Gardening From a Wheelchair BY Fred Walden

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 properly.

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 to use.

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 strimmer.

 

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 trimming!

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 between re-charges.

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 kit"

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 wheelchair.

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 plastic ones.

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 users.

You may also notice that I use my old recycling bins to grow potatoes in.

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

Cordless Sweepers

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 battery.

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 too.

 

 

Cutting Hedges from a wheelchair is possible and in fact effective if you have strong arms and a lightweight  hedge trimmer.

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 trimmer.

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.

 

 

Mowing a Lawn from a Wheelchair

A petrol Flymo pushed by an electric wheelchair was how I cut my lawn for a while

now I use a robotic mower!

FOR MORE DETAILS

click here for my  page on robotic lawn mowers

 

Wheelbarrows for Wheelchair users

Driving the electric garden cart was fun and attracted a lot of attention.

This Twin wheel barrow is more realistic and does not cost 1500

 

 Garden Gear Two Wheeled Wheelbarrow Whether You Need to Move Compost, Logs, Soil, Paving Slabs, Building Materials or Potted Plants

 

   
 

 

   
   

 

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 paths.

Widening  Driveway?

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 that

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 very easily.

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 computers

See www.trabasack.co.uk

 

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.

mail me fred@fredshed.com

 

 

         Price approx 45  - Made in Switzerland

There is a large range to suit your plants and hand size.

Including left handed secateurs

buy 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


fred@fredshed.com 

I always reply! (UK only please)

If you found my advice helpful you can support my work by returning to this page and using my links when purchasing your secateurs. Also any products bought from Amazon using the links below will produce a small commission that helps cover my hosting costs. thanks, Fred

         

 

If you found my site helpful and would like to make a small donation please use the link below. Thank you. Fred

 

 

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