Gardening is so good for our mental health and I love Alex's story, her love of gardening and of course- how it all started with her gorgeous guinea pigs. Go and follow Alex @gardening_myself_sane to keep up to date with her latest adventures.
Tell us a bit about you and when did you started gardening, and why?
Hi, I’m Alex and I am a plant addict. I hated being outdoors and in nature as a child, to me one tree looked like another so what was the point in going to look at nature. As for gardening, as a life long arachnophobe – gardens were a no go … they were the home of spiders therefore I was not interested. However back in April 2017 (in fact 4 years to the date I am writing this) my husband and I adopted two beautiful guinea pigs. With the addictive nature I have, and the fact I had grown up money … by December I had adopted 6 more, and we had 8 guinea pigs living in our front room.
Now if you didn’t know, guinea pigs eat A LOT – and love herbs, so I bought a little window sill propagator to grow them some goodies and before I knew it I’d caught the bug. Within 6 months I had an allotment, a 6x4ft raised bed in my garden and a house full of houseplants …. And I’ve never looked back.
Which gardeners inspire you and why?
Without a doubt it has to be the gardeners of the gram! The wealth of expertise, experience and willingness to share hints and tips in the Instagram gardening community is incredible. I couldn’t possibly even write a list of accounts which inspire me as I would be here all day.
Actually, I do have to mention David Hurrion. He is an associate editor of Gardeners world magazine, and I have attended a couple of masterclasses run by David and he is just wonderful. He is so informative, without being patronizing and is one of the loveliest people I’ve ever met. Plus, he remembered me when we met at Gardeners world live, which made my friend think I was famous – which is one of my fav stories now.
What’s the most ambitious gardening project you’ve completed or have planned?
It would have to be my allotment. I am about to head into my 3rd year growing on my plot, and this will be the first year I have the whole plot available for growing. When I took it on, I just tried to do everything and cut corners – which did not work. Instead we have taken it bit by bit.
My favourite thing on my allotment is my polytunnel – I love that it gives me a great big space to grow my tomatoes and chillies in as well as some shelter for when it rains. This year I am hoping to get some raised beds in the tunnel too so I can use it over winter for salads.
What is your favourite thing to grow?
This is a tough one! Think I’d have to say tomatoes – they are so versatile, so many varieties and the taste difference from homegrown to shop bought is just mind-blowing. Plus of course, the guinea pigs LOVE them!
Anything new you want to try in the next growing season?
Cucamelons and Luffas. I have tried to grow both of these for the last 3 years and have had no success – so this year I have over planted to give me lots of seedlings in the hope that I will get at least one plant of each.
Where is your favourite garden in the world, and why?
Mine. For me, my garden is so much more than just plants and flowers. It is my haven and safe space. I suffer with anxiety and depression, and my garden is where I go to reconnect to the world when I am disengaged or overwhelmed. My favourite thing about it – is that it is right outside my backdoor. Also there is always soil that can be dug (with bare hands of course) which is one of my FAVOURITE grounding activities.
I love to see what I have accomplished in the garden and seeing it change season to season, and year to year is just wonderful.
What do you wish you’d known earlier about gardening?
Everybody’s experience is different. It’s easy to be pressured into planting things at a particular time, or in a particular way because its what everyone else seems to be doing. You will get the best results by learning what works for you, and in your soil. There is no wrong way to garden – its all just a chance to learn for the next season.
What advice would you give someone new to gardening?
Just dive in! You could spend years researching how to garden, and it could still go wrong, so just stick in the ground, give it a water and learn as you go. Oh- and be prepared that not all your seedlings/plants will make it – that’s just nature.
When not gardening, what do you like doing?
I love to spend time with my husband and of course my guinea pigs (we still have Peanut, Chip, Winston and Monty). I also love to craft – if you follow me on Instagram you will probably have seen that I enjoy being creative – I wouldn’t say I am particularly skilled at any of the crafts, but I like to jump between different things. I find crafting is a way to keep my mind busy and occupied during the winter when I have less gardening to keep me sane.