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This Week’s Guest Blogger is Nikki Gardener, a Podcast Host, Blog Writer who writes about how she discovered the joy of gardening and how it helped her and her husbands mental and physical health

My Gardening Story

I am Nikki and I live with my husband Neil, our puppy Lyla an our two rabbits Simba and Cinnamon in Glasgow. My story started when I met my husband, he brought the world of gardening into my life. I never really thought about gardening as such before I met Neil and his papa Joe.
My interest in the garden began when myself and my husband bought our first house and I began to discover flowers and the ones I loved which were Lilies, Sunflowers and Dahlias. Which I still love today! But it was really when my husband began to suffer with his depression and anxiety that it took us both into the garden.

I had no previous knowledge of depression and when my husband first started showing symptoms of being depressed, I was unsure of what was wrong. But as I started to notice signs and symptoms I began to research on my own at first before speaking to my husband. Neil was diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety which we both thought may have started with the lost of his gran in previous years. Being diagnosed with depression was something that has and continues to have an impact on my husband, although he is happy for me to talk openly about him and our story, he struggles with telling others that he has a mental illness. It is something that truly upsets me is that there is such a stigma being attached to having a mental illness. That is why I want to use my platform I have to talk about our story and live in hope that one day I won’t have to worry or even think about the stigma of mental health existing.
When we were dealing with coming to terms with Neil being diagnosed with depression and anxiety, we were also about to be hit with another challenging time to come when my husband started to suffer from sore hands and ankles. My husband hates to go to the doctors so it wasn’t until my husband was in agony in everyday life to the point where he was struggling to walk up the stairs in our house that he went to see a doctor and after a long wait even in pre-covid times he was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis is an auto immune disease where your body is fighting itself. This has been one of the hardest challenges for my husband was that his own body was stopping him from being able to walk and do the things he loved.
This is where I began to help in the garden more, as my husband couldn’t do the physical jobs like weed or at the time mow the grass. Weeding for me even though I didn’t know it, was actually helping me and was a form of therapeutic gardening. I noticed that when I went outside and began weeding that it gave me time away from everything, it shut me off from the world and it made me feeling lighter when I came back in from the garden. I always knew how much the garden lifted my husband‘s mood when he went outside but I had never really thought about how it was helping me.
It was then that I discovered the gardening bug and I began to have a dream of growing my own food. I suffer with low self esteem and low self confidence and after watching all the gardening programmes, I didn‘t believe that I would be able to grow anything. I told my husband that I wanted to grow my own fruit and vegetables in the garden and he was the one who encouraged me to give it a go. He took me to a local garden centre and he bought me two tomato and two strawberry plants.  He gave me a challenge of looking after the plants, finding out about them and nurturing them.
I took on the challenge and I absolutely loved it! I still have my two strawberry plants which I have added to over the years in my garden now. This was as such the seed that started my dream of growing my own food, but as well as growing my own food I wanted to help others too. I work in a nursery as a Nursery teacher and I wanted to teach not only the children but their families too about how to grow their own food at home. I took my love of gardening in to my job and I shared my passion with the staff and we were lucky to be given a small space in a local allotment to work in with the local community.

Which then lead me onto an opportunity of my own where I was given a space growing space of my own to develop which completely scared me! The thought of designing and growing on my own plot was one that at first filled me with fear. But my husband and the Chair of the allotment both told me that I would be fine and they had every faith in me that I could achieve it. Little did we all know that when I took that allotment space on in December 2019 that we were all going to be hit by a massive pandemic.
This was the start of my dream becoming a reality. I was ill with a chest infection for most of January and February that year and in March 2020 when covid began to hit in the UK. I was asked to work from home for 12 week initially which turned into 6 months eventually. I was asked to work from home and the two days later we were all put into lockdown. Which I will openly admit had a terrible effect on my own mental health and wellbeing. I was taken away from my friends & family and I was also terrified that my husband who has an auto immune disease would catch covid.
It was the garden who saved me and my allotment, if I didn‘t have my garden and the plot I don’t now how else I would have coped through such a horrible time. But this meant that due to everyone being scared of a lockdown happening; I had purchased all my seeds, my mini propagators and everything I needed in the greenhouse to start my new adventure of growing my own food. I should add that my friend Gary back in December 2019 had said to me that I should start an Instagram account and share my journey, which at first I was reluctant to do but for some reason in January 2020 I decided to do it!
Due to my self confidence, I started up my first Instagram account @gardenernikki where at first I was only posting pictures and video of me talking where you could not see me. This is my gardening brand, which I didn’t know at the time was going to be one of the best things I ever did. I have grown as a person from taken on the new challenges of the allotment and gardening has completey changed my life.  I have now started a Tiktok, Youtube, and podcast of my own where I speak to fellow gardeners and podcaster about their story and how they started gardening. I was given a fantastic opportunity in the summer of last year in 2021 to volunteer with a great company Help Yourself grow who provide gardening classes for people with additional supports needs in Glasgow who are from the age of 18-30.
I have a passion to help others through the power of gardening. Which has lead me on to have an opportunity where I work currently, have released me to be able to go and work in the garden at Help yourself grow and teach therapeutic gardening classes. This is a new challenge that I am currently taken on and I am really enjoying teaching in the garden. I feel as if this was all meant to be and I feel as is this was my fate to be teaching in a garden. I continue to grow and develop my own self confidence and skills through learning about gardening and I look forward to whatever new challenges and opportunities that may come my way!

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