The former professional footballer, who lives in Derbyshire, is a hit on social media with his gardening challenges, tips and tricks

Dean, who lives in Mickley, shares gardening tips and fun challenges for his followers, not least the world’s first laundry basket challenge!

He said: “You get a flexible laundry basket that can hold 60 plants and you transform it into one of the most beautiful displays you will ever see.

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Dean Robert with cabbages from his garden.

“In our group it’s a competition but there are no winners and losers because anyone who tries is a winner in my eyes… I want everyone to think they can do it. Every week I give them guidance. We sown the seeds in March and we’re in the process of getting them into trays ready for the third weekend of May, when it’s guaranteed to be frost-free.”

His laundry basket challenge inspires thousands of attempts each year, not all submitting to friendly competition.

The challenges don’t end here. Last year Dean encouraged members to grow potatoes in a 30 liter bucket, this year it’s root vegetables in a rubber boot or buds in a bag.

Another of his challenges is to grow herbs from seeds and then pick five of them to use to cook a meal.

Dean Roberts in his garden in Mickley.

The Facebook page he co-owns with Michelle Lees is much more than a garden forum. It is a place where people can share their personal or professional issues and where online Q&A sessions are held once a week for 20 members. Dean said, “It’s like sitting around a big table with your friends on a Friday night and just talking about fixing the world.” On one occasion, after the meeting ended, he spent two hours conversing with to entertain a widow who was close to tears and lonely.

When he lost his mother last year, Dean, 55, said he was overwhelmed by the messages of support coming through the website. “It pulled me through a tough time, through the grief and the sale of the house that was my childhood home,” he said. “I’ve even had people call me willing to help me sell my mom’s house for free.”

Dean’s paternal grandparents were very influential in his life. He credits his grandfather, David, with sparking his interest in gardening. “He taught me how to sow seeds and pot them when I was a little kid.”

His grandma Annie made rich Yorkshire puddings and Dean spent 20 years imitating hers before he found success and shared his discovery on the Facebook page. He said, “They don’t need Aunt Bessies, now they have Uncle Deanos!”

Dean’s onion harvest was a great success last year.

Since moving to Tennyson Street with his partner Claire six years ago, Dean has been transforming his 250-foot garden.

He said: “I’ve divided a quarter of it for vegetables, added 14 raised beds, put in a greenhouse and new fencing.

“I grow things that I want to eat and I want to be self-sustaining. Last year we were self-sufficient on potatoes and onions. I will try to successfully grow carrots this year.

“I am also making a flower wall on the right side of my garden for the first time and will try to grow chrysanthemums with large flowers.”

Dean challenged Facebook followers to grow potatoes in a 30 liter bucket.

His Facebook page grew out of a first blog about his garden three years ago. He said: “We immediately had experienced gardeners who wanted to help me. It was like a community I’ve never experienced before… strangers wanting to come together and help. Gardening has gotten a lot more interested in people in the last two years, it’s therapeutic, it gives peace of mind and it’s an accomplishment.”

Dean, who has a son and two grandchildren, works as a caregiver. He and Claire moved to Mickley from Conisborough near Doncaster to be close to Claire’s daughter Bethany and grandchildren Logan (6) and Eli (5).

As a teenager, Dean was a forward for Bolton Wanderers, alongside team-mates such as Sam Allardyce, who later became England manager, David Cross, who went on to play for the England team, and Asa Harford, who became Scotland international.

He moved to Exeter City for a season before moving to Weymouth where he played from 1987-89.

After retiring from professional football, Dean worked as an engineer in a job that took him to Canada, but returned to his hometown of Conisborough six years later after a divorce. Back in Conisborough, Dean and Claire, also divorcing after a long marriage, reunited and rekindled a romance they had as teenagers.

Dean achieves spectacular results in his laundry basket challenge.
A beautiful floral arrangement grown in a laundry basket by a Facebook follower after Dean’s class.
What madness! Dean shared the recipe for a Yorkshire pudding just like his grandma used to make.
Dean Roberts, third from right in the front row, with Bolton Wanderers in the 1985 season. Also pictured are Sam Allardyce, Asa Harford and David Cross.

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