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The Two Fingered Gardener

NikijrpNikijrp Posts: 3Member Connected
edited July 2017 in Guest blogs
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.

Woman - Niki - smiling at the camera whilst watering trays full of soil


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.

Niki smiling as she plants vegetables in her garden


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.

Replies

  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 7,348Administrator Scope community team
    @foxuk and @iza I thought you might like today's guest post!
    Scope
    Senior online community officer
  • CaderMacCaderMac Posts: 105Community champion Pioneering
    Absolutely gorgeous guest post @Nikijrp - I would love to start growing my own herbs, do you have any advice for a total novice? What are the best herbs to start off with if you have killed every single house plant you have ever owned? 

    When I was little I had my own patch in the garden that I loved, and after reading this I think I will popping to the garden centre after work... 
  • AlexW_ScopeAlexW_Scope Posts: 202Scope Team Scope community team
    Great post @Nikijrp

    There is more info about how to make gardening more accessible at https://www.scope.org.uk/Support/Disabled-people/Equipment/Gardening-aids
  • SeanRyanSeanRyan Posts: 66Member Connected
    You are soooooooo good Thankyou @Nikijrp I  enjoyed reading that. I have just joined a community garden and love it to bits. another new passion of mine.  Keep it up Love to you and the family xxx
  • NikijrpNikijrp Posts: 3Member Connected
    CaderMac said:
    Absolutely gorgeous guest post @Nikijrp - I would love to start growing my own herbs, do you have any advice for a total novice? What are the best herbs to start off with if you have killed every single house plant you have ever owned? 

    When I was little I had my own patch in the garden that I loved, and after reading this I think I will popping to the garden centre after work... 
    Hello, I'm so glad you enjoyed my guest blog and that you are beginning your own herb garden. Coriander and basil are a pretty easy ones to grow from seed. If you are keeping them inside then a kitchen windowsill with plenty of light is a great place for them. Pop a tray underneath once established and water from below rather above. A quick home made greenhouse to get the seeds started off is once your seeds are sown pop in a stick, about 5 or inches then put a plastic bag over the top and seal around the pot with an elastic band, once you see signs of life take off the elastic band off to let in some air after a week take the bag off completely, water reguarly but dont drown it. alternatively think about the kind of herbs you will use and buy some baby plants from a good garden centre and hey presto instant herb garden. I hope this helps :) please don't hestitate to ask me more questions :) nx PS mint is also easy but always always keep it in a pot or it will run wild! 
  • NikijrpNikijrp Posts: 3Member Connected
    SeanRyan said:
    You are soooooooo good Thankyou @Nikijrp I  enjoyed reading that. I have just joined a community garden and love it to bits. another new passion of mine.  Keep it up Love to you and the family
    Hi SeanRyak, thank you so much for you kind comments. Gardening is such a great passion to have, I hope you enjoy your community garden x
  • JusticeJustice Posts: 206Member Pioneering
    @Nikijrp I have just read your post. What an inspiration you are! I agree with you that gardening is very therapeutic. It was what my Husband did for a living before he became ill with Parkinson's. he still does our own garden because he can do that in his own time. Jobs which would have taken him maybe an hour can take over a day now, but no one is cracking the whip so no worries.
    He really believes that the gardening stops him becoming depressed, and I think so too.I am only allowed to sweep up as I have a tendency to uproot the wrong things :-) so I am under strict supervision .
    I think it is great that you have been able to trial so many things, I bet you had fun doing that.
    @SeanRyan I hope you continue to enjoy your community garden. Remember to grow some catnip for Derek, and Eduardo :-)
  • Sam_ScopeSam_Scope Posts: 7,348Administrator Scope community team
    Such a brilliant post, thank you @Nikijrp - we were talking about gardening and mental health a couple of months ago too and I thought some of you might enjoy the post.
    Scope
    Senior online community officer
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