Gardening 'absolutely central' to Leeds woman's year-long Covid recovery as she shows off her impressive efforts
The past year of lockdowns has seen many take a renewed interest in gardening but for one Leeds mum-of-two, the pastime has proved invaluable in her recovery from the debilitating after-effects of Covid.
Jo Gallon was struck down with the virus back in March, just as the nation went into lockdown, but that marked only the beginning of what has turned out to be a year-long battle with long Covid.
The 52-year-old was one of the estimated two to five per cent of people to develop the condition - where symptoms continue beyond 12 weeks - and she suffered months of breathlessness and fatigue.
Only now does she say she is feeling much better - and credits her reignited passion for gardening as key to her improving mental and physical wellbeing over the past year.
It was during the early bed-bound days that Jo found the instagram account @myrealgarden - run by TV gardening presenter Ann-Marie Powell - which inspired her to pour what little energy she had into slowly transforming her garden.
Her impressive efforts have now been featured in a unique community gardening book called ‘My Real Garden’ which aims to capture how gardening became mental therapy for so many during the summer 2020 lockdown.
Jo, of Scarcroft, said her garden played an “absolutely central” role in her recovery.
“I think it was Audrey Hepburn who said ‘to plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow’. And to get those seeds in your hand. It doesn’t take that much effort but to put it in some soil and a few days later to see that they have germinated and then a few weeks later you get a tomato plant and a few months later you get a tomato.
“There’s just so much hope with that one thing of planting a seed. The whole metaphor of what that seed is - full of energy, full of life, this little thing. If you look after it, it will turn into something.
“It really has turned a huge negative into a huge positive,” she said.
Jo and her husband Andy were both struck down with Covid in March last year and she said it became apparent that she wasn’t recovering in the same way as him or others she knew who had had the virus.
She said: “People bounce back and I realised after maybe a couple of months that something was amiss.
“I realised my breathing hadn’t gone back to normal. I was very fatigued. I’m normally an active person and I realised I was just unable to even do the housework. I would just feel completely overwhelmed. Just a sense of not being able to breathe properly.
“We started hearing about long Covid in the May time and it was quite a scary time. We just didn’t know.
“Gradually it lifted but at the end of November I had a bit of relapse where the symptoms came back in December.
“But since January I have gradually been on that upward trajectory. I still have some minor symptoms but I think now that's it. I’m pretty sure I didn’t feel this good by the end of last Autumn.”
Jo also praised her family - including children Teddy, 18, and Millie, 13 - and the gardening community for supporting her garden - and health - transformation.
“The way my family let me do it - I had very little energy but what energy I did have they let me do the gardening rather than all the things mums do. They really supported me.
“And I met this just amazing community of gardeners - new gardeners or like me, relaxed gardeners and professional gardeners. This community is just amazing and totally inspiring - helping if you need tips or to share seeds or bulbs. Just wonderful.”
She added: “Although I’ve had a horrendous year health wise I have got a garden which is just unbelievable and I have met these people who have helped and supported me through that process.”
My Real Garden, priced at £25, will be available on general release through Amazon from April 1.