Gardening is an enjoyable, relaxing and fulfilling activity that you can continue with or start to enjoy regardless of your sight impairment. As with any other aspect of living with sight impairments, you will just need to adjust your garden and your gardening skills to make sure you get the most out of it while staying safe.
If you still have some useful vision make sure pathways are well lit and ensure paved areas are level to reduce the risk of falls. If possible, have slopes instead of steps in your garden but if steps can't be avoided, then make sure they are also are well lit and have a hand rail. You could also add a change of surface underfoot directly before the steps as a warning. Don't forget to paint the edges of steps and the handrails in a contrasting colour so they are easier to see.
If possible, use brightly coloured garden furniture and keep plants and shrubs cut back from paths and patios, and try to avoid planting shrubs with thorns or spiked ends. Wearing overspecs or a hat with a wide brim will help reduce glare from sunlight, the overspecs can also protect your eyes from injury from plants or plant supports.
If you have little or no useful vision, use landmarks to help with orientation; wind chimes can help identify certain places or a raised edge along the side of paths will help identify where the path ends and the lawn or border begins. Use a range of hedging and fencing for different areas of the garden so that each boundary feels different and avoid steps if possible ‑ a slope is better; if steps are unavoidable, provide a handrail and a change of surface to indicate that you are approaching steps. Try to adjust the width of your borders so that you can reach to the back of the border without risking stepping on plants.
RNIB publishes a wonderful guide to gardening in two volumes. The Getting on with Gardening guides are packed with tried-and-tested techniques gathered from years of working with visually impaired gardeners. Visit RNIB's website to order your copy.
Additional safety tips for the garden
Protective goggles should ideally be worn whenever you are gardening and definitely cutting, pruning, using electrical equipment or chemicals. Wrap around clear goggles are ideal and fit over glasses.
Gardening gloves protect your hands and helps keep them clean, but can hinder the sensitivity of touch so try cutting a slit just below the tips of the fingers, to allow free movement whilst still protecting the rest of your hands.
Plug electrical tools in using a power breaker plug so the power will automatically shut off if the lead is cut. These can be purchased for under £10.
Keep track of tools by marking them with bright colours; try painting the handles or wrap coloured tape around them.
Carry and store small tools in a white bucket. For cheaper alternatives use ice cream tubs or make a compartmented bucket by taping a couple of large robust washing powder containers together.
Keep separate cans for watering and spraying weedkiller. To differentiate the cans choose a red or metal can or a can with a distinctive shape for weedkiller use only.
Cut the top and bottom off large plastic drink bottles so you can use the centre as a protective collar around plants, so they will not be damaged when hoeing.
Always wear sensible shoes when you're gardening; avoid sandals and flip flops, especially when mowing.
Thrive is a national charity that has worked with gardeners who have sight impairments, and people who have a range of disabilities, for over 30 years.
Thrive's website is full of tips and comprehensive advice to ensure that people with low vision can enjoy working in their garden. There is practical information to make most garden jobs easier, advice on how to take care, useful hints and tips, and notes about which equipment and tools will be particularly helpful. There is also an online shop. Phone Thrive: 0118 988 5688 or visit Thrive's website.