If you’ve been following for a while now you know I LOVE plants and gardening. Not being able to bend down and plant outside or get outside unassisted made the thought of gardening in anything more than pots seem impossible. I have loved my windowsill garden and have been maintaining that for two years, but I really wanted to step up my game. I have done a lot of research, trial and error and I want to share 5 ways to make gardening more accessible for you!
1. Start Small
This might seem like it’s not worth mentioning, but it is. My first year getting into succulents (2017) I can admit that I killed them all… and then some. If your spouse is like mine, they will not think highly of spending a bunch of money on plants to find out that you killed them all two months later and want to go replace them all. That was the year we created a plant budget. All of this to say though I started reading about succulents and figured out which ones needed more light than others, used succulent food, and barely watered. Buy a few flowers or succulents and take time to learn from them before shelling out for a whole garden. You will get there!
Last year, I had a HUGE fail with seed starting. I did everything you could possibly do wrong. Nothing bloomed and the sprouts all eventually died. I over watered, under watered, didn’t buy the right soil, they weren’t getting enough light on the windowsill so I put them in the sunroom and forgot to open a window and THEY ALL CRISPED LIKE BACON, literally the list could go on and on. I am so grateful I didn’t not invest a lot into this, but this year I was more prepared and wiser.
2. Think about your lifestyle and limitations
No one wants to talk about this, but we have to. I gravitated towards succulents because they love to be ignored. They want sun, a minuscule amount of water, and to be left alone. This made these the perfect plant to have with constant hospital admissions. From aug 2017- feb 2019, I couldn’t keep sprouts or regular plants alive because I couldn’t consistently take care of them. I didn’t have the energy or time, and sometimes wasn’t even home.
The day that I got my first “real” plant (aka one that needed watering at least 4x a week) my mom got me the day I started home care. It was so special because that was a positive change coming from that hard decision. With the hopes that I wouldn’t be in the hospital very often, hypothetically I could keep some more needy plants alive. That year, I also added flowers and tulips to my windowsill garden. It wasn’t perfect, but it was so exciting to have my first spring that we knew I shouldn’t be burdened with lots of admissions. This year (2020) is my first spring with a garden bed and a windowsill garden, and thankfully Jared helps water on days I cannot.
3. Get creative with your tools
Many garden tools can be heavy. They may not seem heavy to an average person but anyone with energy limitations or joint limitations will agree that they can be heavy. Jared moves the soil bags, rocks, and heavy pots for me when they are needed. To make the soil easier to access I keep a container full of about a gallon of foil at a time and he refills it for me when needed. Rather than a trowel or shovel, I use measuring cups to fill my pots with soil. The measuring cups are light and easy on my fingers. To dig a hole in the soil of potted plants I use a plastic spoon, and for the raised garden bed I used a weeding fork as I have a light one. I also use tweezers to pull off dead leaves. I have trouble with a watering can due to my shoulders; for my succulents (whose roots should only get watered not the whole plant itself) I use a used, empty saline flush that I fill with water for each of those. I use a very small 2 cup liquid measuring cup to water all of the non-succulents.
4. Take preventative measures to reduce the potential for mold before it’s a problem
Many with chronic illnesses (especially MCAS) have severe mold allergies. I am someone who breaks out in hives, can’t keep anything down, and my O2 sats drop (thankfully no anaphylaxis for me personally.) Never use a “self watering” seed starter kit- those will mold like crazy! If you have an indoor garden or windowsill garden that doesn’t get full sun it is very important that you only water the middle of the plant, not the surrounding soil. If the soil isn’t able to fully dry out in between waterings, you will most likely get mold in the soil. If you have this happen, repot the plant with new soil (and wear a mask and gloves when translating so you don’t breathe in the mold) and put ground cinnamon around the surrounding soil of the plant. It stops mold growth. I use this technique for all of my potted plants and raised garden bed. Again also make sure you are watering the plant not the surrounding soil.
5. If bending or standing is hard- get a raised garden bed!
This year, as an early anniversary gift, my husband got me a raised garden bed (it was on sale at the time I don’t know what the price is now but we spent less than $100 on it) which my loving grandfather stained for me. It has been a game changer. This is my first year using a raised bed so I am sure I have a lot to learn, but having a garden that is accessible to me without bending or standing is awesome. I prefer to pull up a chair that is a bit higher than my wheelchair if I can’t tolerate standing (#potsprobs) and am planting.
Well my friends, I hope this gives you some of the tools you need to start gardening yourself! If you have any questions or have a hack that makes gardening more accessible for you PLEASE let me know! I’m not a master gardener but hope that I’m on the right track!
Want a step by step for planting succulents? Here you go!
Cassie Nolin is a married spoonie who lives the chronic illness life with EDS + Co. (Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and it’s comorbid conditions.) She challenges others to choose grace over guilt in goal setting, and is in ministry part time serving the online community through The Spoonie Study. She loves planting, hand lettering, and sharing the hope she has found in Jesus. Her blog, Living the Chronic Illness Life, is in the top 100 chronic illness blogs and her podcast, Chronically Cultivating, is produced by Speaking to the Heart Network. Cassie encourages women to live authentic and intentional lives through their diagnosis’ not in spite of them. You can learn more about her at www.livingthechronicillnesslife.com