‘I was in awe of everything. It felt as if my life had a purpose’

Katie Needham from Leighton Buzzard – the Gen Z gardener



Daily Telegraph



Katie Needham was 24 and living in Brighton when she decided to become a gardener. “I’d moved there to study sculpture, which I loved at the start, but with the cuts to funding at the university I lost my way. I didn’t know what I wanted to do afterwards and the future looked a bit blurry. I thought, I can’t leave and move home just yet. I just felt like I had failed.” Instead, she stayed in Brighton and took a job in a shop. “It wasn’t until the first lockdown that I felt like I needed to do something and push myself and meet new people. So I applied to volunteer at a community allotment,” she recalls. “And it was brilliant. It was the best time. I met the most incredible people and it was almost addictive. I felt like I could see colour again.” Katie persuaded her manager to let her take Tuesdays off so she “could get my fingers in the soil. I felt as if my life had a purpose. I was in awe of everything.” With some encouragement from fellow allotmenteers, Katie handed in her notice and moved home to take up the RHS Level 2 course, which she was eligible to do for free. While there, she got a placement at a garden through the charity Work and Retrain As a Gardener Scheme (Wrags). She admits that she had to turn down her first offer of the part-time scheme because the pay was too low to make her finances work. “Fortunately,” she says, “since then I’ve managed to build up a portfolio of other freelance work, which has allowed me to take on a new Wrags placement at a beautiful and historical garden, so it’s been worth the wait. You get to see a garden over the seasons. It was such a great experience and gave me the confidence to start my own gardening business.” Increasingly, her sculpture degree is coming to fruition, too. “It feels like a process piece, building up someone’s garden from scratch,” Katie says. Looking to bolster her design prowess, she’s landed a place on the KLC School of Design course in London, and is funding the £10,975 course fees through her self-employment as a gardener. “Gardening slows down the pace of life and that’s what I needed,” Katie says. “I think a lot of people of my age are considering a more vocational route now. We’ve all had time to think about what we really want to do in life. We’re going to be working until we’re 70, so it makes sense to do something that makes you happy!”