Dig It


Tim Rushby-Smith reflects on what he gets out of his garden – and encourages you to get out there and enjoy everything your own has to offer

FILL THOSE LUNGS, feast those eyes – the outdoors is beckoning, offering nourishment for the soul.

Before my spinal cord injury, I always worked outdoors. After many years as a telecoms engineer, I ran a garden design and construction business with my wife Penny, and also trained as a tree surgeon (it was a fall from a tree that resulted in my paraplegia).

After my injury, I went through a painful period of adjustment, as I had to let go of many of the activities I loved. But what I did hang onto was that sense of ‘outside’ as a refuge, a place to recharge.


Like all humans, I am solar powered. There’s no doubt that the way I interact with the outdoors has changed, but there is still plenty to enjoy, and over time I have  learned to focus on the things that I can still do rather than dwell on those I can’t.

This is especially important as a parent. I want my children to love the outdoors, and the garden provides a great opportunity to share this passion with them. By using raised beds, large pots or just sitting on the ground, I can share  the weeding and planting of vegetables.

With a set of long loppers, I can do a bit of pruning. I’ve even managed to strim the odd bit of grass without losing any toes.


There is certainly something infectious about the results of gardening. Virtually every child (or adult come to that) will  struggle to resist sweeping their hand through a bush of lavender and smelling the heady scent, let alone picking a sugar snap pea and crunching into it.

There are certainly some elements of gardening that will remain impossible. I am unable to negotiate the chickens’ enclosure without ending up with tyres full of chicken poop, and I’ve lost count of the number of times that I have over-reached and ended up disappearing head fi rst into the bushes.

But even the worst day in the garden is a day spent in the fresh air, and the rewards can be enjoyed in the kitchen. There is real pleasure to be had in picking your dinner just minutes before it reaches the plate.

So if you have any outdoor space, use it. Even if it’s only a balcony or a window box, now’s the time to plan. Think about what you can grow and what you can do to make things easier. If you only manage to grow a single cherry tomato, that one juicy bite will make it all seem worthwhile.

Looking Up by Tim Rushby-Smith is available on Virgin Books

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