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The Power of Plants

By Meadow Funkenhauser

Though Covid-19 case counts increase by the day and the vaccination process is rolling out in a much slower fashion than we may like, there is one way to reduce our  pandemic-induced anxieties that may be more simple than we think. 

Urban gardener, vegan chef, and healthcare worker Shashi Dissanayake has always felt connected with nature. As a child growing up in the Buddhist faith and in an immigrant family that valued both sustainability, zero-waste principles, and low costs, Shashi inevitably became an environmentalist. Through her ten years working as a nanny, she started to hone her skills at teaching gardening to those around her. Urban gardening is an alternative to our current society’s model, where we depend on suppliers for our produce. This can make fruits and vegetables very expensive, especially when it is off-season. Through her time teaching others to garden, Shashi realized that “we live in a concrete world and we’re so disconnected from nature” and that urban gardening is a method by which we can reconnect to the Earth and take back our power as consumers. 

Some challenges that she has faced with urban gardening are local wildlife such as squirrels, insects, and seasonal crop growths. However, she has come to realize that she must let nature coexist with her garden, which includes animals that you and I may label as pests. When starting a garden in an urban setting like your backyard or balcony, Shashi recommends looking at your grocery list and your dinner plate to determine what plants you want to grow, and how much space you have to grow it. If the only space you have is a windowsill, there are many options from the herb family like chives, mint, and parsley. If you can only grow inside, she advises to look into indoor grow lights. Shashi firmly believes that “food is connected to health”, and so if you are growing your own food, you know exactly what is going into your body and nourishing you.

Urban gardening plays an important role in shaping one’s mindset and outlook on life. It is an excellent tool to aid with mental health. “Turning your brain off” by gardening provides a useful hand-in soil relaxation tool for those wanting to cope with stress, says Shashi. As a gardener, you are looking out for your plants, a process that can provide a sense of both purpose and connectivity with nature and with the natural world. The key to managing our COVID-19 stress and keeping our bodies healthy may be as simple as planting a seed. 

Featured image: Unsplash

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