Nothing makes me feel quite as happy and hopeful as being outside on a sunny day with blue skies and flowers all around. I’m not a fan of the Australian summer heat, but I love the lazy hum of the bees in the rosemary. Fresh spring air and warm sunshine are the perfect combination. Lazy autumn evenings with the big red roses in bloom are beautiful.
Unfortunately, gardening on a large scale can be both expensive and physically demanding. The spring battle between your tender new plants and garden pests requires constant vigilance, weeding is an ongoing summer task, and actually setting up a garden bed from scratch tends to require carting around large quantities of dirt. This might be all well and good when you are healthy, but it quickly becomes not-fun during a flare. That’s why I have developed different strategies to let me garden effectively.
1) Get people involved with setting it up
If you have a friend with a green thumb, a passion for building stuff or even just a willingness to cart things around for you, rope them in. My mother-in-law shares my love of dirt and greenery and even finds mowing and weeding cathartic (that’s a bridge too far even for me, but a very handy attribute in a friend!). Our first spring in our new house, she drove with me to Bunnings and helped me transport kilos of dirt and fertiliser and dozens of seedlings. Then she helped me trim back existing plants that had gone wild and took away the dead stuff for me so I could plant the new seedlings in. I couldn’t have done it without her.
2) Flat, raised, or hanging?
If you are most comfy with your bottom parked on the ground and your legs crossed, a garden bed flat with the rest of the lawn might be the best option for you. If you prefer perching on an edge, a raised garden bed with a rim to sit on may be better. If you want to sit in a comfy chair while you work, or prefer to stand tall, consider a portable garden bed or potting system such as the Vegepod, Garden Tower, or Stack-A-Pot. They are pricey to set up, but once you’ve got them going the ongoing cost is minimal. I’ve seen first hand how successful the Vegepod and Stack-A-Pot are in my mother’s care, who isn’t a terribly enthusiastic gardener and has complained of black thumbs in the past. Her capsicums bloomed and she literally cultivated a basil forest. Her pansies look ever so pretty in the Stack-A-Pot. I find the Stack-A-Pot particularly good for sitting in a chair to deal with, as the lower and middle tiers are easily reachable sat down and I only have to stand for the top tier.
With these systems, particularly the Vegepod, I’ve also noticed far fewer weeds and pest invasions, whilst I’ve been fighting off mealybugs, whitefly and snails all growing season. That means less work, and less strain on the body.
3) Choosing the right plants
Find out what other gardeners are growing in your area. Where I am, citrus and blueberries grow in abundance, as do salad greens. Tomatoes in my garden where so determined to get a footing that they literally started sprouting from the cracks in my paving.
You also want plants that won’t require too much hard work from you. Plants that take a lot of trimming, like my wild tomatoes, or trees, will obviously need a lot more TLC than something like my potted herbs, which just quietly do their own thing and don’t require anything other than watering.
Think also about what you want to gain. Are you into growing your own food? Prefer some herbs to flavour things? Just want pretty flowers? Plan before you plant.
4) Talk to local experts
Whether you find them at Bunnings or on facebook, experienced gardeners are generally down to share their knowledge and bring other people into the weird little club of dirty fingers and stained knees. They know local soil types, growing conditions, what plants will thrive and, most importantly, what plants will be low-maintenance for sickly types. I particularly like facebook groups for the instant advice and ongoing support.
5) Don’t be afraid to quit
Perseverance is key to getting a good garden, but if the toll on your body becomes to great, don’t beat yourself up about quitting. There are more important things in life than having a pretty garden, and prioritising your health and body over your plants is not failing.
Do you have any tips for gardening with endo? What is your favourite thing to grow? Share you pictures in the comments!