My story

Ruth is still gardening despite heart failure

Ruth Rogers

Heart failure has meant that Ruth Rogers can't do as much gardening as she used to. But inspired by Heart Matters, she's found ways to carry on with her beloved hobby.

For more than 15 years, Ruth Rogers has been a prolific gardener, caring for three full-size allotments as well as a large garden at her home in Suffolk. “It is my refuge. I love being down at the allotment,” says Ruth, 70.

Two years ago, she thought she’d have to give up her hobby, after discovering a suspected long-running virus was actually a combination of health problems, including heart failure. Ruth made a good recovery at the time, but says: “In the last few months, I’ve started going downhill more rapidly than I would like. I get very tired and breathless, so heavy lifting or digging is out. I got very low as I couldn’t see a way to continue doing what I love.”

As Ruth’s heart failure symptoms worsened, she found Paul Peacock’s column in Heart Matters. Paul has heart failure too, and has devised solutions to help him keep gardening. His ingenuity inspired Ruth.

“Paul’s words really spoke to me,” she says. “If he could do it with his problems, so could I. His words came when I was feeling quite unwell, thinking that I would have to give it all up. It was the encouragement I needed, at exactly the right time.”

Paul’s words really spoke to me. If he could do it with his problems, so could I.

Ruth Rogers

Ruth downsized to one five-rod allotment (half the size of a standard allotment) and still looks after her garden, with its vegetable patch and greenhouse full of tomatoes, peppers and salad leaves. She’s adapted the way she gardens, too. A path has been laid across the vegetable patch and non-slip tiles through the allotment. She plants crops further apart for ease of harvesting.

“I have two sets of gardening tools, one at one end of the allotment and one at the other end, because it saves me quite a lot of walking,” Ruth says. “I only plant what is easy to grow and what the rabbits don’t eat so there is no covering to do.

“I cleared my allotment in the autumn on my hands and knees, using only a trowel. It took forever, but I enjoyed doing it. My wonderful family did all the composting.”

Over at the allotments, Ruth’s fellow gardeners support her, too. “Everyone is absolutely lovely,” she says. “They are kind and thoughtful and cheerful and helpful.” 

Ruth is determined to keep gardening for as long as she can and is planning ahead to make that possible. “Don’t just plant for how you are today,” she says. “You have to look to the future, when your health may not be as good as it is now. I have learned that life can change very abruptly and unexpectedly, so I plan ahead. It will mean that I can carry on doing what I find so rewarding.”

Gardening for the disabled

Founded 41 years ago, the Gardening for the Disabled Trust gives grants to people all over the United Kingdom in order that they may continue to garden, despite disability or advancing illness. People of any ages can apply.

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