Bloom in blues: Stress buster balcony gardens thrive during the pandemic
We often turn towards Nature to rejuvenate and relax. So, it’s not surprising that amid the stress of the current crisis, more and more people have realised the therapeutic power of plants. A lot of idle time during the lockdown, the desire to pick up a new skill or just the itch to see something thrive and grow even as the world as we know it spiralled into chaos over the past year — gardening enthusiasts have grown in number, especially apartment dwellers, who are finding “a sense of purpose” with their plants. Many have also taken to social media to share the joy gardening brings them.
Pranav Sukhija and Megha Chauhan, a Delhi-based couple, are just one of many such people. A scroll through their Instagram page, Desifoody, and you notice their travel and food adventure posts have been taken over by pictures of their lush balcony garden.
“Gardening was never an interest area for us before the pandemic. But once it hit and we have to remain indoors for months, we realised that our balcony had so much empty space that could be filled with healthy green plants,” shares Chauhan, an analytics professional, adding that the lockdown made them determined about turning their home into a space that sparks joy and helps them thrive emotionally. Sukhija, an HR professional, tells us that currently, their balcony houses close to 100 plants. “Some were bought from the nursery when the lockdown eased last year; others they propagated from existing plants. And now we are experimenting with vegetables as well,” he says.
A Noida resident, Dipti Mudaliar also discovered the joy of gardening during the lockdown last year. Mudaliar recalls that before the pandemic, she would only buy seasonal flowering pots to spruce up the balcony. “During the lockdown last year, I casually threw a few chilli and coriander seeds into the several plantless pots lying around. To my surprise, after a few days, they started sprouting. Seeing that gave me tremendous joy and excitement during that grim period. Time and again one gets to read about different researches on gardening and how it has a positive effect on our mental health. Well, I can vouch for all those studies now,” she shares, adding that she mostly grows what she likes to “see, smell or consume”.
Elaborating on the positive effects of gardening on our mental health, psychologist Dr Pulkit Sharma says, “It’s a very positive hobby, especially in these dark times, when all one hears about is illness and death. Seeing new life grow can be a glimmer of hope. Also, given that we are leading very passive lives in the pandemic, glued to our screens, gardening offers a break from routine. It brings active movement back into our life, and allows us to use our body and mind. That’s great to de-stress and recharge.”
Research and experience, the best teachers
Internet has been a saviour for these fledgling plant parents, who are learning by reading up on the needs of different plants and observing their green babies. The gardening community on Instagram is also a major help to noobs and quick to offer advice, whether about the sunlight and nutrient requirement of plants or diagnosing and treating plant health issues.
This hobby also allows people to make new friends and strengthen bonds with their loved ones — both the green kind and otherwise — while avoiding the risk currently presented by the outdoors.
“The pandemic made me grow very close to my plants. They were a great source of positivity,” says Divya Soni, an online math coach from Delhi, whose plant family has expanded during the pandemic. She has also introduced her five-year-old daughter to the fun of gardening. “She enjoys the freedom as she is allowed to get her hands dirty and also play with water. It also helps in developing values like patience and hard work,” Soni shares.
With the lockdown easing, some are worried about the upkeep of the plants once they resume life’s normal pace — spending most of the day at their workplaces, going on vacations, and the like. But they intend to continue their hobby even after the pandemic, with some help from their family, neighbours and friends. Right now, these plant parents want to enjoy watching seedlings sprout, new leaves unfurl and buds bloom with the sunrise.
Author tweets @TheMissCurious