Category Archives: wheelchair gardening tools

Burgon & Ball Japanese Razor Hoe.

Scraping tool.

Scraping the weeds out from between the patio slabs has to be one of my least favourite gardening jobs.  I have to be bent double over my stomach putting my neck into an awkward angle in order to see what I am doing and getting my tool at just the correct angle.  I used to use a long handled scraping tool but it didn’t do a very good job.  My Burgon & Ball Japanese Razor Hoe is the best tool for the job.  It gets into the crevices and can scrape off moss and liverworts from the slab surface too.

Burgon & Ball Japanese Razor Hoe.
Burgon & Ball Japanese Razor Hoe.

Once the scraping is all done I can tidy up using an upright dustpan and brush set.  I position the dustpan bit into the space between my right foot rest and the right front castor so that I can sweep the rubbish into the dustpan easily without having to bend down.  Then I lift the dustpan up and empty it into a trug to go out.  The one I am using is from Lakeland (although I am using an old brush with it) and I like this one as is clicks into an upright position so I don’t have to hold onto it to keep it in place.

Upright dustpan.
Upright dustpan locked in position.
Upright dustpan and brush.
Upright dustpan and brush.

Long handled tool for wheelchair gardening.

 Long handled tools – are they worth it?  There are so many tools to choose from and it mainly comes down to individual preference.   You can get long handled adult tools, children’s tools, telescopic handled, adjustable handled, or even no handled – just tool heads only.  I bought a load of different long handled tools thinking they would help me reach further into the garden to work, however, some of them were just plain useless.  Some of the children’s tools were robustly made and do actually help when using the rake, hoe, and little fork.  The spade was more difficult to use.  I could use them all in the shallow border but not so much in the deeper border.  The heads are all small  so jobs like raking could take longer than if you used a normal sized rake.  The weight of the children’s tools were not too bad but as they had wooden handles they do have some weight in them.  I still found digging the most difficult job as it is much easier being above the tool and using your weight to push down (or your foot if you can) which would often mean getting right into the flower bed.  This is ok when planting out a new bed but not when it is an established bed.  The lengths of the handles of the children’s tools are between 81cm and 98cm long.

The tools on the right of the photo are the ones I use all the time: the Draper long handled tools and an oscillating hoe.  The Draper long handled fork and trowel are great because they are stainless steel and are quite light and easy to use.  I like the T shaped handle as I can hook the handle over my shoulder and have the tool part resting between my knees so I can carry them up and down the ramp easily.  The T handle also  means I can pull the tool from the earth easily plus it gives you something to push on.  The handle lengths of the Draper tools are around 72cm.

Th oscillating hoe came as just the head only.  Harry attached it to an old broom handle (86cm long).  I find that I can push and pull it fairly easily.  It is most useful when working between rows of plants. You could always just shorten any full length garden too handles that are the broom handle type.

You can get tools that are classed as midi-handled which would be around 60cm long.   Maybe they would be just right for using in a raised bed from a wheelchair.

long handled hardening tools
My long handled tools

 You can get a telescopic handle that fits onto a variety of tool heads.  This one I bought years ago and I find that I really only use the small spring rake head.  What I find very annoying with this particular telescopic mechanism is that it doesn’t stay put while you are working with the tool.  You twist the handle the pull it out to the length you require the twist it to lock it in place.  It just untwists while you work.  Also on mine the middle telescopic part has stuck.  It is great in theory but not great in practice.  It is quite light to use and should go from 55cm – 120cm and I use it mainly to gently scrape dead leaves and debris from plants.

