How I got into gardening, by Simon Mitchell

Our love of plants has to begin somewhere. For gardener Simon Mitchell, it began at work. Here he tells us about his gardening journey and how it helps him de-stress and get away from the hustle and bustle.

As everyone knows by now, modern life is stressful. I work 60 to sometimes 90 hours a week as a sous chef. Not that I don’t like my job and don’t love what I do, but sometimes you need to find something else to fill your spare time – as small and limited as it may be.

So, this is how I got into growing plants, gardening and everything in between and how it helped me to reduce the stress of a hectic life.

Simon Mitchell - Gardening Journey

  • how I stumbled upon gardening
  • how it started
  • how it grew
  • what I have learnt
  • cutting yourself off and having fun

So, as I have said I work A LOT, and was starting to get bogged down, like everyone else, with The Shining effect (all work and no play). I needed something else to do, and fast. So, after a few weeks of thinking, I didn’t realise what was right in front of me. I was working in a place called The Botanist – so why not get a plant or two? Considering I was just looking for something new to brighten up my week and give me something more to do, other than just work. I had no idea what I was letting myself in for – the amount of plants that were out there!

Simon Mitchell - Gardening Journey

As I work long hours and most of my time and effort is spent in work, I first Googled ‘plants that are hard to kill’. As everyone with long days and hectic schedules knows, it’s easy to forget about something like a plant in the house. I came across Tillandsia. I bought a terrarium and some stones and put something together. After some success, I then upped my game and got a terrarium for Christmas and now have about 15 different types.

Simon Mitchell - Gardening Journey

When I became more confident in what I was doing, I moved over to more adventurous things. I bought a cactus and found out that they can be harder to look after than first thought. So, I used YouTube to find out how to look after them. This lead me to succulents and how to propagate them. The thought of growing a plant from a single leaf was ‘fake news’ to me at the time, but I gave it a try and it worked! I found it easier to look after succulents than I did cacti. So, I turned my attention to the garden about two years ago.

Simon Mitchell - Gardening Journey

As I rent, I didn’t want to spend too much money on a garden that wasn’t mine. So I tried to do a cheap knock off garden, which turned into having patience and doing a lot of research into the plants that I was buying, what bulbs would come back year after year, and a few really lucky buys in the reduced section of the garden centres I went to. All of this got me to learn a lot more than what I thought I had. I now know:

  • the different between bulbs, corms, tubers, rhizomes
  • times of year to start planting vegetable seeds and when to harvest
  • how not to over water and underwater the house plants
  • which bulbs multiply in the ground to give you the best impact in the garden
  • Dahlia tubers need to be dug up and how to propagate them for next year
  • not all plants need soil (Tillandsia)
  • most important of all, I have learnt that it’s OK to fail and kill a plant or two. It’s just part of the course of learning new things.

Simon Mitchell - Gardening Journey

Since starting to take an interest in plants and doing the work in the garden, I have noticed a reduction in my stress levels from work. So, in the summer, I now wake up earlier to have my breakfast and a coffee in the garden. On my days off, I put my phone down for a few hours a day and don’t look at emails or Whatsapp groups. I completely cut myself off. I go to the garden centre (who all know me by name at this point). I have found how to take time out for myself and not be so uptight and highly strung. I have enjoyed bidding on things on eBay and finding out what they are afterwards. And this summer is not going to be any different.

Simon Mitchell - Gardening Journey

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