SPOONS AND SHOVELS – MEET THE AUTHOR
The PF Disabilities Team is very excited to announce that we will be having a (hopefully) regular blog series about gardening with disabilities! Spoons and Shovels will be brought to you by Lisa and here she is to introduce herself!
I’m Lisa, and I live in Wirral with my husband and two young children. I’m a professional gardener, who specialises in helping people with disabilities. I either help to adapt their gardens to suit them better, help to keep them gardening, or take care of their gardens exactly how they want them kept.
It feels a lot like I was steered into this path from when I first started gardening. I’ve had an interest in the therapeutic benefits of horticulture for a long time, since it has really helped me with my OCD and anxiety. I struggled to leave the house alone except for going to work, and I found being in the garden gave me something to focus on while I was outside, but I was not far from ‘safety’ if it got too much. I had to be responsible for the garden and it forced me out, maybe when I didn’t want to, and challenged me to take on my fears in a gentle way. I started to build a connection with nature; noticing the birds that came to visit, finding new bulbs starting to sprout, watching what I had planted grow and flourish. It gave me confidence and I felt less and less threatened and alone outdoors, and it widened my world from our four walls. I hope it has also given me an understanding of how important this connection is, and how devastating it can be to lose it, which is why I am so happy to have been given this opportunity to produce a blog for you all, and I hope you find it useful.
I got into professional gardening as a pretty big career change about 14 years ago. I was having health problems working as a typist, so I decided to retrain and do something that would keep me mobile and that I actually enjoyed, and after being inspired by a visit to the Eden Project, it became obvious to me that this was what I wanted to do. I completed the RHS Level II and Advanced Certificates as home study courses, and I started volunteering in community gardens to get some invaluable experience, and the tutors at Ness Gardens even let me come in and practice for my practical exams as much as I wanted.
Since then I’ve worked in Birkenhead Park, garden centres and most recently, I worked at Mears providing specialist gardening help for elderly and disabled customers. I absolutely loved my job. I felt like I had made a real difference to people’s lives by improving their access and sense of security, and getting their environment working right for them. I was sad to leave when I had our first baby, and now I will be setting up my own business providing these services when my youngest is old enough.
While I was studying, I was lucky enough to visit Chelsea. Thrive were exhibiting there, and I got chatting to the designer. The garden and the ideas they had to make it accessible really stuck with me, and I jumped at the chance to provide this kind of service for Mears. I stayed in touch with Thrive, and am currently taking courses in Horticultural Therapy with them now they provide online tuition. I will be sure to pass on any new tips, tools and techniques I come across in my learning.
When I’m not gardening, I bake, so no doubt the odd recipe will be popping up as well for all those gluts of herbs, fruit and vegetables we’re going to have (the snails are not getting them this year!) I’m moving my veg garden since it’s too shady where it is, so I’ll show you from scratch what I get up to and how I get on. I am under orders from my family to grow pumpkins for Samhain (I do a mean pumpkin pie), and other than that, I’m going to maximise my tiny space by growing a Native American 3 Sisters bed. This is a plot of sweetcorn, with beans growing up them for support, and pumpkins trailing in the shade beneath. The plants each benefit one another, I like that kind of co-operation. I’m also going to attempt to build some kind of greenhouse for some tomatoes too.
I’ve been a Pagan for about 20 years, my husband introduced me to it and everything about Paganism just made sense. I love the tolerance, gentleness and understanding behind it. We follow and celebrate the changing seasons, and being outdoors so much, you become so much more grounded and aware of the changing subtleties all around you.
Of all the seasons, it has to be Autumn that is my favourite. It’s a busy and very beautiful time for us. My back garden is really shady, so I studied Japanese Tea Gardens which make the best of these conditions. I love ferns and Acers, lots of foliage and texture, and those blazing colours make you warm on a cold day. We use the garden to eat and play for as much of the year as we can, but I really love Samhain with the kids. We’re metal, horror and dreadful old B-movie fans, so we go way over the top and have a mix of Halloween fun and Samhain reflection, and have a torchlight treasure hunt. We have a fire pit and barbeque night around bonfire night too. I light tealights in the trees and it’s really magical. We camp out in my she-shed, stuff our faces and watch the stars and the fireworks. It seems like the best send off to our time outside and prepares us for being cosy indoors over Winter. I’ve never been a part of Pagan group before, so sharing this with you all is an amazing experience for me.
I try to tread as lightly as I can and show respect for all living things, which to me means adapting and using what I have, not forcing things that aren’t going to work and recycling as much as possible. I am a closet Heath Robinson & love to create something out of what I have lying around. Having kids also means we don’t have a lot of money, but I still want a great garden, so I will do things as economically as possible and push myself all the time.
I don’t use pesticides or herbicides, I have sneaky tricks and home-made concoctions that I use that I’ll share with you. I’ll start with the absolute basics, and I will teach you the best way to do everything, which is what the RHS taught me, but there are many different methods to get decent results and we’ll look at what works best for you. I’ll try and cover the most important seasonal jobs in this year, so seed sowing for my first blog; then maybe fertilisers, composting, and weed, pest and disease control in the Summer; pruning and bulb planting in the Autumn; and garden planning and accessibility in the Winter. If there’s anything you need me to cover, please let me know and I’ll try to cover it in the future. All I want is for you to be inspired to give gardening a try, even if it’s window box gardening, and hopefully get you out in the fresh air and feeling more a part of the life happening all around you. If you can’t garden on your own, I can’t recommend Thrive enough, they might be able to help get you involved in a community therapeutic garden in your area.
I think I’ve waffled enough for now, please be gentle, it’s the first time I’ve written anything like this and I really hope you like it and find it helpful.