such as roses or daylilies. APH VisionAware is dedicated to our particular interests and needs as gardeners who are blind or low vision.
If you have gardened before, welcome back to your garden. If you are taking up gardening, welcome to a new hobby.