Spoonie Gardening

Spoonie Gardening

Since I was very naughty and totally derailed another thread with my garden-whitter *cough* I've started a new thread. I used to do a lot of manual work and also had an allotment, but I found by the time I walked to my plot I was too tired to work. Over time I've lost mobility more and more in my hands and being able to bend. Growing my own food has become of utmost importance to me, and so I gave made a lot of sacrifices and spent a fair bit of money to be able to keep gardening, mostly I've succeeded but I have been soundly defeated by "traditional" gardening - the ground bare entirely with rows of roses and so on. This area of my garden will be converted to more low maintenance system, as I've learned I just can't keep up anymore.

I've always done companion planting but even that has proven too much work, so I have switched to a permaculture system, this takes companion and no dig gardening many steps further - it composts, fertilises, locks in moisture and conditions soil all at once. The system has for my area has taken some time to create but I now have chickens to provide manure, which I use to mulch and create new layered beds (which I don't have to dig at all, there's no room for weeds to grow so no hoeing either). I've kept all my trees in tubs so they don't grow too quickly and I just top them up with chicken manure in winter. I've got loganberries growing along a fence, which has strawberries and comfrey growing underneath it, with a rotted manure mulch. the strawberries and comfrey are packed in so tightly the ground elder (a huge problem in my traditional bed) is choked out and can't get a foothold. This system provides me with food on a regular basis, and even when I am at my absolute worst symptoms-wise, I've got plenty of fruit and veg to harvest which is in an easily accessible place.

Gardening is a part of my business, I harvest and sell herbs, harvest cuttings from my trees to grind for incense, although I have also been asked about cuttings for propagation as well. The hens eat a lot of scraps (dandelions are great hen food!), and they provide eggs and manure for the garden. They aren't as difficult to care for as I had feared they might be, and they don't need much space either.

Now I don't want anyone to think this is only possible due to my admittedly very idyllic surroundings; I had to sacrifice a lot. There are no buses where I live, the closest supermarket is over ten miles away and I spend so much time indoors even the villagers here don't know I live here, and I've been here for almost three years now. I didn't have a car when I moved here and no school wanted my son attending due to his autism, so for a year everything was a real struggle. But my garden is my haven, my sanctuary, my peace. Nothing gives me ease like having my hands caked with dirt, and when you spend a good portion of your days only staring out a window, a good view is worth it. I have grown food in urban areas on top of apartment flats, in a broken down chest of drawers in suburbia, vertical gardens in windows when there was nowhere else to put anything at all. So it's possible, and I've always been a firm believer in brainstorming ways to allow people to continue to enjoy their pursuits even if isolated and housebound as I am.

If you've got gardening tips and tricks, I'd love to hear them! Any ideas on how to make a job easier or figure out how to garden on a budget? I've tonnes of links and resources if you need them, from Thrive,com to the gardening for disabled trust. Bring your achy green thumbs!

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40 Replies

  • Well done Silvergilt, and a great pic too.

  • Thank you, I've had quite a bit of help with it from various organisations, so it hasn't been a one-person job nor been overnight, still a work in progress

  • Useful links for spoonie people

    Thrive.org.uk - a good resource which uses gardening as therapy for various conditions, can advise on gardening aids to make job easier, great resource. I taught my son many lessons through gardening and thrive promotes a lot of work for ASD now as well as physical disability.

    Gardening for Disabled Trust: help to fund projects to be able to continue gardening. Most people probably don't know they exist as they aren't tech savvy and don't promote, but they helped me fashion my previous back garden and were a great help!

    land share - a system in which, if you have space but no energy to be able to grow your own fruit and veg, you can opt to allow neighbours to use a portion of your property like an allotment, in exchange for a portion of grown produce. Acts as a form of barter. There is advice about the system, about how to protect yourself from the unscrupulous and how to agree a plan on farmgarden.org.uk

    Gaia's Garden -permaculture is a huge subject, and while there are a lot of resources and groups out there they're not always accessible to the less mobile or for people who can't pay the seminar fees. One of the best books I have ever read about permaculture which manages to explain things in simple terms is "Gaia's Garden." It breaks down facts and studies, explains zones, soil components, creating humus, and demonstrates how to do all of this in many different settings. The "lasagna bed" system is brilliant, I've tested it on my first site and I'm so sold I'm going to do the same throughout my entire garden.

    Will add more as I stumble onto it.

