Guest Column: In Covid times, cultivate kinship with plants
Most people are feeling stressed out and anxious during the Covid-19 pandemic because of its multidimensional effect on our routines. With people confined indoors, more cases of domestic violence and mental health problems are also being reported.
This could be the right time to start a positive engagement with nature -- by taking care of plants and starting a kitchen garden.
As Canada based writer David Hobson quotes, “I grow plants for many reasons: to please my eye or to please my soul, to challenge the elements or to challenge my patience, for novelty or for nostalgia, but mostly for the joy in seeing them grow.”
This activity benefits both the body and mind, irrespective of age.
A kitchen garden has many benefits. Historically, people in America were urged to establish gardens at their home to ensure self-sufficiency in vegetables and fruits during World War-II. They named these ‘victory gardens’ and contributed more than eight million tonnes of food during times of scarcity (equivalent to the country’s 40% fresh produce) from 20 million gardens.
Learning from this admirable feat, you can use your backyard, terrace or balcony for kitchen gardening.
You need to make a plan first, get the required materials and lay out the garden and enjoy watching plants grow and harvesting them. Vegetables can be given first priority as they make up the principal component of our diet.
Growing plants will have following benefits:
•Unique opportunity to have home grown, chemical free, freshly harvested vegetables. There’s a unique joy in watching plants grow. Nothing else can give us such exceptional happiness during this Covid-19 crisis
•Working in the garden in open is healthy. It will give you an abundant amount of VitaminD
• You won’t be breaking any social distancing rules. Your time will be utilised productively and your mind diverted from letting the pandemic situation overwhelm you
• Gardening will improve your mental and physical well-being by providing a productive outlet. Likewise, with all the twisting/bending/stretching involved, you are bound to burn up those calories and give a boost to your spirits.
• Growing plants will help your family bond as everyone should be encouraged to contribute their bit for the kitchen garden and get away from mobile phones and computers. A family can learn to care for each other in the wake of perceiving how nature grows and functions in the form of plants.
• Cultivating/harvesting one’s own plants could be entertaining and instructive for children as an outdoor lab. It will encourage them to consume more vegetables and develop healthy dietary habits.
•Consuming chemical free vegetables is great for one’s health..
•Could become a potential hobby.
•This is the perfect time to experiment with your gardening skills as you will have ample time if you’re working out of home. It will also help you relax.
To begin gardening, identify a small piece of land you will use. It could be your terrace. Get pots, soil, manure and select a spot which gets six to eight hours of sunlight. You can even use waste plastic containers and old drums. In case of apartments, put out containers, boxes and hang pots.
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One can start with leafy green vegetables. Try growing palak (spinach) due to its fast growing and high nutritional value. Apart from this, you can also try flowering annuals/indoor plants. With time and experience you can upgrade your skills and abilities.
Urge your children to explore nature by nurturing plants. They will definitely love seeing little seedlings grow into plants and afterwards bear flowers and fruits.
Who gets a chance to be close to plants, birds, squirrels, dirt, bugs, butterflies, insects and soil? Children will love it and so will you.
During gardening, one can experience the delights of witnessing the germination of seeds, emergence of new leaves, conversion of a small bud into a beautiful and colourful flower and finally a fruit.
As author Michael Pollan has said, “The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway”.
The writer is assistant professor at Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana.