Saturday, 5 April 2014

Arthritis Research UK final article of the week :)

Growing your own pain relief herb garden with Niki Preston

Growing your own pain relief herb garden with Niki Preston

Herbs for pain relief is very new to me so I have done a fair bit of research and asked those in the know what kinds of herbs are helpful for joint pain relief.
Niki 7I have it on good authority that turmeric eaten with black pepper is an excellent pain reliever, James Wong himself let me into that little secret so it must be worth a go, if anyone knows there stuff it is him. One word of caution however, please always ask your doctor before trying anything new and never take yourself of any medication without consulting your doctor.
Along with turmeric I have learned that cayenne pepper has excellent anti-inflammatory benefits and this is an easy and fun plant to grow too, great to add into curries, salads and dressing. With its bright red peppers it will add great colour to your herb garden as well.
One thing that I am definitely going to try to grow is pineapple; apparently the bromelain in the juice and stem of a pineapple is known to ease the pain and inflammation that comes with Arthritis. As far as I am aware you can grow a new pineapple from a whole pineapple bought in your supermarket. Firstly cut off the leafy part of the pineapple, leaving about an inch or so of the flesh, pop it on a plate and of course eat the rest of the pineapple. Pick a good spot to grow your pineapple, sunny and with space, they can grow quite large.
Niki 6
Get your pot and bury the pineapple so that all the flesh is buried and the leafy parts are showing, give it a good water and that’s about it, wait but be patient it can take 2 years for the plant to fruit, if you live in a frost prone area remember to give it shelter in the winter. This might seem like a long time just for a pineapple but think how proud you will be if you manage it, and free pain relief into the bargain.
Ginger is another great pain and anti inflammatory herb. Again this can grown from ginger roots bought is the local supermarket. Ginger contains an active substance called gingerols which are said to stop the body creating the process that leads to inflammation. I am no expert though so please don’t just take my word for this.
So here are just a few ideas to get your joint pain herb garden started, I think I would also include some heavenly scented lavender for its relaxing benefits and possibly some thyme, rosemary and bay just to add some interest, colour and of course for their culinary uses.

Friday, 4 April 2014

Article 5 for Arthritis research UK

Planting and pruning with Niki Preston

Planting and pruning with Niki Preston

When it comes to planting and pruning some thought needs to go into how much you can really do and how much time have you got to tend your plants. Perennials are always a great way to have a stunning garden with little work.
Most perennial flowers need very little pruning, just a bit of deadheading and then a chop right down when news shoots appear in the spring. It’s as easy as that. I would suggest some Achillea Millefolium which will spread itself easily and has superb flat heads which are great for attracting insects, bees and butterflies into your garden or perhaps some Perovskia “blue Spire” which is a beautifully vibrant violet blue tall deciduous shrub that only needs pruning in spring.
Niki 6Little work for a big reward. These are just two examples but perennials are by far the easiest way to garden and you can always add in a few annual bedding plants, such as Primula, fuchsia, lobelia and begonias for that instant splash of colour.
Consider the positioning of your perennials too, I didn’t do this in the beginning and we are now having to re-site some of our beds as I can’t get near them at pruning time, they say you learn from your mistakes, I certainly have and poor old James has to move everything again.
Long handled tools are fabulous to reduce bending or kneeling and they help you to reach just that bit further. Personally I would recommend www.PETA-UK.com who make the most wonderful tools especially for those with arthritis and or disabilities. Genny at PETA-UK very kindly sent me one of their long reach tools with the attachable cuff to test for this very article and I can honestly say it is great. I have no way of gripping so don’t usually plant anything at ground level, but with this tool and the cuff attached I get plenty of support and the cuff helps me to pull the tool back out of the ground.
These then are perfect if you have weak grip and weak wrists, James uses these tools all the time and he doesn’t have arthritis but he loves the way they reduce the amount of effort needed, of course that leads to us fighting over who gets their hands on them first. It is usually me as I pull my “oh that’s not fair” face and he gives in.
So once you have thought about which plants where for maximum impact and ease of pruning you are ready to plant plant plant, with a little bit of pruning thrown in.