multi head tools with telescopic handle
Telescopic multi-head tool

The adjustable handled net (PondXpert) that I have for my pond is great as the mechanism is at the head end so when you screw unscrew it and pull it to the length you require, then screw it back tight, it stays fixed in position and won’t budge until you unscrew it again.  I keep is shorter when scooping leaves or duck weed from the front of the pond and longer when I need to reach the back of the pond.  The longer you have the tool, the more strain it puts on you hands and wrists (unless you can support it with your other hand).  This one extends to 1.8M and you can get different sizes and shapes of net that fit the handle. Ideally I would like to use it with some kind of arm support.  I know you can get some long handled tools that you can use a support cuff with (PETA Easy-grip tools and arm support cuff) although I have never tried these and some look very awkward to use.

adjustable handle for pond net
Adjustable handled small pond net

Wheelchair gardening tools – gloves

 I have added gloves to the tools section as they are so important for comfort, protection, and grip gardening.  Yes you can do gardening without gloves, but I have found that using a wheelchair, gloves that have a bit of ‘grip’ to them not only helps with pushing the manual wheelchair around in the garden but also helps me hold onto the tools easier.  Having arthritic fingers means that I can’t grip as well as I used to and I kept dropping my tools, especially the unmodified ones. In both my front and back gardens I have some prickly shrubs so gloves can offer a bit of protection from these when weeding around them, and clearing their fallen leaves.  

 

gloves that I wear when wheelchair gardening
Gloves that I wear when gardening from my wheelchair

 

As you see from the gloves pictured, I don’t have any heavy duty gloves which would offer good protection.  I just can’t be getting on with them.  I can’t feel what I am doing, and pushing the chair is more difficult with them, so instead I would just use my pruners and secateurs that’ cut and hold‘ to tackle any prickly shrubs so that I don’t have to touch them at all.  If I am just going to do some sweeping up or scraping in between slabs in the garden, then I will use either my lambskin gloves or my Global leather wheelchair gloves (if they are drying off then I will use any old leather gloves or my old biker gloves).   They not only keep my hands warm and clean,  but also help my grip and prevent blisters.  I won’t even pick up a cane without gloves on now after I had a very nasty infection in a finger from a skelf (splinter).  It was extremely painful, required antibiotics (which mucked up my warfarin INR), and made it painful to do any wheelchair transfers. 

Over all my favourite gardening gloves are the pink Show-341 gloves. They are flexible, light, breathable, have a textured waterproof latex covering on the palm, and are machine washable. They offer some protection from small prickles such as nettles, and have a good grip.  However, they are not totally waterproof and don’t have any padding on the palm, and can still be a bit slippery once they are wet but they do still offer some grip when wet. The rubber does wear off especially when pushing a wheelchair but then I can use them in the house when it is freezing or when I am playing with the dog throwing his ball around the house.

The Global leather wheelchair gloves have padded palms which not only help with grip but protect your palms getting sore when manipulating objects.  

 

bruised and broken blod vessels fingers from gardening
Broken blood vessels on fingers

This picture shows my painful burst blood vessel and some other blood vessels near the surface which often burst when pushing the chair. This one burst when  I was pushing a metal plant support into the earth. If I had been using my lambskin or Global leather gloves then maybe that wouldn’t have happened but I was just using my showa-341 gloves.

The main trouble I find when using gloves with a wheelchair is that the grip goes as soon as they get wet.  I have found online some gloves from macwet that claim to keep their grip when wet but I haven’t tried them out.  Once my hands get wet they get very cold and I have not yet found any  gloves that are waterproof and that have grip when wet.  

Therefore I would suggest you always have a good selection of gloves so that you always have some dry ones available.  You need some that offer padding and more protection for certain jobs in the garden, but some lightweight gloves with grip for most of the light everyday gardening jobs.

Easy spray bottles for use with arthritic hands.

I have found that over the years that spraying my plants makes my hands very sore.  The spray action of many spray bottles is exasperating.  Sometimes, just to get them going,you have do the spraying action over and over again and you only get a tiny squirt out if you are lucky.  Some bug sprays are just useless and won’t spray at all.  The tiny glass pump action spray bottle (at the front of the photo)  looks great but because of my swollen, sore, arthritic fingers I find that these can be a bit fiddly.  They are ok if you can stand, and have them at hip height, but when spraying from the seated position I find that I have to get my elbows really high which then  makes the pressing action difficult.   I do have an absolute favourite spray bottle make and that is the Hozelock  pump action type.

