Gardening From a Wheelchair BY
Tips for wheelchair gardeners
Updated 8th December 2016
I use long light tools for ground work
And my Forest Garden Wooden planter and Elho Grow table plastic raised
beds for seeds and cuttings
After 16 years of gardening on my feet
I suddenly found myself in a wheelchair wondering how I was going to
manage my hobby and passion. Firstly I fashioned some tools then
set about re-designing my garden. 25 years on - gardening is my career and
rarely a day goes by when I'm not involved in plants or tools.
My early attempts at tool and garden
design caught the interest of the medical/rehab community and soon I was
gainfully employed researching equipment and techniques, and assisting
clients as a horticultural therapist.
With the help of the engineers at the
Nuffield Orthopaedic Hospital in Oxford I was able to modify or design
equipment that began to influence manufacturers wanting better products
for an aging and affluent population of gardeners.
After leaving my NHS job I became
self-employed and now mostly work helping able-bodied gardeners find
tools and equipment and help manufacturers market better quality, easier
to use products.
The most common advice given to
gardeners in wheelchairs is to build raised beds and bring the plants up
to your level. Whilst this seems like a good idea it is not always the
best solution and probably based on someone not thinking things through
With a few tools and techniques it is very practical for most wheelchair
users to garden "normally" with plants at ground level. There are several
problems with raised bedding. Firstly - cost and construction, it
can be expensive and look hideous.
Secondly -access is mostly from the side
which makes working difficult. If you make space underneath for access
the the soil depth is reduced and plants dry out or fall over. Finally if
you plant a small seedling in a raised bed it will be at your level,
however as it grows it may well disappear from reach and unlike Jack and
the beanstalk you wont be climbing up to see the fruits. (unless you're
that Andy guy from Little Britain)
I am not totally against raised bedding
and have areas of it myself. It has it's uses but I don't like to
see a garden dominated by it.
If you can design some narrower easily
accessible borders at ground level a few carefully selected tools is
probably all you need.
My favourite tools are long reach pruners, lightweight push pull hoes, small rakes, forks and trowels,
(especially with telescopic handles for easier transportation) and
battery powered grass and shrub trimmers. None of the tools I use are
special tools for disabled people, all of them are "mainstream" products
and widely available. If you are a quadriplegic or have limited upper
body strength then there are a few specialist tools that may help or you
could adapt existing tools with extra handles.
The main area where a wheelchair user will
need to develop a special technique is in soil preparation and planting.
Digging large areas of soil with a
large fork or spade is not an option unless you want to become more
disabled. If you have good soil a regular hoeing should be enough or
there is a tool called a soil miller that works like a push-pull
plough. A bulb planter or long handled trowel can be used to dig a
planting hole and the plants can be dropped in by hand, on a trowel or
by a grabber depending on its size. I then use the T handle of my trowel
to firm down the soil.
Mowing a lawn can now be done with
robotic mowers which start at £600 and are really effective. I have used
one for over 5 years and before that had a hover mower attached to the
front of an electric wheelchair.
Probably the most important thing for any
gardener but more so for a disabled gardener is choosing plants that you
can manage. if you plant a lot of Buddleias (butterfly bush) you will
end up doing a lot of pruning, clearing of leaves and disposing of
rubbish, every year! if you grow a dwarf Hebe you will get similar
flowers, butterflies and no-where near as much work.
Garden Tools Suitable for Wheelchair Users
Battery Powered Grass Shears
Using conventional lawn edging shears is difficult
from a wheelchair and the one handed versions are slow and tiring
My tool of choice for trimming grass are these
battery powered electric shears.
The model shown right has been discontinued but
Bosch have a similar model, see below.
Electric shears are easier to handle that a
The Bosch ISIO
is similar to the Award winning Wolf trimmer but it is smaller,
lighter and cheaper.
2 Tools in 1
Grass and shrub
The Bosch ISIO can be converted from a grass shear
to a small shrub trimmer in seconds and is surprisingly efficient.
I also like the drop in charger base and metal tin that the tool
comes in. Running time is very good thanks to the Li-ion batteries
and I get 20 minutes use which included some woody shrub material.
The softer the material you cut the longer the battery will last
The Bosch ISIO is available as a grass trimmer and/or a shrub trimmer. There is also a kit that includes both blades
which is very good value and known as the "Bosch ISIO shape and edge
A new , breakthrough in powered
garden tools, this lightweight grass shear and shrub trimmer has
Lithium Ion batteries for power and durability.