Thursday, 3 April 2014

Arthritis research UK, article 4 by me :)

Sowing seeds with Niki Preston

Sowing seeds with Niki Preston

Spring is my favourite time in the gardening calendar and probably the busiest. Now is the time plan your summer garden, are you going to sow your own seeds take some cuttings for freebie plants or buy plug plants?
Maybe a combination of all three, that’s what I do. Firstly though I had to work out how on earth I was going to sow seeds without dropping the seeds or sowing them all in one corner. After trying several different ideas from a plastic spoon to act as a false hand to circular seeds sowers that the seeds kept getting in I finally discovered the perfect sower, the super seeder, available from Amazon and now most garden centres.
It looks rather like a syringe. The end comes off and you fill the syringe with you seeds, it will sow most sizes, except very large ones. Replace the end and press the button at the end and a small amount of seeds are deposited in the seed try, move on a bit, press again, more seeds and so on until you have sown lovely neat rows of seeds. This also removes any over sowing so all the seedlings have more chance of germinating and you don’t need to thin them out quite so much.
Plug plants make a brilliant alternative to sowing your own. If seed sowing is just too hard then give plugs a thought. They still need potting on and need lots of tlc but without the sowing hassle, no worrying if they will germinate or keel over, just healthy plants to plant out when ready. I try to order mine in January as you seem to get the best deals and I have found that you also get the healthiest plugs if you order early.
Cuttings are also a great way to indulge your garden passion and get some freebie plants into the bargain. I have found two very good snipers that are just the job. One is very small and great for those very delicate cuttings, even deadheading tiny flowers such as viola and the other is slightly more sturdy and comes with a handy cover so you can pop them in your pocket with stabbing yourself, both are available from www.garden-gear.co.uk both are excellently priced at £3.99 for the herbies snips and £4.95 for the Darlac deadheading snip. This are both very lightweight and need only a gentle squeeze, these are the only two snips that I can use with one hand.
A little bit of research and a few basic tools and your new summer garden will be off to a flying start.

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Arthritis Research UK article 3, gadgets and tools

Handy tools and nifty gadgets for gardening with arthritis

Handy tools and nifty gadgets for gardening with arthritis

Over the last year or so I have been lucky enough to have done lots of garden tools product testing some of which I have found so useful I don’t know what I would do without them. Here are just a few to that you might also find useful and easy to use.
One of the most annoying things for me is pruning. I have always found it difficult, from small flower stems to roses and bigger woody shrubs. Not anymore with my array of snipers and secateurs. Unfortunately they are not all cheap but some are definitely worth the investment.
The most useful all rounder is Wolf Garten’s product, cordless secateurs. Priced at £119 these are some of the most expensive secateurs however if you were ever to invest in anything to make your garden life easier this is the product. It is very lightweight, left or right handed, one handed action or two in my case.
Niki 1Once you get it started you don’t have to keep pressing the trigger it just keeps going until you let go. It is not shy at chopping through most stems and I can now prune the garden all I like, when I like much to my husband, James’ annoyance as I prune everything very low and never clear up. The chopped off bits are too low for me to bend down and pick them up.
Some of the very best and most useful tools I have had tested are the garden tools from www.peta-uk.com  these tools are very competitively priced and I could not garden without them. They are ergonomically the best designed tools for people with arthritis. They are light weight and take the strain out digging, weeding and planting.
One thing that is really useful is the arm support cuff that can be attached to the tools. it really helps to support weak wrists and hands. I would highly recommend these tools and at £9.95 for one or £25 for three it really is worth it. They also do long handled versions so if, like me you garden mostly sitting down you can still reach everything, they are also great for reaching further away without the need for bending.
Niki 2Watering also used to be a big no no for and I used to have to watch my hanging baskets wilt waiting for James to come home and save them. I had to give this some serious thought. Firstly we put all the baskets lower down and although this made it easier for deadheading I still couldn’t lift a watering can full of water. However one 5 litre garden sprayer and a shopping bag on wheels later I had invited my own portable watering system.
The long hose reaches the baskets with no heavy lifting I just squeeze the trigger and away I go. James cut a short piece of garden hose that attaches to the outside tap so that I can fill it up. I know have two, one with just water in and the other with soluble plant food. All bases covered, all baskets, pots and beds watered
Another invaluable piece of garden equipment is my box trolley. I used to spend ages going up and down with this tool and that, back again for the plants and compost, by which time my legs ached and my back hurt and I didn’t feel like planting anything. Then I remembered I had a great box trolley that I used to have when I was at work. Now I fill it with everything I need and wheel it about between planting areas. There is a theme here I think, wheels! Put everything on wheels and you are away