  • Hi Silvergilt

    I really admire your positive can do attitude despite gardening becoming increasingly hard due to Lupus.! I wish you lots of luck with modifying your beautiful garden , it looks idyllicX

  • More my absolute bloodimindedness lol. I've had to give up a fair bit so I refused to lose the gardening. Thanks!

  • Fantastic! I am newly diagnosed and my joints slowly deteriorating. I have quite a l large garden including a lawn which I just about manage at the moment. Only been in the house 4 years and just started growing my own. I have started with broad beans, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and herbs but want to expand to other manageable crops. Potatoes in pots next I think. You've inspired me, thank you.

  • I grow all my spuds in grow bags, it is a lot easier than all the hilling up and so on. Also minaret the fruit trees can be grown in pots too. Keeps them from getting too large and yields enough fruit for one or two people, so less waste and clean up of surplus fruit.

    Plenty of scope! I wish you luck.

  • Thanks. Will invest in some of the trees. I have some massive tubs so I can grow spuds in those.

  • Most welcome. Give a thought to the lawn for the future - I moved here and it's mostly rock substrate from prev owners, lawn at my prev house got too much for me. I am seeding white clover in patches which doesn't grow too long, fixes nitrogen in the soil, brings bees (you can cut the flowers off if this is an issue) and cuttings I can use to give to my hens a bit at a time. Doesn't yellow in drought, can withstand traffic....there are some good grass alternatives out there.

  • Yes, I went to the lakes recently and saw a white lawn. I remember thinking 'is that a chamomile lawn?' In which case it would help me to sleep. We have to be inventive. Like others, I'm sure, I spent time being thoroughly frustrated by what I couldn't do. Now I think; what can I do? You have spurred me into action. Off to the garden centre !

  • My training & career were in horticulture. Your wonderful inspiring posts speak directly to the gardener in me, who long ago was finally forced into a kind of hibernation...forced by my lupus going undiagnosed & treated....I stuck it out, gardening for much longer than probably I should've - even gardening in a cervical collar etc (my synovial joints! include both the top synovial joint & the sacral synovial joints were affected by lupus, and my whole spine + all my joints are affected by both ligamentous laxity & tendon tightening)

    But I do get my gardening kicks by enjoying the work others do, and you're doing the sort of gardening I both respect & love. Thanks so much for all the detail: you've painted a wonderful picture with words ( and this is a great photo)......and I hope you'll post more as the seasons & years pass...I think I must've missed your previous garden posts...must search them out

    Thank you silvergilt!

    Ps did you win a silvergilt at an RHS show?

  • Hehe thank you! I'm undiagnosed, there's a lot of "could be lupus" at the moment and I have a lot of symptoms so we will see.

    There is a lot of calls in permaculture community to get the disabled or chronically ill more involved, but as most people are well and able, they don't seem to quite "get" where we are coming from. Perhaps you could get in touch and share some insight? I've been doing when I can. It's all well and good for people to say "use raised beds" but when asked "who installs the beds and how much will it cost?" It is a lightbulb moment as it's clear they never even thought of that.

    Thanks very much! I was actually a silversmith for a while, but a good friend who designed my last garden won a silver gilt at a show, bless her!

  • Congrats to your friend!!!!

    Am totally pro permaculture! my speciality area has been mainly hardy perennials & gardening with native plants...but I started as a teen & horticulture student with fruit & veg, which am still v interested in

    Sadly, though, am mainly the cheering type: not yet feeling truly able to get involved much more than I am now..but thanks for your question...AND I will think about this....because the lupus treatment I'm finally on, hydroxy as of 3 yrs ago + myco as of jan last, is helping a lot.....and before myco I'd thought I'd have to even give up the bit of slide illustrated lecturing about gardens I'd continued to do, but now I'm still talking...although much less often....& now am aiming at a wider audience, & accepting invitations now on behalf of my local lupus support group, and explaining at each talk a bit about lupus + how it has affected my career in gardening etc.....will have to work on this cause my feelings re my decline as a gardener have been, oh dear, mainly vvvvv depressed...it was my life & passionate vocation...it was how I met my hero husband ( who does still garden)... took me many moons to come to terms with my health disability preventing me from gardening...was like a bereavement...tough subject for me...finally went into therapy which helped a lot & gradually have felt able to take a more positive view of all this......after all, come what did, I have been lucky enough & motivated enough to able to continue as part of the amateur & professional gardening community even though I've had to give up the actual practice (well, I do a bit of watering in our garden here!).