You just need to pump a little pressure into the bottle, then press the button (with thumb) when you want to spray.  If you want to keep on spraying, over a large plant say, there is another button to press just above it for continuous spraying. You can also adjust the spray by twisting the nozzle.  I have decanted some organic bug spray into a Hozelock bottle  as the original spray bottle was useless, but you do have to remember to label the bottle if doing that.  One gripe with the Hozelock ones are that there isn’t much grip on the side of the bottle so when it comes time to refill with water trying to twist the top off can be difficult if you have problems with your fingers.  Also, the level indicators could be a little more visible but at least they do have some.

I did buy an inferior type from Amazon (the bright green one at the front right of the photo) and it broke within a couple of months so,it really is worth getting a good make.   I have a couple of very large plants and a collection of air plants which I keep in the bedroom and they require a lot of spraying so I really do need an easy spray bottle for using with my arthritic hands.

selection of spray bottles
A selection of spray bottles for plants

Snappers, loppers, and saw for tougher pruning jobs.

My favourite and most used tools in the garden are my Darlac cut’n’hold snappers. I have the 655mm and the 1000mm versions. They are great for reaching over and through plants in the border.  I hold onto the left wheel of my chair with my left hand and can reach quite far with my right hand to prune and dead-head.  They are made of aluminium and the smaller one is quite light.  The cutting head can swivel which means it can be used with the left hand (which is sometimes useful and sometimes annoying) and there is a little catch that you can flick with your thumb that keeps the grips closed without you having to grip them closed. They hold onto the stem so it is easier to bring the cut piece to put in a trug rather than them falling back into the flower bed.  The long one really requires both hands as it needs to be stabilised.  I can use it single handed but it is very sore, as the hand operating the mechanism has to bear the full weight.  It is much easier to use with one hand supporting the long bar to take the strain.  It can be useful just to pick things out of the bed or even out of the pond. I use the long one especially to cut the climbing roses at the top of the arches.  I have found another use for the smaller one: it is great for getting some weeds out!  Because it has such a good grip I (much better that the ordinary household reacher aids for disabled people) I use it for taking out grass seedlings and small weeds like hairy bittercress.  It has 2 gripper bars that hold onto the cut stem and a blade that does the cutting.  I may actually get a new one and keep that for pruning, and take the blade of the old one and keep that one for weeding.  It won’t take out long rooted weeds like dandelions.

Darlac cut'n'hold snappers
Darlac cut’n’hold snappers
Darlac cut'n'hold snapper head
snapper cutting head

These  bypass loppers are ancient and well used.  I find them very heavy to use and they really require two handed operation.  I can use them if they are pointing up or down, but if I have to use them out to the side I just fall over as I have no core muscles for stability.  I can lop some branches that are low down, and I have managed to lop branches by bracing one lever on the wheelchair and pulling the other lever down.  Much easier  just to ask for help.

Loppers
Loppers

The long reach pruners are not used much any more.  I find them too heavy and unwieldy to use properly.  You need to pull the rope to cut the branch and you need a bit of strength to do this.  It is also difficult to see exactly what you are doing and finding  the correct branch to lop.  I have used this with the blade facing me, and also with the blade facing away form me, but if you don’t have enough strength to get a good cut then the blade can get stuck.  Harry has sometimes come home and found this dangling stuck in a tree if I have not been able to free it myself.

Long reach pruners
Long reach pruners

This Wilkinson tree saw can be a useful tool, not only when the branches are quite thick but also when the branches may be in a difficult position. Loppers can sometimes just be too big to get into some areas. The teeth cut on the backward stroke and you get a good clean cut  through the wood.  I like the safety features on this one as it can lock in the closed position as well as the open position.  The cutting action is not the same as normal saws so it can take a bit of getting used to.