Lithium ion batteries are also
more environmentally friendly than Nicads or Nimh batteries.
Bosch Isio Cordless Shrub/ Grass Shear
Bosch Teleskopstiel Isio
Bosch Sprayer Attachment for Isio III Shrub & Grass Shears
Click link below to see my new page on
Solar Garden Lights
Long Handled Cut and Hold Pruner
This long handled cut and hold pruner is one of my
favorite tools and one that I have used for over 12 years. That's
why it won the first ever Golden Shed Award.
It comes in different sizes from the 650mm version
shown here right up to the telescopic one that extends to 3m!
This tool is ideal for light pruning up to16mm
thick, and for deadheading roses etc. Whilst working as an NHS
horticultural therapist I recommended this tool to hundreds of
patients using wheelchairs. I received many letters of thanks and never
had a tool returned faulty.
The 650 mm version is shown left- but the best version
is longer at 1m and is superb for reaching climbing roses or into
the back of deep prickly borders.
The "snapper" can be used one or two handed and
has a lot of handle adjustment. It is also very well made and I am
still using one that I have had for over 10 years.
Pruning Thicker Branches from your wheelchair.
Assuming that you have good balance and some upper body strength it
is possible to cut quite large branches (2 inches thick) up to a
height of about 6ft.
I use the Fiskars universal cutter shown right because it is
lightweight and has a geared mechanism to give more cutting power.
Also the cord is hidden in the shaft so it does not get caught up in
the tree or in your wheels.
Fiskars Universal Cutter Anvil
Darlac DP110 1000m Cut-n-Hold Snapper
Telescopic Snapper Adjustable
This is me using the heavier duty Fiskars Universal Cutter.
Fiskars Universal Cutter Anvil
Long Handled Fork and Spade
A good alternative to the tool above are these mid
length stainless steel tools with T handles.
The fork and spade heads are not as strong as the
Spork above but if you treat them sensibly they will last and are
great tools for wheelchair users and indeed anyone how cant manage
the larger size border forks and spades.
These are great tools for light digging,
don't use them to lever
roots or prise heavy plants up as they may bend!
Raised Beds and Planters for Wheelchair Gardeners
If the sidewalls of any raised planters are narrow
enough then they can be of good use to people gardening from a
Many so called "raised beds" built for disabled
people are hard to work for wheelchair users if the walls are thick.
As most access will be sideways on then thick walls mean the
wheelchair user (unless they have arms like Gibbons) will only be
able to reach a small way into the planter.
Raised bedding has a number of other advantages
apart from the access issue and kits are now available to enable you
to easily create the bed you want in a variety of sizes and heights.
I have tried many systems over the years including
these wooden slot together systems and some of the more modern
Click the link below to see the largest range from
one of my retailing partners
click here to see some raised bed systems
In my own garden I use the wooden trough shown
left to grow vegetables as the sloping sides allow me easy access
from my wheelchair.
The sloping sides of this planter allow easy access for wheelchair
You may also notice that I use my old recycling bins to grow
Helping Hand Pick Up tools
Grabbers and reachers tested by Fred-in-the-shed
These tools can be useful in the garden, my personal favourite is
the one below which can even pull out weeds and has a extendable
spike to collect litter too.
For home use I like the Pik-Stik reacher as it can grip large
containers, or really small things, is light
and the head can be turned to different angles.
The handi Grip is recommended by a reader and is similar and cheaper!
I have a large collection of grabbers that I use at home, in my
garden and workshop.
Do you have steps in your garden?
Need better access to your shed?
Visit friends who have steps to their house?
Make your garden more wheelchair accessible
This is me on my portable ramp
use link below for more details
Aidapt Aluminium Suitcase Ramp
The Bosch model is more effective at blowing
due to the upturned nozzle end. The latest Bosch ALB 18v blower has a larger
2 amp hour battery.
Bosch ALB 18 LI Cordless Lithium Ion Leaf Blower Featuring Syneon Chip (1 x 18 V Battery, 2.0 Ah)
18v Cordless Leaf blowers
Some years back I tested the Black & Decker 18v cordless leaf
blower and was very disappointed. Whilst the idea was good the
product was a bit ahead of its time and let down by an poor NiCad
Luckily technology has moved on and Makita of Japan have just
launched this amazingly small but powerful leaf blower using its
latest 18v Lithium-ion battery with its unbeatable 3 amp hour capacity.
Initial tests show a run time of about 20 minutes compared to
about 5 from the old B&D GW180.
