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Finding Growth through Gardening

BY Ali
Co-Founder of The Positive Planner Ali McDowall talks about how to combat mental fatigue in lockdown

As a child, Ali didn’t didn’t really understand her Dad’s love of the garden. But when she was given the keys to her own allotment last year, she finally realised how good for the soul it can be. Here’s her story of finding growth through gardening.


I used to see my Dad pottering around the garden and not really understand what he was doing. There he was, up and down, digging and planting and pulling up the weeds. It looked like a lot of hard work. Then one day I went to help my friend at her allotment, I saw a greenhouse of green leaves, seed shoots by the tray full and all followed by an overwhelming sense of peace and tranquility. Could it be this that my Dad had found through gardening? Could I find growth through gardening too?

Getting messy is something I like to do anyway, muddy, painty, covered in clay, you name it, I love it. It takes me back to myself at art college, curious and explorative. It makes me feel like me. Even as a child I liked the sensation of earth in my hands, even holding worms, making mud pies and looking under rocks to find little colonies of creatures. My inner child loves to embrace the mess, the imperfect creative chaos of it all.


The Positive Planner Ali McDowall wearing green work dungarees doing a star jump in front of a dark blue garden cabin


‘To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow’

- Audrey Hepburn


My own patch of land

At the beginning of Lockdown 1.0 I was given the keys to my very own patch of land at our local allotment, equipped with a huge poly tunnel and two damson trees in full blossom. This was mine; not work, not home, just peace and quiet and a place to ‘get away from it all’. 


A picture of Ali's allotment showing a damson tree and different raised vegetable beds


There is a satisfaction like no other to grow something from seed. Watering every day and watching it grow inch by inch. I had no idea that this would be my lifeline in lockdown. Summer days spent under my damson tree rocking in my hammock. Potting and repotting. Planning and plotting. This was a little piece of me that didn’t require me to be anything, it didn’t expect me to show up happy, or sad. It didn’t email me, it just required me to show up as I am and to nurture it, as I would like to be nurtured myself I suppose. 


The Positive Planner co-founder Ali McDowall wearing a dark blue checked shirt standing in front of her gardening allotment


The past year has been hard on so many levels, the pressure of homeschooling, endless cooking and cleaning, whilst trying to co-run a hungry business. Everyone and everything so very hungry. When I'm at the allotment it’s like those pressures dissipate, my heart rate slows, my breath regulates. I can hear the birds, chat to my wise allotment friends and suddenly it all makes sense again. I think we all need these kinds of moments to keep us grounded. Grounding after all is a thing, to walk barefoot in nature. I suppose this is what soil brings me, a connection to the earth that is bigger than me. A universe in itself. Each seed contains enough information to grow a completely different plant to the next. That tiny seed knows what it’s doing. You just have to show up and water it.


Unexpected growth 

An unexpected thing happened whilst I was busy being humble, saying that I wasn’t very green fingered. I slowly grew in confidence and a sense of achievement came from taking bowls of rainbow tomatoes home to my family to eat. It became a way to show myself I could do things that I never thought I could. I was that sort of person after all, I could be consistent. I could put in the hard work and I could learn new things. All the work I did last year on The Doodle Diary centred around children having a growth mindset. I forgot that of course, we as adults have them too. I could turn my hand to anything and just try. Just trying was enough, I was enough there. There I was with muddy fingernails and dungarees feeling more authentic than ever. 


A hand holding a bowl of different coloured and sized tomatoes harvested from Ali's gardening allotment


So yes, it does sort of become another thing on the to-do list. But even thinking about what seeds to buy in the dark months of this year's lockdown felt like a holiday. A snippet of my life where there was no negotiation. Only that of seasons and weather patterns out of my control. I was empowered to do what I wanted, when I wanted, and the thought of the summer days under that damson tree listening to the bees busy at work was incentive enough for me. Simple things bringing me joy I had no idea I was craving.


Connection in and out

It’s interesting because in gardening I have found a unique form of self-care that helps me connect to my inner elder and my inner child all at once. I also have a sense of community there, a connection to others that I wasn’t expecting. I knew that I was doing this for my wellbeing but the outcome has exceeded all my expectations.



So yes, the ultimate positive planning could be to plant a garden as Audrey said, and of course that means you have hope that tomorrow will come, and you just have to watch it grow. Sometimes you feel as though you have been buried, and then you realise that you have just been planted and all you really need is just water and sunlight to keep on growing.




Co-Founder of The Positive Planner Ali McDowall talks about how to combat mental fatigue in lockdown

I hope you've enjoyed reading about how I've found growth through gardening. If you want to see more of my allotment story, take a look at my Instagram page: @pp_ali_.

All the love and positive vibes,

Ali xxx



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