Gardening taught me more than what I expect to learn

I find myself an extreme creature of randomness. Sometimes inspiration just entered my mind because of either something I read, or someone I stumbled upon, and it grew into something I never knew it would become. The biggest randomness that happened to me was stumbling upon this financial independence blogger, Mr Money Mustache’s website, and doubled my networth within three years. Not that it was that much to start with, but still, it was amazing.

Another one of these randomness was gardening. My mother, my aunts and uncles all had green finger, and loved their plants very much. Apart from the part where I asked my boyfriend to help my mom pluck weeds to prove that he could get his hands dirty, I normally shy away from the garden.

About 3-4 months ago, I read about something called Aquaponics, which means plants and fish living within the same ecosystem, with humans rearing the fishes, and the fishes in return giving their waste to the plants as their nutrients. This is an urban farming method that is gaining popularity as this reduces pesticides and toxins in fishes since their environment is largely controlled by humans. It is also encouraged by the local ministry of agriculture considering the fact that our country is having an agricultural products import deficit, meaning we mostly import our food from other countries, although we ourselves are majorly an agricultural country.

I eat broccoli and some other vegetables almost every day. So I figured, this does not seem to be too bad a plan. My balcony only had two decorative plants anyway. The worst is that the plant might die, and I will end up with no plant. No biggie. (I was sadder than I thought when they died, which is something that I did not know back then) I started to kind of eat vegetarian at home, so I cut out the fish part.

Too much water is worse than not enough water

This is a very painful lesson indeed. But it was not me who over-watered the plants. It was the rain. Whilst I was away on holiday, it rained heavily everyday, but I had no idea. It never dawned to me that I should ask my housemate to move the plants indoor. Then I saw despite the fact that the soil was wet, the leaves on several seedlings are turning yellow. I wonder what happened so I googled the reason why leaves turn yellow. Contrary to popular belief, there are many reasons why plants turn yellow, lack of water is not the only reason. It seems when plants are overwatered, the root starts to rot, and once that happens, there is no reversing of that effect. The only thing you could do is just watch them die. The words “fragility of life” comes into mind. Well I actually dug out two of the seedlings and moved them to drier soil. It actually worked for one of them.

Loneliness (or a bigger container) could kill a plant

My most prized broccoli plant, one that grew into the largest amongst my other seedlings which survived through my two weeks’ holidays did not survive after I transplanted it to a bigger bag. I was guessing perhaps that big bag made it felt lonely, since there was so much space, and it was far away from its friends before the transplant. Its leaves were too heavy for the stem to carry that it fell sideways. I tried to put a straw to straighten the stem. It just prolonged its inevitable death. I told myself, it’s ok, just continue buying broccoli from the supermarket.

My head is too heavy

Later I stumbled upon a more logical explanation. Unless the seedling is really matured, otherwise transplanting it to a bigger pot or place will loosen the soil, and since a bigger pot can hold more water, it is likely to dampen the roots and cause the plants’ roots to rot.

Planting is like parenting

Definitely a strange revelation considering the fact that I do not have children and am not sure if I would like to have them.

After learning that too much water can kill the plants, and the fact that plants need sunlight to thrive, I was thinking how could both be achieved, and this was what I came out with.

A transparent umbrella! Maybe there is indeed something called the best of both worlds?

My boyfriend said I protect and care for them too much. I should just let nature take their course. Look at weeds, they grow well, although no-one cared for them. It was an epiphany that parents probably felt the same way as I do. As much as I have done what I could, and the results was not as what I hoped it would be, I could not just give up on the seedlings and move on. And why, you ask me? Could this be love? Unreciprocated efforts? I still could not put a finger on this.

Parents could do anything for their children, even if it means giving up their lives. I know to many, mints are the easiest to grow. It was not as easy for me. I got a few grown mint plants and stems from mom several times, and they never lived into the wild bushes I thought it would, since everyone says that they are like weeds. I bought some fresh mints from the market and tried to plant them. Surprisingly one of the stalks actually survived and little buds of leaves started to sprout. Look how the left “parent leaf” lived on long enough so that the tiny buds could survive. Once that goal is achieved, it just dropped dead.

Well I might be romantising this mint growth progress but what I learnt from this is, never ever cut off all the leaves and expect that the stem would be able to do the work for you. That stem is just like the blood transfusion system, if there were no nutrients, there was nothing to transport, and death is just a matter of time.

Parents giving their all to their children

Shit happens.. and sometimes you just have to cut losses

Well not before you put up a lot of fight!

Gross! I know

The first thing I did was locating the culprits that gave my Spanish spinach these hideous bites. So apparently it was not just one but two, and maybe three of those caterpillars. It was a cringey experience removing these caterpillars and their droppings. There was nothing that I could do but to cut off all the leaves that the caterpillars has “graced”. In fact I have chopped off quite a fair bit. I could not stand the hideous looking chewing marks, and caterpillar poo.

That’s all I can remember. I am still learning every day. My plants are a solace to me when I come back from work. The first thing I do everyday the moment I stepped into the house, was to take a look at how my plants are doing. Are they growing steadily? Are they dying? Did they have enough water? Did I do what was needed? How can I improve on my planting skills? I guess I will have to wait until a garden of greenery that I have always wished for will just appear one day when I am not looking and checking in.

Till then, just plant on!