This vast improvement in performance comes at a price. The Makita
blower costs around £50 but this does not include a battery or
charger. The Makita BUB182Z blower forms part of a range of over 20 18v
professional quality power tools and Makita assume this will be
purchased by customers who already have the battery and charger
from their drills, saws, and grinders etc.
If you are a gardener and want the best cordless powertools then
there is the 18v cordless chainsaw that runs from the same battery
Cutting Hedges from a wheelchair is possible and
in fact effective if you have strong arms and a lightweight
I have used the Gtech HT05 with a rechargeable 14v
Li-ion battery built into the handle.
The small but powerful battery lasts long enough for me to trim a
few hedges and it is best not too do too much of this type of work
in one go anyway.
The Gtech cordless hedge trimmer is fully
adjustable to any angle to suit your needs.
However using any long tool from a wheelchair can
be risky , especially if you need to hold it up high like a hedge
More recently I have taken to using the excellent
Bosch ASB 10.8v shrub trimmer which is shorter but more manageable
and has a better quality blade and battery than the Gtech HT05 that
now has many reviews stating that the battery fails after a short
time and cannot be replaced..
Bosch ASB 10.8 20cm LI Shrub Shear Blade
Bosch ASB 10.8 Cordless Li-Ion Hedge Shear
Lightweight and Easy to
use Garden Shredder
Winner of the Golden Shed Award
The Bosch rapid shredders are light and easy to use. I can actually
move one from my garage to patio with one had whilst moving my
wheelchair with the other.
Ok I am bit of a clever **** but there are not many machines I could do this
with as they are either too heavy or badly balanced.
Ground Reinforcing Material
This is a new system of plastic tiles that is
used to produce a strong stable surface on lawns or areas of soil.
The perfo system is incredibly strong, however as it is designed to take
lorries it is very expensive and the square holes can be a problem
for the smaller wheelchair castors
Once installed grass can grow between the tiles
and even be mowed to create a natural looking surface.
Recently I found a new product to make wheelchair
Making a Path for Wheelchairs
Plastic Ground reinforcing grids
As a gardener and wheelchair user of 30 years I
have had to make many paths on many different substrates.
I have used many different plastic
paths and honeycomb type grids and have finally found an affordable one
is easy to lay and is very strong. It
is also made in Britain and available online in large and small amounts.
use the links below for more info or
e-mail me if you want help making a path for wheelchair users.
20 x Black Plastic Paving Driveway Grid Turf Grass Lawn Path Gravel Protector Drainage Mat (5 Square Meter)
40 x Black Plastic Paving Driveway Grid Turf Grass Lawn Path Gravel Protector Drainage Mat (10 Square Meter)
Shown above are 2 of the products I have used in the past.
The black one is Perfo which is very strong but very expensive. It
is great for putting down on grass
The green one is cheap and weak and designed for light traffic. It
is ideal for temporary applications as it can be taken up and moved
If you would like a more domestic type of plastic
garden path at a reasonable price click the link below
use link below to compare price
buy a low price plastic garden path
Trabasack - Laptray and a Bag Combined
My latest "must have" accessory for a wheelchair user.
This superb laptray is curved to go around your body and provide
more usable space for a laptop, food, books or whatever you want to
put on it.
This Trabasack Curve has plenty of space for working on plants.
The curved profile also makes it more stable and the best thing is
that this laptray zips open to provide storage space.
The Trabasack has carry handles and a long strap. It is also
available with Velcro so you can stick items to it.
There are 2 versions, the curve and a smaller one ideal for notebook
The Trabasack curve has a hardwearing recessed surface.
You can use it to carry a laptop, books etc.
Cut and Hold
Secateur from Felco
|Felco secateurs are the classic tool used by more
professionals than any other Secateur. The tried and tested design
has been around for years and has also been copied more than any
other tool. It is the HIGHEST quality product and all parts can be
replaced if necessary.
The classic 100 Secateur has now been
improved with the addition of a cut and hold mechanism that is
especially useful when stretching to deadhead or for general
pruning. Needless to say this mechanism is also indispensable if for
any reason you only have the use of one hand, for example if you are
in a wheelchair and need one hand to hold your wheel for balance.
I have some used cut and hold secateurs from Wolf and Felco if
you want a bargain pair.
Price approx £45 - Made in
There is a large range to suit your plants and hand size.
Including left handed secateurs
Felco secateurs online from garden4less
Still can't find
the tool you are looking for?
Want my personal tip
for the best tool for you?
e-mail me at
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