    Argh: Haha did you expect this much detail? Well, you've expressed a passion I can relate to, so.....it feels good to share a bit...

    Hope vvvv much you'll keep us up on your gardening activity!

  • By all means, share! I've tapped something with my post, and that is good, it's why I garden, as in felt the same about bodybuilding, it was soul destroying, so I focused on gardening now, and have turned it into something good. And I feel you - I can't get anywhere, I'm a lone parent and carer, but the internet is great and allows me to connect to people (like here) so is a great tool for teaching, I've found.

    Oh I cannot sing the praise of perennials enough though I am just starting to find more of them. Didn't know perennial kale was a thing till this year, so looking forward to that!

  • YES! For a few years I lived on a coastal island where Sea Kale grew...truly perennially! Delicious!

    I love your positive spirit! I can tell you do TOTALLY understand!

  • I am also undiagnosed but "something is going on" and also live in a very rural location. My husband is also disabled and we are both carers for his very elderly and cankanterous mother - who lives with us - so all three of us are clapped out. My husband got some barge boards from Jewsons and has built several raised beds, this seemed to be the cheapest option. It took him some time and there was a lot of swearing! We had to get in some compost initially, which was an outlay, but are now generating our own in two large home built compost bins. We are growing spuds ( I don't earth them up as too difficult), peas, some rather oddly shaped carrots, and raspberries and strawberries. Birds and/or mice got all the strawberries last year, so this year am growing them in our cheap and cheerful plastic greenhouse with great success so far. We have a very low income so what we can grow helps to boost our diet. We also have a couple of chickens who provide us with eggs and great entertainment. It can be tiring but growing food is very rewarding and at least I can feel I'm contributing someting. Good luck with your ventures and enjoy your gardening. :0

  • Very well done to you, it sounds like you are getting a fair turnaround. And throwing a strawberry to my hens never gets old, it's chicken-rugby!

    PS just noticed you breed Maine Coons. OMG SQUEE I WANT ONE *ahem* that's very nice indeed.

  • Hi Silvergilt. What a lovely photo and uplifting post. And thanks so much for your useful links, a couple of which I will be checking out.

  • Most welcome and please do, that's only a small sample of everything out there but fair enough to get one on the way.

  • How fantastic to see someone working so brilliantly round this wretched disease . . . I have a small, narrow terraced garden, and when I realised I wasn't going to get better I got a man in to get rid of the lawn, paved the centre (wide enough to get a wheelchair down on bad days) and put slightly raised, deep wide beds round the three sides. There's a small pound at the house end of one side stuffed with frogs and irises, a mulberry tree (in good summers we actually get mulberries!), a rowan at the end (to keep witches from my door, obviously!), and pyracanthus (for the birds). The sides are covered with a huge wild rose (great hips for the birds and for syrup this year, if I'm lucky!) on one side and jasmine and honeysuckle that just roams wild on the other. And I moved the bird feeders to the washing line that runs along the front outside the lounge and kitchen windows so I can sit at the table and watch the blackbirds and blue tits and spunnocks (a mass crowd of sparrows and dunnocks!) feeding their young. Like you, I've got spuds in a barrel, tomatoes in a big round growbag-thingie, and usually I have beans and peas, although this year I was late putting them in and not vigilant enough and the slugs ate them all. But the beetroot plants I got on sale at Homebase (£1 for around 30 plants!) are really flourishing . . . I shall try the beans again, though . . . The birds get most of the strawberries, but this year I'm trying rhubarb in a big pot. Even if I'm not well enough to garden, just sitting out there is my solace and delight. I've asked for easy-grip garden tools for birthday and Christmas now the swelling's making things difficult. And most of the plants in my garden came from friends and relatives - even the rowan tree cost me just £1 (when a tea company did a promotion years ago - I just had to be patient as he grew up from a twig!) For flowers I go for the most no-nonsense things I can - like Welsh and Lake District poppies that now seed themselves, and forgetmenots - and I have five different types of mint, lavender, rosemary, borage, sage, thyme and marjoram and basil, all in big pots, so salads are never dull. I usually treat myself to a couple of bags of tulips in the spring, and lilies for the summer, thanks to the pound shops, and I always check out the reduced section at my local Homebase - some of my best plants have come from there; they just need a little nurturing.

