Green therapy

May 24, 2020

The seeds of change can be found in in our own kitchens

Dear All,

It started with an upbeat video forwarded to me by my friend Durriya. This cheerful video was called 18 Awesome Hacks to Grow Your Own Plants and showed how (supposedly) easy it was to plant and grow seeds from your own kitchen.

The video was heartening and inspiring — but surely it couldn’t be quite that easy? I decided to try out what it showed as the techniques were straightforward and didn’t need a lot of equipment or space. And so, it was that I started planting seeds from the kitchen tomatoes and peppers into eggshells (yes, really). I labelled them with the date, stuck them in a sunny spot and watered them every day. Once I started doing this, I became reluctant to throw away any food seeds — I planted lemon pips, orange pips, grapefruit pips, some dried acorn squash seeds I had saved, and more and more tomato seeds and sweet peppers…. I figured that if they grew, that would be great and if they didn’t well so what? After all, not a lot of expense or work was involved in the project.

Nothing happened for weeks but then well… the excitement of seeing something sprouting, pushing up through the soil and coming to life is difficult to describe. Soon my efforts took over all the sunny window sills in the house. The rooms where my children grew up became nurseries of a different kind now: they were taken over by plants I tended to every day. Soon I was transplanting seedlings into larger pots and marveling at their development. Now, I look forward to planting them outdoors as it seems that the British summer is finally here.

Will they bear fruit? I don’t know, but hopefully, yes… Of my kitchen seeds, the tomatoes and sweet peppers and acorn squash are flourishing. Three of the lemon pips have grown into little plants (the orange and grapefruit are still silent) and one watermelon seed has just sprouted… I now plan to grow my own coriander and ginger as well.

This whole process has not been about just gardening, it has been both education and therapy for me. Growing things teaches you to be patient and to appreciate the intrinsic logic and rhythm of Nature. Growing things from fresh produce you use in your kitchen gives you an appreciation that everything that we tend to throw away mindlessly is actually something we should treasure and use.

Okay, it’s been a little messy and Spouse has complained about my rescuing eggshells from the bin (he never remembers to save them) and, yes, I have created a degree of mess around the house as I am acquiring more and more pots, compost etc, and saving all sorts of containers. I’ve always been a bit of a hoarder (waste not, want not, you understand), but when you grow things, you can find uses for all sorts of items – containers, plastic bags, cardboard trays, packaging…. And I have discovered that empty cans, for example, make stylish and good small plant pots as do empty yogurt containers (you just create some drainage holes or cuts in the base).

The activity has been especially meaningful during the Covid-19 crisis. When the panic buying began one realised that, really, we should be growing as much of our own food as possible. Growing things from seed also gives a real sense of purpose and continuity to time, each day is not just a workday completed, it becomes part of a cycle of growth. And for me it has all been an education, thanks in great part to all the exciting videos on YouTube where you learn so much from so many wonderful individuals. There is so much innovation – especially in the way people are growing things vertically and developing all sorts of urban gardening techniques.

When you watch things grow you also learn a thing or two about expectations. We have all heard the phrase ‘late bloomer’ when referring to children who are behind set educational or developmental standards but when you grow from seed you actually comprehend the meaning of the phrase: each seed, like each person, is different, it will sprout and bloom at its own pace and you should never write off any which might be taking ‘too long’.

We all need to become part of the green revolution by moving away from food waste: growing our own fruit and vegetables and making sure our food waste goes back into the earth to create nutrient-rich compost.

What I’m saying is nothing new, gardeners have known this for years, but I share my experience as a reminder that we should plant everything we can and then wait to see what happens. It’s a magical process and a real form of therapy in these troubled times.

Best wishes,

Umber Khairi

Green therapy