Graphic artist, Melissa Green, says learning how to provide her own supply of fruits and vegetables has benefited her mental health and that of her family during the challenges posed by the coronavirus (CoVID-19) pandemic.
“It is great satisfaction, and a great type of therapy during this time when there are a lot of lockdowns going on [and] when you need to take your mind off certain stresses,” she tells JIS News.
The mother of two boys says getting her hands dirty and reaping a harvest became a therapeutic hobby.
“[It] was something I did on my downtime. Something I use to bond with my kids because they are out there with me playing and helping me. So even if you’re not harvesting a big basket every week, it’s just nice to be in connection with mother nature,” she points out.
Ms. Green’s journey to becoming a gardening enthusiast evolved from her interest in house and ornamental plants.
“[But] at the beginning of the pandemic and when the lockdowns started, I wanted to secure my own food supply; and one of my main concerns was having to go to the supermarkets or the markets, because I have a toddler and I didn’t want to go out with the boys,” she says.
Ms. Green’s desire for self-sustainability spurred her to study more about growing her own food using simple containers around her home. After embarking on this exercise, she began to document her progress on social media.
“What I really was doing is just some short documentaries of my journey, [in terms of] how I did this [and] how I did that. From there, I realised that a lot of people were interested in how I was doing things,” she shares.
This prompted her to create a YouTube channel, and later, an Instagram page, under the handle, ‘Grow With Honeybee’, where Jamaicans across the island can join her in learning how to grow their own fruits and vegetables.
Ms. Green has, so far, been supplying a wide variety of vegetable seedlings and fruit trees to buyers, all grown in her backyard.
These include thyme, rosemary, lettuce, pak choi, dill, red callaloo, grapefruit, cantaloupe, basil, sweet peppers, and turmeric. She says that of her produce, thyme and rosemary are her best sellers.
Ms. Green notes that rosemary is also one of her favourite herbs, pointing out: “I love my herbs, I just love the aroma and fragrance they carry.”
“One of my biggest successes, in terms of plants, is my pumpkins. So, I have lots of videos about my pumpkins, even harvesting 15 and 10 pounds,” she tells JIS News.
Ms. Green indicates that she likes to grow them in hammocks and the containers in her yard.
“It’s a fun plant, [but] people might be intimidated by it. A lot of people don’t know that it can be pruned, and trained to a little confined area,” she discloses.
Against that backdrop, Ms. Green says cooking with fresh produce from her garden and sharing it with her family and neighbours is a fulfilling experience for her.
“Once you start off with a herb garden and start cooking with fresh herbs, there is no turning back to dry, processed herbs, because nothing beats a fresh flavourful meal,” she contends.
Ms. Green says she initially encountered challenges in efforts to expand the scale of her garden, “because you will lose a lot before you start reaping”.
“I have killed many plants and I had to just start over, learn from my mistakes and move forward,” she points out.
Additionally, she says sourcing certain key basic inputs is difficult, as is being taken seriously by persons who are more established in this type of engagement.
Ms. Green maintains, however, that “I am fighting through and learning [at the same time]”.
She tells JIS News that positive customer feedback helps to replenish her joy and motivates her to continue helping others to develop a green thumb.
Ms. Green, therefore, encourages other persons to consider gardening as a hobby, because it creates “relaxing bonding moments with countless advantages”.
“You can always explore the option of starting indoors. So, if you are doing container gardening and you have a veranda area, you can always start off [with] your crops [there] and set them up where they would be protected from harsh winds and weather,” she advises.
Ms. Green recommends that new gardeners bear in mind that despite the initial cost of gathering gardening supplies, it is a long-term investment. She further notes that having patience is a key attribute for the journey.
“It’s not going to happen overnight; [but] enjoy it, and grow what you love to eat [and] start small. It’s not something that should stress you out,” she further advises.
Ms. Green says providing seedlings and assisting persons to garden along with her is a long-term endeavour.
She aspires to eventually have a physical location, but until then, she offers islandwide delivery.
Persons can reach out to her by her handle @growwithhoneybee on Instagram.