    Sorry to have gone on and on, but Silvergilt, you really inspired me to stop feeling blue and think about what's bright, so a huge thank-you - and best of luck with your business! I hope you have a website and a gardening blog - great way to get and keep customers, BTW! - let me know the address as I'd love to check it out. Have a good Sunday, everyone!

  • How brilliant! I've got a mulberry in a pot, still waiting for mulberries however! Shame the strawberries all got nommed, I have found if I grow something bright red over the strawberries the birds go for that instead -they've found my loganberry but as it ripens over time like bramble, they can't get them all, and the strawberries are untouched.

    The paving is a very good idea, I've been thinking about similar, haw have you kept the weeds from growing cracks? As for tools I would check out thrive.org - I have the Wolf Garten tools which I really like due to interchangeability.

    Totally agree on the bargain plants! The sickly ones usually just need potting on and are then fine. I grow a lot from seed as well -I'm letting sone of my chard and lettuce bolt right now so I can gather seed. The chard is great stuff so I like having a regular supply.

    I've got a site but not a blog dedicated to gardening alone. I've considered it but we will see. Good going keep up the great work!

  • This is a wonderful thread I must say! I have RA rather than Lupus but have a Lupus like presentation so feel happy to be here.

    Reading this I know why I love this site - it is very life affirming and your description of your tightly packed beds is wonderful. I don't really garden much because my husband is a passionate gardener and he can lug things about, dig and think it all while I get my exercise by doing yoga on my Nintendo Wii Fit and watching the garden grow from the windows. I do potter around with him looking at the latest sources of pride, currently his broad beans which are growing apace. We are both artists and work together and I'm getting increasingly convinced that his garden is part of our collaborative art practice. It is very hard won garden as we live on a steep slope in the far north of Scotland where the wind gives the garden a very severe battering on a frequent baiss. Our garden is terraced with lots of small paths, shrubs and small trees. We have herbs and fruit and he is passionate about his flowers and grasses and his small pond. This afternoon when he wakes we have tickets to go and admire the gardens of six others which are open on Sundays for the next three weeks as part of Scotland's Gardens. You've encouraged me to start waking him up gently!

    We have three sons - the oldest has Asperger's so is high functioning end of the autistic spectrum but it was very hard for all of us when he was younger. Now he has just finished a degree in Economics and Business Management - having left school after an unhappy time being misunderstood and called "challenging" by many teachers - with only a small handful of qualifications. He has got a first class honours degree and we go to his graduation ceremony next week! So positivism pays off as I'm sure yours will. X

  • I taught my son so many -SO MANY - lessons about life and compassion through plants. He has grown up gardening with me, and while he is now more keen on video games, he grows plants and tends animals at his school and his plants always grow the best. He loves daisies, asters and sunflowers and I always have to grow a few for him.

    I hope you enjoy your garden day, sounds a beautiful set up!

  • The garden day was lovely although we only managed two. And best of all we got home with my partner feeling especially proud of his own!

    Your son will have had the best of nurturing with you and your gardening and I'm sure it will pay dividends for you both.

    Twitchy x

  • You must be so proud of your son - my nephew is severely autistic and is in his second year of uni on a filmmaking course as his mum (my amazing sister) sounds just like you: refusing to give up despite all the naysayers - so here's to you and your amazing family!

  • May I just say, very quickly, how inspiring this thread is. My wife and I have always been very active gardeners with two allotments. We are just getting to the stage when we have to give one of them up as I cannot really do my fair share of the work anymore. We are having a fairly large raised bed put in at home so that we can continue to grow our salads which will leave the 'plot' for the heavy duty growing such as cabbages and spuds.

    Thanks for the links. I have had a quick look and will definitely be exploring them again.

    Good luck in the garden.


  • Cheers! I do think the more low maintenance stuff would work in an allotment -as long as it us all mulched in well, should be okay. I gave a trough planter which is crammed with all sorts of veggies and herbs, and it's been great as it is in my "zone 1" ( closest to my door and place I frequent the most). Even on my worst days I can hobble a bit and give it a squirt of watering of it needs it.

    Good luck, let us know how you get on!

  • Beautiful picture. I do not have a yard and miss my home with all of my fresh grown fruits and veggies. I hope you post more pictures for us apartment dwellers with the vertical gardens. Stay strong.

