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Living with Diabetes Q2 2023

The green-fingered TV star who tends to his garden while managing his diabetes

Lee Burkhill

Television Presenter and Garden Designer

Television presenter and garden designer Lee Burkhill was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 16. He shares his experiences with his condition — and his passions.

How long have you been interested in gardening?

I’ve been interested in gardening since I was a child. My grandad was an old-school allotment grower. He also loved a good rose garden, so I learnt a lot about the growing season of vegetables and flowers.

My approach to gardening and design is to help educate new gardeners by sharing knowledge in easy-to-digest snippets. My YouTube channel and blog have become popular as I explain complex gardening practices in easy-to-understand guides. This is now the cornerstone of my business. Helping to educate through my garden design practice and TV presenting. 

What was your type 1 diabetes diagnosis like?

I was diagnosed at 16, which threw my social life and school studies into chaos. Back then, it was a case of mixing your own long and short-acting insulin and eating set amounts each day. Luckily, it’s much easier now with tech like the FreeStyle libre and carb counting. I wish I had access to that support back then. 

How is it a challenge in your work?

Having type 1 diabetes can be tricky. My working days can be long and involve physical labour and weather from scorching days to driving rain. That can leave me feeling frazzled or freezing. I have a series of ratios of insulin to carbohydrates that I find work for different activities. The FreeStyle Libre also helps me keep a check on my blood glucose throughout the day. Before that, it was a case of washing mud off my hands, finger pricking, then having to snack or inject. It was a real pain. 

How have you been encouraged by the diabetes community?

Access to advice and guidance has never been easy for people living with diabetes in the UK. What I love about the community is that people share very private details about glucose levels, insulin ratios and experiences to help others succeed with their diabetes. It’s a very open forum of people who just want to educate others — a bit like Garden Ninja with helping new gardeners.

What gardening advice would you give people with diabetes?

Gardening is a great form of low-impact physical activity, which is always beneficial to help manage diabetes. It’s also fantastic for your mental health — being in nature and without deadlines. Gardening can help reduce stress and help you manage your diabetes. Gardening is a win–win!

For more information about Lee, go to gardenninja.co.uk

For more information about Diabetes UK, go to diabetes.org.uk

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