Updated: Feb 8, 2021
I started growing plants for the house and plants for food about five years ago. Before that, I could hardly keep a houseplant alive more than a few months. My parents had all kinds of plants in our home in Brooklyn and I had taken a horticulture class in high school and still remembered some of the things I had learned way back when. So, armed with a point of reference and a strong desire, I set out to see what I could grow. I decided that I would start with containers and bought tomatoes. I heard peppers were easy and vaguely thought houseplants couldn't be much harder.
When I sat down not too long ago to get started (again), I researched how to make potting mix. I could feel my father watching me. Eventually, he showed me how to make the potting mix for my container garden. My dad grew tomatoes in milk crates on our patio in the summer. I also vaguely recall that one summer he talked a neighbor into growing tomatoes in their backyard and had converted a portion of an urban space into a backyard garden. I also remember visiting a greenhouse on New York Avenue many years ago. I still love visiting greenhouses. Growing food is in our DNA...it is ancestral.
Growing food from seed shows me the cycle of life. You start with a seed.You plant the seed and you wait, patiently. All the seed really needs is some good soil, water, air and sun. And love and care...lots of love and care. The gardener places the seed in the soil, waters, makes sure the seed has adequate light and air circulating. And then waits some more. Waiting is part of the love part. Sometimes I have planted the seed too deep and the plant has to push its stem up through the dirt for inches in search of light. We (people) are a lot like that...sometimes we get caught up in the darkness and desperately search for light. We are always moving towards the light.
There have been times when I watered too much or too little. In each case, the results can be detrimental. What I have learned about life through gardening is that you can always adjust. If I water too much, I let the dirt dry out fully before I water again. If I do not water my plant enough and it gets dry, I can douse it in water and watch it revive over time. Gardening has taught me when to adjust and just how much to shift.
Growing plants is also about trial and error - much like life. I recently got a plant whose leaves were a beautiful shade of green...almost a neon green. I placed the plant in the sun and when I came outside a couple of hours later, plant had dark brown splotches on its leaves. I had burned the plant. Before this happened, I was under the assumption that all plants need light and that a little light won’t hurt them. Well, light hurt this plant and I was responsible for the pain. I am not sure I can fix this problem and am thinking the plant may have come to an early demise. Sometimes there are sacrifices in life and sometimes with the best intentions, we still mess up. With God’s grace we are given another chance.
This year, I started a few plants from seed. Starting from seed is a whole ‘notha level of gardening. To me, starting a plant from a seed is much harder than planting a seedling. However, no matter the level, the end result is to nurture a plant to maturity and hopefully harvest seeds for the next season of planting. When I started with those tomatoes in a pot, all I wanted was fresh tomatoes for my summer salad. Some years later, the process of gardening has turned into a sometimes successful science experiment, an exercise in patience, my morning meditation and one of the most fulfilling experiences in the summer for me.
Life is not hard...gardening is not hard. Either is as hard as you choose to make it. Gardening has taught me the power of surrender through nature. As we navigate this new normal, this unchartered territory, I hope you create space to surrender to that which you cannot control. It will help save your life. #staysafe #belove