Roger Kan is 83. He works full time. He loves his garden. And he's completely blind video

Shay Dewey/Southern Stringers

Roger Kan, blind gardener.

Roger Kan lost his sight gradually to glaucoma and was registered as completely blind 20 years ago. 

But he'd been gardening from a young age, and grown fruit and veges all his life. "So when I lost my sight I just carried on."

The backyard of his south Dunedin home is marked out with lengths of pipe so he can find his way around and his tools are kept together so he knows where to find them. "The only problem is when someone comes along and moves something."

Roger Kan says he used to be able to dig for six hours without pause. "But now after two hours I need a rest".
Shay Dewey/Southern Stringers

Roger Kan says he used to be able to dig for six hours without pause. "But now after two hours I need a rest".

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Kan's only interested in edibles – flowers are his wife Jessie's domain – and he likes to try any new varieties he comes across. He grows most of his crops from seed and plants them out along lengths of string stretched between two markers. He does the weeding too: "The first leaves on brassica, turnip and radishes feel rounded, whereas weeds are pointed. Carrots and parsnips feel softer but straight, while onions feel like the point of an inverted V. I get it right 85 per cent of the time."

When he is filling a bucket of water he can tell by the sound of the water when it reaches the top of the bucket, and he can till the soil by following the lines of his markers. (Although the 83-year-old admits he can't dig as much any more: "I used to be able to dig for five or six hours, but now after two hours, I need a rest.")

Roger Kan has been completely blind for 20 years but still loves working in his Dunedin garden.
Shay Dewey/Southern Stringers

Roger Kan has been completely blind for 20 years but still loves working in his Dunedin garden.

He uses markers to define the edges of his beds, and lays pipes or wooden planks around the edges of his beds to guide his digging. He uses pipes, stakes or long straight pieces of timber to mark out a row which he can sow seed along too. To measure short distances, he uses hs hand with his thumb and little finger outstretched, to measure long distances he uses the handle of his rake.

He's a member of the garden club at his local Blind Foundation, where every month about 15 people meet to hear speakers and exchange ideas. "I still learn tips. You don't ever know everything." 

He still works full-time at his food wholesale company, so he often ends up working in his garden at night. "It's good because I don't need lights."

"Gardening is very relaxing. All your worries disappear and you hear birds and bees and other insects. I'd recommend other blind people take up gardening. In fact, I'd recommend everyone did!"

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 - NZ Gardener

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