GARDENING serves a fundamental need in human beings says Capel Manor lecturer and new face of BBC Gardner's World Zephaniah Lindo.

"There is so much that can be achieved by gardening," the 45-year-old father of five tells me, "in a physical way, in a mental way, spiritual, its a fundamental need that human beings have to be able to get their hands dirty."

Niah as he likes to be called grew up on a farm "in the wilds of north Wales" where he first encountered agriculture and first tasted fresh produce aged four while podding peas in his aunt's garden, but strangely it was after moving to Southwalk in south London at the age of nine that he really understood what he calls "the hort bug".

"In London we went to Burgess Park, which at that time just a big open space it wasn't the park it is now with big pond and boating lakes, it was just an area for football, you could ride your bikes couple of tennis courts and that was it but for me it made that connection with going to an outside space to get a bit of perspective and see a bit of a big sky.

"My mum was always grown things, she's quite relaxed about her gardening, it would go in if it grew, it grew if it didn't so be it, but for me it was that connection with the outside space being able to provide you with something - an ability to engage with plants from seed all the way through to growing, maintaining and caring for them and having all that enjoyable time and then a reward at the end as well - I thought this is great."

Living in Manchester from the age 13, Niah left school at 16 and went to work at golf course training as a greenkeeper.

"I didn't like the early starts or getting wet but I just loved being outdoors," he says. "I earned £27 a week on the old YTS scheme and had to leave home at 4.30am, it cost £12 to get there and I'd work long hours and weekends, so it certainly wasn't for the money but I loved it."

Niah's first proper garden was in a terraced house in Wigan.

"After I got married, the first thing I did after demolishing a wall was take up all the flagstones in backyard, it was a very small space, possibly 5m x 8m but I managed to get in eight or nine trees, lots of produce, a selection of hostas and loads of hanging baskets. It was a curio, like a little museum but I was learning along the way how to care for plants and what worked and what didn't.

Moving to London Colney in 2000 in his late 20s, he worked for St Albans building company Tanglewood Homes as a labourer where he learned more skills from landscape gardener Paul Hughes. Niah then went into garden design.

"I had regular customers some I'd been with for 17 years and you get a real emotional attachment to people but to the actual garden as well but even after all the time its still developing, still trying new things, some thing work and then don't so you try different things."

Niah has built up a "prosperous business" but a serious football injury put paid to his career.

"I needed a complete knee rebuild with five operations in the course of four years. I couldn't drive for several months so I had to look for something else to do. An RHS Level 2 course allowed me to qualify and have the confidence to know that I was doing it right, I've got a piece of paper now that tells me I'm doing it right."

Niah began his studies at at Capel Manor in 2009 and went on to study RHS Level 3 and complete a two-year teacher training degree befroe taking up a lecturing post two and a half years ago.

"There is a small core of youngsters 16 leaving school know want to do something working outdoors and they're a little bit unsure as to what horticulture is but what they don't realise it is such a wide industry and it ticks all the boxes for kids from Edmonton and Tottenham and inner cities who haven't had the opportunity to access that career and within a few months of them being with us their whole attitude turns around."

At Gardener's World Niah aims to bring gorilla gardening and urban community projects into the spotlight.

"Gardens work on so many levels - you only need a few square metres and even if you've just got a pot with a few flowers in, if it attracts a pollinator if it provides a habitat, if it keeps a bee alive to then go on and pollinate produce then you've done your bit, your little garden has helped that ecosystem tick over just one more cog.

"If I can inspire people just to give it a go, I know once they've been bitten by the hort bug they will be doing it for the rest of their lives."