For many in Kashmir, gardening emerges as favourite hobby amid Covid-19 lockdown – Rising Kashmir

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Srinagar, June 09: As people in Kashmir are confined to their homes due to Covid-19 lockdown, taking up different activities and hobbies has emerged as a trend to break the routine. While some have taken to cooking while others are trying their hands at playing music instruments, baking etc. and some others are taking to gardening, which many consider brings them closer to nature. Locals said that isolation, anxiety and stress have brought them closer to nature and they are getting involved in activities like gardening. “Gardening, I think, has become the most interesting activity for people in lockdown because it keeps them closer to nature and they love doing it," a local said.Waseem, a teacher, believes that due to the pandemic, people were locked in their homes and they had nothing to do.“Boredom was affecting me mentally and physically but then gardening came as a relief. Not only do you stay close to nature with this but it also helps you to cope up with depression and stress. The feeling of seeing the plants grow and flowers bloom is the next level of satisfaction,” he said.According to Syeda Nida Zahra, a mental health counsellor “working in the garden reduces cortisol levels (a chemical your body produces in response to stress) even more than reading a book.“Just sitting in a garden helps,” she said.“Gardening can focus your thoughts, keep your hands busy, and give you something to take care of in the future. You can sow real seeds as well as figurative ones for your self-esteem by developing a sense of purpose and achievement,” she maintains.According to a survey by GlobalData market research in May 2020, gardening was listed as the second most popular lockdown activity people planned to do after watching TV, ahead of cooking, reading and exercising.Amid the Covid-19 pandemic, people were focused on growing their produce.Riyaz Bhat, who runs a nursery in the Dalgate area of the city, said people mostly bought vegetable seeds or saplings during the lockdown.“In the previous lockdown, people bought pot plants, ornamental flowers etc. but in this lockdown, we saw a shift. People have become interested in kitchen gardening and are buying vegetable seeds,” he said.Though most of the nurseries remained functional during the lockdown, it was only in the mornings and evenings that they would witness a rush of customers.“Yes, people bought pot plants, seasonal flowers etc. but what was interesting to note is that people shifted towards vegetables,” said Shafaat, who owns a nursery in Nowpora.Talking to Rising Kashmir, Khalida, a gardening enthusiast and a businesswoman, said that in this lockdown she got ample time to focus on her kitchen garden.“I, together with two more helpers, took up gardening to grow vegetables. Organic vegetables are the best during the pandemic. For those people who don’t want to move out, homegrown vegetables are the best. I wanted to grow my vegetables because I wanted my family to be safe,” she said.People are also shifting towards gardening to beat the stress and kill boredom.“This has become a routine for me now to wake up early and water my flowers. I bought some ornamental flowers recently and during this lockdown, I have spent time taking care of them. I take my kids along and we enjoy our garden time. My kids help me in different activities of gardening, be it sowing the saplings or maintaining the grass,” said Manzoor Ahmad, a banker.Manzoor said he involved his kids in gardening because the closer you are to the soil, the more grounded you will become.“We should inculcate this habit in kids for it will keep them mentally and physically strong,” he said.For Saif, an MBA student and a techie, gardening happened when he saw his mother watering her flower pots every day. He got fascinated with the ornamental flowers in his garden.“I bought some plants like eucalyptus and neem, given their medicinal value, and sowed them in some big flower pots. Internet came in handy to go with my passion for I would watch gardening tutorials on YouTube. This taught me how to take care of these plants. I managed everything on my own and today I nurture these plants in the manner I take care of myself,” he said.Shabia, a teacher, after finishing her online classes, shifts her focus to gardening.Shabia prefers consuming the vegetables she grows in her garden.She said it’s safer and healthier than “what we get in the market.”“I don’t have a big kitchen garden but I get sufficient to suffice the needs of my family of three,” she said.She said that during the lockdown one has more time to look after one’s garden. “I have been getting sufficient produce of vegetables from my garden and I never buy it from the market. I learnt the art of gardening from my mother who maintains a big kitchen garden all on her own,” she added.Being an ex-horticulture officer, Mohammad Yusuf has grown an apple orchard in his land. He regularly takes care of these trees and makes sure that in the future his efforts would be paid off.“My wife, a government teacher, was never interested in gardening but during lockdown when she had nothing much to do, she joined me in taking care of our trees. Now we both water our plants, plough the soil etc. together. We love to do it as this way we stay close to each other and nature,” he said.
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