A person holding an anatomical heart shaped planter full of flowers.

The Garden that Changed Me

I am fairly new to the world of gardening. Honestly, I never saw myself as the gardening type. In part because I was diagnosed with RA, 16 years ago. I know enough about gardening to know the back-breaking work a garden can take to prepare and maintain. Not to mention the financial resources it takes to garden.

How I found gardening

However, an opportunity came my way to join a community garden in May of 2019, through an organization called Imagine Community Gardens. At the time I was, with full transparency, reluctant to join the garden. I had RA, was homeless, and my mom was facing the last months of her life. Gardening was the last thing on the planet I thought I should be doing.

However, I truly believe that opportunities are presented in your life for a reason. No matter how many excuses I kept putting out there, I pushed forward anyway despite the many obstacles.

No idea what to expect on planting day

I remember waking up that morning in May 2019 saying to myself, “What did you get yourself into?” The day I arrived for planting day, I had no idea what to expect.

Help from the community garden organization

My community garden organization provided all their gardeners with their own pod of land to tend for the gardening season. The gardening beds were semi-raised and each pod of land had a built-in irrigation system. All of the plants were provided free of charge to each gardener. Each gardener had assigned pod leaders and a lead/master gardener. My pod leader, master gardener, and some of my fellow gardeners knew my physical limitations and were willing to lend a hand at any time.

Experiencing personal growth

Each week we were educated on various topics regarding gardening and my knowledge of how to care for and tend to my plants grew. As the gardening season progressed, it was so amazing to see the vegetables grow from small plants and seeds.

However, it wasn’t only the vegetables that grew. I grew too. Here I was gardening, despite the RA and all the obstacles that I had before me in that season of my life. I stepped out of my comfort zone and trusted that this opportunity to garden came before me for a reason. I chose to look at it as a blessing.

Support from my gardening family

Not only did I grow personally, however. My family grew in size also. I now had a garden family. Every week, I found the love and the emotional and physical support from an entire group of people that I had not known before this.

We not only met every Saturday morning, but I found myself attending activities outside the garden. I attended a baby and bridal shower for two fellow gardeners. My community garden organization and my garden family helped me achieve success with an activity that I never thought possible. I hadn’t realized it, but RA had caused me to put up a wall and in so many ways was preventing me from living the life I was intended to live.

Gardening provided me hope with my RA

To my RheumatoidArthritis.net family, please use this story as hope. Don’t ever give up on living life because of your RA or life circumstances. You are all warriors and can rise above any obstacle that is placed before you.

Don't box yourself in

The best things in life are often unplanned. Living with RA is very unpredictable. However, never put yourself and what you can do in a box that you are afraid to step out of. It’s very easy to do and I did it for 16 years with gardening. We have to be open to participate in things and situations, even when the cards are stacked against us. Above all else remember to, “Just keep swimming.”

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