environmental footprint urban garden urban gardening

Is the State of My Garden Reflecting My Mental Health?

The summer of 2022 was unprecedently busy for me. Unfortunately, the busyness wasn’t driven by my artistic practice or family commitments. The business was shaped by the job I agreed to do over the summer, which pushed my anxiety and stress levels out of the charts and made me feel emotionally fragmented and overwhelmed. Physically and emotionally, I was exhausted and unable to switch off.

Sadly, I brought that anxiety back to London with me. Within a few days after settling back into my urban routine, I instantly knew my garden reflected my inner state of being.

When I was away, three of my friends looked after my plants. I’m so very grateful to them for tending to my precious plants, which wasn’t an easy task thru such a sizzling summer.

Being away from my garden increased my anxiety, stress levels and general unhappiness. The busyness of life made me feel out of control, as if I merely existed in some space between worlds where work overtook daily reality. I’m absolutely positive that my beloved plants picked up on that in-between state of existence.

Since I got back to London in September, my plants took on my anxiety and stress, which was reflected right away in the way they started looking:

  • Mint – despite my best efforts, it needed to be pulled out as small flies stuck to its leaves, making them brown and sick looking. Luckily, making room for new growth has proven to be successful.
  • Rosemary – unfortunately, experienced the same faith as the mint. It will take much longer for the rosemary to grow back. I moved the pot from the balcony to the greenhouse, hoping that the time and relative warmth of the greenhouse would kick start the healing journey. However, so far, rosemary has made no improvements.
  • Oregano – when I picked it up from my friend, the plant was thriving. Unfortunately, within a week of sitting on my window, the caterpillars got to it. I don’t even know how and when that happened. Once again, I pulled all the leaves out and put them inside the greenhouse. I’m happy to report that the Oregano is doing well again.
  • The leaves of one of the pumpkins, which I grew from a Halloween pumpkin seed, dried out. The second pumpkin was doing well until it started to rain. I doubt I will be able to harvest any pumpkins this year.
  • The bay leaf tree has been in limbo and hasn’t grown as much as I hoped it would. I did have ants problem at the start of September, but after using the clove oil, the ants deserted the tree. I’m observing the little guy closely as he might require a new pot to expand.
  • The camomile has unfortunately died. It’s not even the heat that killed it, but the ants that I believe built a nest somewhere in its roots. I changed the soil, but all in vain; I could not save the camomile. The clove oil didn’t do its magic as it did for the bay leaf tree.
  • The red peppers that were supposed to be plentiful didn’t have that many fruits. Only a couple that my friend picked up when we were away.
  • The “Alicante” tomato had quite a bit of fruit. I wouldn’t say it was plentiful, but enough for baby M. to pick whenever she saw a little red on it. I planned to collect the seeds for next year, but the kids got to the last two tomatoes before me. The other tomato we had, “Roma”, wasn’t as delightfully delicious as “Alicante” and didn’t have as many fruits. I will research and look for different types of tomatoes for next year.
  • As of this writing, only two chilli peppers turned red, which my hubby used to make chilli olive oil. We are waiting for the rest to turn red. I have to say, I’m slightly concerned with that tree as the leaves seemed to be uncomfortable with their prime window position. I put the pot on the ground, and the chilli pepper appeared slightly happier. I have also started watering it differently to make sure the water gets to its roots.
  • The wild strawberry has grown a lot over the summer, providing us with many fruits; Baby M. always gets so excited when she finds one. Seeing her so happy is priceless and worth having a tiny balcony garden.
  • The dill has grown tall over the summer but not as plentiful as it was during the spring. Currently, I’m seeking an experienced gardener, aka Sarah’s advice on what to do with it.
  • The majority of the seasonal flowers died over the summer. However, a few blossomed in the past few weeks, which really made me happy as it has kept the balcony more colourful.
  • The scorching weather allowed the succulents we got in Cornwall in April 2022 to spring. Soon I’ll be able to pass the offspring to my friends.
  • The small Christmas tree, which I had for years, thrived over the dry summer months.
  • In September, I planted garlic, which won’t be ready until the spring. The onions, leeks and ginger have all been planted. I’ll be observing curiously, especially the ginger. The leeks have started growing as well as the spring onions. The ginger, however, has not shown any signs of growth yet.

I’m trying to change my approach towards my garden, and I’m consciously looking for plants and herbs to grow that I can purposefully use in my daily cooking. Since the season has changed, picking and choosing the right veggies may be slightly more problematic. But that type of laser focus will help me stay on track with my garden.

As always, I will keep you updated on my urban gardening journey, which might as well become part of my MA projects (I’m doing an MA at London Metropolitan University in Public Art and Performance).