How UAE residents are bringing nature into their apartments

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Priscilla Ayub's green space
Priscilla Ayub's green space

Those with green thumb are getting into the nitty gritties of home gardening

By Megna Kalvani

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Published: Wed 13 May 2020, 5:00 PM

Last updated: Thu 1 Jul 2021, 3:59 PM

In midst of anxiety and cabin fever stirred up by the coronavirus pandemic, our community continues to combat quarantine blues with a creative focus on personal hobbies, professional upskilling and pursuing new interests. One of them is home gardening. 
It's exciting to see a blooming rise of home gardeners who've taken to balconies, roofs, backyards and indoor spaces in an attempt to 'sow seeds of comfort' at home. Long time UAE resident Priscilla Ayub shares that in between her work-from-home routine, she's been able to pursue home gardening, starting with indoor plants and progressing to outdoor plants.
"I take to gardening at least two times a day in between work. It allows me to keep a motivated therapeutic routine while tending to plants and watching the seedlings grow," said Priscilla, a management professional. Priscilla shares that she started off with pothos plants, one of the easiest houseplants to take care of even if you are a person who forgets to water their plants. "Currently in my care are over 30 plants that include ivy, snake plants, a small palm and I also propagate a lot of money plants. I am excited to start a fresh batch of chilis and extend my balcony outdoor garden soon."
While first time gardener, Moreen Nazarath, associate at Radicle said, "Just as the lockdown was beginning, I realised I needed more greenery in my room, and was able to pick two green plants to brighten and air-purify my house. Being a beginner, it took me a while to get a hang of garden care with the right amount of water to give it and I went through a wilting phase that made me panic and that's when I started treating them better - talking, playing music and giving the plants, the right nutrients and keeping it clean from insects have proved to be important."
Moreen has become so attached to her green quarantine friends, that she's named them, 'sunshine' and 'moonlight'. She says, "having that extra bit of green at home helps especially when you can't go outside and it's nice to care for another living being and help it grow."
Business student, Saveri Philkana from SP Jain School of Global Management finds that gardening has helped her create a strong bond with family and enhanced her interest in cooking with fresh ingredients.
"Home gardening is something I took up with my mum during this lockdown, and I've grown to love it so much as someone who cooks a lot! We grow our own mint, basil, aloe-vera, tomatoes, and it's so convenient to add them into whatever is cooking for dinner that night. It's also been a fun way to bond with my mum and grandmother, and to try DIYs like facemasks and home remedies for things we typically would have run to the store for," said Saveri.
Guided Gardening & Boosting Green Know-how
"In our consumerist society, we as human beings have stopped having the urge or the curiosity to know where our food comes from," said Hemant Julka, a co-founder of VeggiTech.
 "To help our young and at home gardeners in the community, VeggiTech has initiated a global food movement to create the "next 1 Billion farmers" to take interest in agriculture and growing gardens. VeggiTech's launch of the Grow App (available on android phones this month) will provide you with a step by step guide to grow your own food including sourcing your seeds, grow rich nutrition and most importantly access to our agronomists at VeggiTech who will guide you when you need support in the growing process - "Grow with Us". All the above tips and more will be available to you, on your mobile phone, when you need them." explained Hemant.
"Embrace failure. It is unlikely that you will succeed in growing anything at the beginning. You will fail in some and succeed in some. Composting or usage of organic material from your food waste is something that everyone should take up. Buying the right local organic fertilizers and knowing what you can grow is also important as flowers and fruits need specific fertilizers. Don't be discouraged - the joy in gardening is the day to day care for the living things, growing your own food and the lessons you learn along the way," said Yazen Al Kodmani, Operations Manager at Emirates Bio Farm (EBF). 
Enjoy the Small Things this Quarantine
This is a golden opportunity to undertake a horticultural hobby and weave in some life lessons as well as be mindful and be present in the moment. "With instant gratification, children and youth are getting used to expecting things to be at a hand's reach. Nothing in life that matters is instant. Things take time - like building your education, learning a new hobby to self-improvement. Given the lockdown it's more important to use  gardening as a tool for our children and the community, to take pleasure in the simple things: learn patience, dedication as you sow, water and clean, day after day waiting for your seedings to push through, coping with failure to finally succeeding to pick your own harvest," said Yazen Al Kodmani.
"Don't give up if your seeds, don't make it to a plant; consider it as a learning experience and nature is a patient teacher. Being with nature also has amazing benefits - both emotionally and physically and it is a great way for the family to bond and our community to engage," adds Hemant.
Saveri concurs based on her experiences, "more people should try home gardening during this time! It's a great way to nurture yourself and the environment around you."
Sustainable Home-Gardening Tips during COVID19
Tip#1 - Make sure the place you have chosen for planting the seeds is in the shade; also ensure the seeds are not old. The sowing depth should be no more than an inch.
Tip #2 - Ensure you keep the grow media (potting soil is good) moist (do not over hydrate the plant during the seed stage).
Tip #3 - Once the seeds germinate and are around 2-3 inches tall - transplant them into a pot or secure place where they become strong - potting soil with compost is ideal in this scenario (again in a shaded area) as the grow media.
Tip #4 - Try and grow plants that can be used as food - like herbs, leafy's and lettuces. These plants grow quickly (typically in weeks) and it's a great way to experience the circular economy (from your garden to your kitchen).
Tip #5 - Don't give up if your seeds don't make it to a plant; consider it as a learning experience and Nature is a patient teacher. Being with nature also has amazing benefits - both emotionally and physically and it is a great way for the family to bond together. 
(By Hemant Julka, co-founder and Chief Operating Officer of VeggiTech)

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