  • I've a friend who is in a small flat and she has somehow managed to garden in her windows alone. I'm not even sure how she us doing it but it looks great - every windowsill has pots on it and she just grows the cukes vertically. Worth an investigation maybe? The "living wall" gardens are all kinds of impressive too! I grew in a window box filled with herbs and put in bamboo stakes, which I grew peas and beans to climb up.

    See if you can figure out where your windows face, and how the sun moves. And don't forget that the tops of windows are fair game, my friend suspends pots and uses every bit of light she can. Worth a try?

  • Chard is something I've been considering (I love the brightly coloured stalks!) so might give that a go. My beans grow from the previous year's as well. My mulberry took about 5 years to berry (might have been quicker had the rose not engulfed him!), but now he goes great guns. The red idea to protect strawberries is *brilliant*: will definitely try that. I don't bother trying to keep the cracks completely free; I generally just pull up whatever's there unless it's poppies and they're at the side. If chickweed gets hold I give it to my herbalist friend. Dandelion leaves go into salads. Chamomile doesn't grow well in my garden, otherwise I'd consider sowing that between, but I'm told moss also works well to keep weeds down. The cracks are pretty narrow so they don't impede the chair wheels (or the ridey seat thing I use when mobile). And in the spring there are forgetmenots everywhere, which I just love. Checked out Thrive.org - thanks for that. I see there are lots of tips there for gardening with a weak grip and from a wheelchair, so I'll be studying them. Barnclown, you might find something useful there too . . . I have to admit, having been forced to stop for a couple of years after last crash (broken neck) I was heartened when I went back to attempt some light work how much was flourishing *despite* my absence! Or maybe *because* of? :-) Pruning's hardest, but I found these wonderful ratchet pruners that are very light and very sharp and require no effort at all because the ratchet does the job. But right now I see the sun is over the yardarm (somewhere!) and I feel a Pimms coming on, with mint fresh from the pot outside the back door . . . Here's to us all!

  • Chard is brilliant, and it keeps going and going...the chard I have is actually from last year, and I just let it overwinter, so it seems to just keep going. Oh, there we go, I haven't any Pimms but I have some home brewed Belgian Trappist I made earlier this year, so I'll join you. Cheers!

  • Thank you for sharing this Silvergilt. I too use permaculture techniques to grow food in my tiny garden, and like you I keep chickens too. I write a blog about this and other issues like how I manage my life with lupus, reducing food waste and ecotherapy. Here's a link if you are interested: permaculturedesigner.co.uk/...

  • Oooo brilliant I will have a peruse, thanks for the link!

    Addendum: I'm amazed at the work you've managed to do! I wanted to do something similar in the community I was living in on a housing estate but no one was particularly keen. Amazing initiative, so glad to see it!

  • Home-made Trappist beer? Now my husband is *really* impressed! And thanks for the link, Dryad!

  • *whispers so he doesn't hear* making beer is very easy to do, I've brewed from grain before! but the kits are equally good, I make mead when I can get the honey...

    Ahem. Nothing to see here, carry on!

  • Me-e-a-d! And honey is *so* good for us! Carrying on past, nothing to see, no, no . . .

  • fabulous thread thank you to all who have contributed.

  • Thank you for sharing. I moved into an adapted bungalow in a tiny village a year ago and have just made a start on the very neglected garden. Your tips etc are just what I was looking for. Xx

  • Oh how exciting! I did the same - I couldn't do stairs anymore so got this bungalow, which was so rural it had stayed vacant for a while. Once I cut all the weeds away to one side I discovered a bunch of currant bushes and raspberries, so I've put a bunch of weed barrier fabric down there and it is growing nicely - I'm wanting to change it round a fair bit and put a polytunnel down.

  • I will have to find a way to do more pictures but the first go at thr permaculture is going well! The clover is up, I've put all the herb bushes in, and I'm putting calendula, mustard, bunching onion, and chicory all over in between. Most of it is getting eaten down to nothing due to a crazy infestation of flea beetles, a pest I gave never had to deal with before. However they're eating all the mustard, which was sort of the idea, so they'd leave everything else alone. The perennial kale was discovered by a straying hen and is desperately trying to grow new leaves after being seriously nommed! So it's all a work in progress.

    I now have a dessert grape vibe which I want to train round an obelisk, and I spied my tomatoes have some red fruits so I anticipate having my first homegrown BLT very soon. Woot!

    I stay inside all day -can't risk the sun or the heat - but garden in late evening. MIT works ok.

    Happy gardening!

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