Tuesday, 1 April 2014

Artcicle two. Arthritis Research UK gardening week

Niki Preston looks at garden design

Niki Preston looks at garden design

Give some thought to the lay out and design of your garden. There is no point having a huge lawn and deep borders if you have limited mobility, after all who is going mow the lawn and weed the beds. Raised bed gardening is definitely worth a try. I have a totally raised garden.
It wasn’t achieved over night, in fact it has taken three years and it was done in stages. I still have my big borders they just have raised beds in now; most of them were made from decking by my very handy husband, James. If a complete garden makeover is simply out of the question then here are a few ideas that might be worth a try.
Have a good look around your garden and decide which parts you really would like to garden in more easily. Placing stepping stones in strategic places can provide a good solid surface to stand on. This year we are planning some new pathways across the lawn as I can no longer walk on uneven surfaces and I finally managed to convince James to give up some of the lawn. So consider a few pathways to get you to the bits of garden that are impossible or too precarious to get to.
I have also recently added several raised beds and pots to the patio because on really bad days when I can hardly walk at all, my garden still calls to me so making the patio accessible has been brilliant. I can get my garden fix even on very painful days, sitting and whizzing about the patio on my chair to the different beds, pots and even the raised pond.
Having several different seating areas is also a good idea, nothing fancy just a seat. That way you can garden to the seat then take a break, sit where you are instead of having to walk back to the house, then garden a bit more to the next seat. It is also a great way to admire your garden from every angle.
A little bit at a time and you will soon have an accessible garden, start with a few pots and the garden is your oyster.

Articles for Arthritis research UK gardening week

http://www.maturetimes.co.uk/preparation/

Preparation for Spring with Niki Preston and Arthritis Research UK

Preparation for Spring with Niki Preston and Arthritis Research UK

Gardening blogger from Peterborough, Niki Preston, ‘The Two Fingered Gardener’, is helping to encourage gardening, particularly among people with arthritis and joint pain, who can find it difficult to undertake everyday tasks such as gardening, with their condition. Here is the start of our week long gardening campaign!
One of the most important things about gardening is making sure you are comfortable and probably the most forgotten item is clothing. Try and find something that is cosy and loose fitting with plenty of pockets. I wear dungarees specifically designed for gardening by www.gardengirl.co.uk however these are quite pricey, a cheaper alternative is possible with a pair of comfy joggers and a fleece with big pockets.
Pockets are essential; I am always stuffing wire and labels in mine and always carry a small pair of snipers. A really important item is your mobile phone, I learnt this by falling over in the garden and no one knew so I had the rather embarrassing wait for someone to find me and ask “What are you doing down there?” so now my phone comes with me all the time to make the rescue call if needed, which it hasn’t since then, typical.
Shoes are often ignored too, you just shove any old pair on, off you go and wonder why you have sharp thorns in your toes or you feel very uncomfortable by the time they come off. A good solid pair of garden clogs, such as www.gardendiva.co.uk these are great as not only are they very squishy and supportive you can get lovely garden designs too, mine are roses, and they have lavender and veggie on too. Shoes that you just slip on are great, no bending or pulling needed.
It is very easy to get lost in the tranquility of your garden and time flies by. You suddenly realise you have done far too much and you can hardly move. To combat this get a good, loud timer and set it to your preferred time, mine is 20 minutes; I really need a break and a sit down by this time. Make sure when your timer goes off you take a breather, this is also a great time to sit back and enjoy the fruits of your hard work, admire your garden as well as work in it.
If at all possible try and garden with raised beds and sitting down I have a wonderful bright pink office chair that I wheel about on when I am on the patio, its great fun and so much less strain on your hips and back. It is height adjustable to so you can be at the right level all the time.
I have also found microwavable wheat bags a real bonus in the garden. After all cold is the bane of an arthritis suffers life. Heat up a long wheat bag, lavender ones are great as they smell gorgeous and are very relaxing. Take it out with you and wrap it around your painful bits, hips, back and even your hands to give them a warm up when needed. Most wheat bags will keep warm for a couple of hours.
I really hope some of my tried and tested ideas will inspire you to get out there and give gardening a go, get moving, get growing, get excited about gardening.

Sunday, 9 March 2014

Exciting Times Ahead






Finally the sun has come out and all the perennials have been cut back. Whilst out in the sun with Bailey bouncing about after the birds my mind was constantly buzzing with ideas. Why? I hear you cry. There are exciting times ahead that's why :)

Firstly I am to be the spokesperson for a new campaign by Arthritis Research UK. I will be taking part in a weeks worth of garden advice on such things as tools, how to make your garden work for you, planting,pruning, lots and lots. My head is spinning with all the ideas I have going round. Luckily for me I have some fabulous friends on Facebook in my garden group, The Two Fingered Gardener and friends and they have all given me some wonderful ideas, I would be lost with out them.

I am also putting together a piece on me and spring gardening for www.shootgardening.co.uk   which I am busy jotting down ideas and ways to make it interesting, not just a run of the mill, do this now, plant that now, yawn yawn.

As April fast approaches I am really really looking forward to going back to Syon House for Gardening Against The Odds, last year a winner, this year A JUDGE!! I get to see Alan Titchmarsh all over again only in a professional capacity this time, not just a completely over excited fan, as I was last year.




 I am very sure I have more to tell you, in fact I know I have but the sun is shining and the garden is calling.