The first lockdown had a huge impact on the mental health of so many people across the country and the world, and Jason was no exception. Having experienced anxiety and depression for some time, being limited to a small space only made this more difficult to manage. That's when something unexpected came along to break this difficult cycle.
It all started with a few marigolds, a houseplant that Jason had grown before in his previous homes. Soon after, he decided to plant a lemon tree from seed. It took a long while for the lemon tree to grow, but eventually it did and he was so proud that he even gave the tree a name, Simon.
The success of this tree meant a lot to Jason. It felt like a representation of himself. Working hard and growing under the surface, even if that wasn't visible to others. As Simon the lemon tree grew, so did Jason's confidence to go on and grow more plants!
I never thought a year and a half ago that I’d be gardening now.Jason
Jason then moved onto growing fruit and salad on his balcony. He started watching a lot of gardening videos online to help, but there was one problem. A lot of the advice didn't quite apply to Jason's unique growing space. An 18th-floor balcony facing strong winds with very hot weather, it was almost a micro-climate of it's own. This meant he had to figure out a lot of things for himself, use trial and error and persevere when some of his plants died.
At one point it was so windy that his small greenhouse blew over, laying waste to all of the plants inside. By this point Jason knew no matter the hardships, that he had stumbled onto something too good to give up on. He was truly becoming a gardener.
One thing that really surprised and motivated Jason was the amount of wildlife he was beginning to attract. There were bumblebees, slugs, caterpillars and moths, making it all the way up to the 18th floor just to enjoy the oasis that he had created. His favourite visitor was a bumblebee who would visit regularly and make use of his plants. He named the bee Tracy and could always tell her apart from the rest due to her unique personality and favourite plants.
Jason even created a little pond out of a plastic barrel to accommodate the wildlife that was visiting. He loves the sound of the running water of the pond, which adds yet another therapeutic element to his balcony garden.
Jason started to notice that his morning routine of getting up early and taking care of his plants was having a positive impact on his mental health. It gave him a routine, something to motivate him, refresh him first thing in the morning and set himself up for the day ahead. He was also able to accomplish things he never thought he could, giving him a great sense of achievement that spurs him on to keep trying and keep learning.
“It gave me a reason to get out of bed.”Jason
Jason has now started to build a profile for himself on social media, posting pictures and videos that show his fascinating gardening journey. He makes a point of sharing his successes, his failures and has no issue showing the blemishes on his plants, always avoiding using filters so people can see everything as it is. He feels gardening isn't a perfect process and by showing this proudly, he hopes it might inspire others who are struggling with their gardening, or with their lives.
One particular passion of Jason's due to his own experiences is men's mental health, and he has been uplifted by the amount of men that have been engaging with his social media content. Looking forward Jason is hoping to continue growing his social media channels, spreading his positivity and helping people to understand and utilise the wellbeing benefits of gardening to use them in their own lives. He is also hoping to get horticultural qualifications from RHS and study horticultural therapy with Thrive.
Jason is excited for what's ahead and knows one thing for sure, he will forevermore be a gardener.