Sightseeing. A periodic tour of CVI news, views and events.

Gardening Tips for the Visually Impaired

Small planter filled with flowersAs the saying goes April showers bring May flowers. Now that May is here and spring has officially arrived it is time to go outside and dig in the dirt. But don’t let your visual impairment stop you from enjoying quality time with nature. Whether you like planting beautiful flowers, or growing delicious and healthy veggies or even something smaller like herbs there are a variety of ways to use your green thumb with vision loss.

But before we get started, you might be wondering why anyone with vision loss would want to garden? Some might think that gardening is only for those with good eyesight. Or the only way you can do it and enjoy the fruits of your labor is to be a fully sighted person. But that is not true. Many people garden for the pure pleasure of it. The personal interaction with nature. The physical activity of planting. The tactual experience of digging in the dirt. The ability to be outside in the warm weather. The positive mental and emotional feelings that germinate. And of course the beautiful flowers, plants and foods that can be enjoyed and shared with others. Did I give you enough reasons? Hope so. All of these are excellent motivators to garden even with vision loss. So let’s get started!

First, look at your surroundings so that you can mark the territory. Depending on what you are planting you might need to build your garden in a bright sunny area or a cool shady spot. Check out your location and then you can use tactual supplies to mark the area off. To do this, use commercial edging products such as crushed stones, bricks, or fencing to determine where one area ends and the other begins. You can paint your stones bright bold colors like yellow or use tactual supplies liked crushed shells or wood chips you can decipher when stepped on.

Once you have determined your garden location, decide what you want to plant. Do you like flowers? Vegetables or herbs? Do you want to plant your items in the ground outside or in containers housed on the back porch? Using your senses can help make a determination. Think about various textures and scents. Do you want roses? Geraniums? Daisies? Tulips? Or other flowers? For a vegetable garden you can think about the sensory differences in tomatoes, lettuce, cucumbers or green beans. Thinking things through and answering these questions beforehand will help you get started in the right direction and have a successful garden.

Next, get your supplies organized and labeled in a way that you can use independently. You might want to keep all your metal gardening tools in a caddy where they are all in one place. Labeling your seed packets might be helpful but it will depend on your vision level. Those that are totally blind and use braille might want to use braille dymo tape adhesive labels. Or if you are low vision, you might want to use address labels and write with a 20/20 pen the name of the seeds. Some might want to keep a written or audio gardening journal where you can track the type of seeds use, location of the seeds and their progress.

A row of various flowers planted in the ground The next step is the actual planting. Creating your rows of plants and the precise place to plant your seeds can be a little tricky with vision loss. Read the directions on your seed package to determine how deep to plant the seed and how far apart each seed should be placed. You might have to get some sighted help in order to accomplish this. But knowing this information will help you to plant your seeds properly. If you don’t want to do all of that, using seed tape is an easier option. Seed tape is two thin sheets of paper with seeds glued in between. They are already proportionally spaced out so it is just a matter of planting it. Just lay the tape on the ground and cover with top soil and add water. Once you have your rows of seeds planted, use tactual items to mark off the rows. Using support tresses for vegetables like tomato vines, plastic tubes that run along the rows of seeds, recycled popsicle sticks and other wood or metal items found at gardening stores can help mark the location of your plants and vegetables. Once things are growing, feeling the leaves and the actual vegetable or noticing the scent can help determine where things are located in your garden. For example feeling lettuce leaves, touching cucumbers or tomatoes or smelling herbs like mint and basil are all distinctive enough to determine differences.

The tips above are just a sampling of the things that a person with a visual impairment can do to grow a garden. To learn even more check out the resources below:

  1. VisionAware list resources and tips on visually impaired gardening. You can go to and do a search for gardening to find a listing of articles and blog posts on the topic.
  2. The Hadley School for the Blind lists webinars on container herbal gardening and basic gardening tips. Go to for more information.
  3. The NLS/Talking Book Library lists various audio books and magazines on gardening and horticulture. You can call the Atlanta Metro Library for Accessible Services at 404-657-1452 for more information.

So, how does your garden grow? Do you currently have a garden? Have you gardened before losing your vision? Would you like to start gardening again or for the first time? Share your comments with us and let’s go dig in the dirt!