Wilkinson Sword tree saw
Wilkinson Sword tree saw

I don”t really use shears and as I would have to use them at my side rather that straight on as I would just fall over.  I do have some single handed shears but actually just end up using scissors instead.  These days I just use my Darlac snappers and tree saw, and ask for Harry’s help with anything they can’t cope with or that I can’t reach.

Secateurs, snips, and scissors for pruning and dead-heading.

I have been a paraplegic for many years now:  I have very little in the
way of core muscles, have arthritis in both hands, and get
supraspinatus tendinitis in my shoulders if I do too much.  Therefore, I have to pace myself when working in the garden.  My tool-trug always sits in the garage ready for me to put it on my knee and trundle down the ramp into the back garden so I don’t have to keep going back and forth to retrieve any tools that I may need.    It contains my favourite secateurs, snips and other small tools that I use regularly.  This post is about the tools (secateurs, snips, and scissors) that I find the easiest to use in order to prune small twigs and plants, and to dead-head plants that are within easy reach.  I tend to use one hand for holding onto my wheelchair wheel to stabilize me, while reaching out with the other to do the pruning.

trug containing small tools
Tool-trug

My Felco 8 Classic secateurs must be my oldest and most used tool.  I could not do without them.  They are comfortable to use.  They are easy to clean and maintain.  They have an anvil blade with a sap groove.  As long as I remember to clean, oil, and sharpen them, they should last me my lifetime.

felco 8 classic secateurs
Felco 8 Classic secateurs

My Kew gardens collection ratchet secateurs are great for the slightly thicker, tougher branches that the Felcos cannot cut through.  I used to always wonder why no one had invented a ratchet type before… and then I found some!  I so wish I had found these before I injured my finger by trying to cut through a thick branch with my Felcos.  (I was just being stubborn and did not want to ask for help with this last branch and I damaged my tendon and now I cannot bend that finger).  They are made by Spear & Jackson and can take 4 steps (squeezes) to cut a tough branch.  They are great for someone with little grip strength although can be tricky at times and can  get a bit stuck in the branch..

Kew gardens collection ratchet secateurs
Ratchet anvil secateurs

These Darlac Cut’n’ Hold flower snips (DP636) are very handy.  I haven’t had them long but it means I can hold onto the spent flower head and put it straight into a handy trug instead of letting them fall to the ground to be swept up later.  They are nice and light to use, and if you are cutting flowers to put in a vase, they have a small stem crusher in the centre of the handle.

Darlac Cut'n'Hold' flower snips
Darlac Cut’n’Hold’ flower snips

For dead-heading delicate flowers or flowers that are in an awkward place, these mini deadhead snippers are fantastic.  I especially use them for dead-heading my Streptocarpus saxorum as the flower stalks are tucked underneath the small fleshy leaves and these can get right in there and snip them.

Deadhead snipppers
Deadhead Snippers

These trusty old tough kitchen scissors are my favourite tool for cutting my decorative grasses that are in pots.. They are also great for some stems that are rather bendy that don’t cut well with secateurs.   I trim my iris leaves and other plants with long strappy leaves with these.

Kitchen scissors
Tough kitchen scissors

It is a good idea to have some spare secateurs for any willing helpers you have to use.  I hate giving my Felcos to anyone else to borrow. Also, I have had a few tools go missing which may have been thrown out by accident along with the clippings.

For arthritic hands though they all use the same action which means my hands get very sore even after a short amount of time pruning and dead-heading.  I have seen some electric secateurs on the market which may be something of interest but are pretty expensive.  I would like to try-before-I-buy just to make sure they aren’t going to be too heavy to use, and see how stiff the trigger is to use as my first finger is the worst affected by arthritis and won’t bend much at all.

When buying any hand held tool it is worth getting the feel of them before you buy as they must be comfortable to use.  Some makes have different sizes depending on your hand size.