Future Reflections                                                                                         Summer/Fall 2005

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Tips for the Blind Gardener

by Dana Ard

Dana Ard
Dana Ard

Reprinted from the Spring, 2003, issue of the Gem State Milestones, the newsletter of the NFB of Idaho.

Editorís Note: Dana Ard is an active member and leader in the NFB affiliate in Idaho. She writes a regular feature in the Gem State Milestones called, ďBright IdeasĒ and this is one of them.

The month of May brings graduations, thoughts of school yearís end, and plans for summer vacations. For many, it also signals the time for planting those much-enjoyed vegetables that will yield a rich harvest in the summer and fall. Many blind people believe that gardening is no longer possible. Although Iím not a gardener--Iíve killed mint twice and thatís the truth--I know and have interviewed two very successful gardeners in order to get ideas to share in this column. Jim Near is a longtime Boise resident in his eighties. He has two large gardens that take up most of his back and side property. Helen Branson is a former resident of Boise, and was a longtime member of this organization before moving to Hawaii for health reasons. She and her husband Ralph planted a fifty-by-sixty foot garden that fed not only themselves but also the elderly patients that lived in their home in Boise.

Both Jim and Helen roto--till and rake the ground to prepare it for planting. Helen hires this done while Jim uses his side vision to accomplish the task himself. Jim makes forty-foot long rows by placing a stake in the ground at the head of the row and running a thirty-nine-foot piece of twine down to a second stake at the opposite end. He stretches the string taut before attaching it to the second stake. Jim follows this string when making the hills and trenches for the plants with his hoe. To measure distances between rows, Jim lays a stake flat on the ground and uses the length of the stake as the distance between rows.

To keep weeds from overtaking the small seedlings, Jim places a flat board on either side of the ridge and plants the starts between them. Helen and Ralph use a different system. In order to control weeds and hold in the moisture, they place sheets of three-millimeter-thick black plastic over the tilled ground. They then cut holes of the proper size for the vegetables they wished to plant. They kept a mental note of how many rows of each vegetable were planted in the garden.

To protect tiny plants from accidentally being stepped on, Helen and Ralph use tomato cages to cover the plants. Both Jim and Helen agree that using plants rather than seeds is preferable. Neither gardener uses commercial insecticide. Helen uses table salt on her broccoli to keep the budworms away. She also said that the crows eat the bugs on the tomatoes. She puts a cup of Miracle Grow in each hole before placing the plant in it. Jim suggests waiting until the plants have grown some before weeding. He learned this lesson the hard way a few years ago when he accidentally pulled out most of his carrots thinking they were weeds. Jim waters with a sprinkler system while Helenís garden is irrigated with ditch water once a week.

I hope these tips and gardening experiences are of help. But, if you find you need more vegetables, contact Jim. By the looks of things in his garden, heís going to have a bumper crop!

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