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The Two Fingered Gardener
This week, we have enjoyed the Chelsea Flower Show and so we are talking to Niki Preston, also known as The Two Fingered Gardener about her love of gardening and passion for sharing her experiences as a disabled gardener.
I was born with Phocomelia so I have two fingers on my right hand and a tiny little one on my left arm. Both my arms are short and do not bend at all and just for good measure I also have dodgy hip and knee joints. I am married to the lovely James and we have three grown up children and 2 gorgeous granddaughters..
After moving to a house with a much bigger garden a few years ago it soon became apparent that one of us would need to learn how to garden and as James really did not have any enthusiasm for the task so it fell to me, now it has become my greatest passion, I have won an award and got to work alongside my all-time garden hero, Chris Beardshaw.
Sharing my love of gardening has led me down a completely new path, so to speak and I began writing about how I garden even though my disability makes it quite difficult. I have learnt to become very creative and now I feel it is time to share this with others and hopefully inspire people to give it a go or to start again if they have given up through adversity. Featuring in Amateur Gardening magazine, The Guardian, BBCouch! Garden News I have even appeared on Gardeners world, I loved every minute of that. I hope I am beginning to spread the word. Product testing accessible garden tools has also begun to take off so I hope you might find some useful handy tips and ideas.
Gardening to me anyway, is very therapeutic; it lifts my spirits whenever I have bad days. I get totally lost in myself and it is probably the only time I can forget about constant pain, where I am free to be just me, after all a garden is not judgemental, it just rewards all your love and care with beauty, colour and yummy veggies.
If you are new to gardening and just want to give it a go I hope some of my advice will point you in the right direction. Firstly don’t worry about lack of space. Any space can be made into a garden. You can use pots, window sills anywhere even your dining room table, which I do a lot. Raised bed gardening is by far the best, no back breaking bending and they can be placed at the correct height for you, so wheelchair access is perfect too. I grow all my flowers, veg and herbs in raised beds, all mixed in together. The effect is quite something and there is always something to look at and tend too. Give a little bit of consideration to your individual capabilities and what you feel you can manage. Things like long term plant care, dead heading, pruning, that kind of thing. Everything is possible with a bit of determination which we all have in spades (excuse the pun) and the right tools for the job.
In my quest to find tools for the disabled gardener I have been sent some amazing products, not all of which were designed with disability in mind but I have found they are all useable in one way or another. I have been very lucky in that I have been trusted by some of the biggest garden tool companies to trial their products. Wolf-garten have let my try nearly all their products and they are fantastic.
My advice to the beginner is doing a little research into the kind of plants that you like and make sure you can manage them. Perennials are perfect to start with; they come back every year and need less constant care and attention, mostly a bit of deadheading every now and then. Bulbs are a useful garden staple, just push them under the soil and wait for them to do their thing. What could be simpler or more satisfying than time spent lost in your own little world, no worries, some peace and quiet and fresh air to blow those cobwebs away?
If you need any more advice or just want to know more about me and the other products I have tested, please do not hesitate to contact me on Twitter @nikijrp and Facebook where I have my own page, The Two Fingered Gardener. My web blog can be found at www.nikipreston.com - tell us about your experience of gardening now.