Return of the Gardener
Trip Start Sep 01, 2009
46Trip End Jul 01, 2010
That garden was solace, a place where I could lose myself for hours in the dust and sun. I planted a lemon tree, and olives and magnolia, and there was a peach tree that bore the sweetest juicy peaches. I spent the summer in that garden, and when I’m not wrapped up tight in my life now in India, I miss that garden and the house, as I do much of my life there. And someday I will garden again.
For now I have a rooftop of potted plants and flowers, and a gardener to tend them. I must admit I like being able to sit back and enjoy it. I have an interest in these things though, and poked my nose about, looking at the flora in decorated clay pots, the palms and succulents and flowering plants, and thinking about what needs re-potting and what could be pruned. I didn’t think much of growing anything.
Until I scored weed. For 200 rupees I got about a gram stuffed inside a matchbox. The weed was brown and dry and wouldn’t have been out of place in a Chinese medicine shop. But it was organic and fun and surprisingly strong. And it was full of seeds. From the matchbox stash I pulled more than a dozen seeds which I set aside in my “gear box”.
The tractor wheels began to turn, and I poked my head in the potting shed to find a bag of local dry red clay and a small bag of wretched potting soil. I would need proper stuff and found some in Russell Market, on one of my first wanders through Shivajinagar. Inside the almost-windowless building I found a man selling seeds and fertilizer and 10 kilo bags of fresh potting soil for 130 rupees. I was in business.
But despite being a would-be gardener I am not a skilled one, and sought my brother, Nicholas, who is an expert. The recent Guelph University graduate was cooling his heels after a long-deserved degree, headed to Zambia in November to live and work the family land. Not for the first time will the Wightman boys be out in the world at the same time, and I’m excited for him and his journey.
But I needed his help. As much as I gardened I did so out of the garden centre, or right there in the soil. Most my garden came from seedling, not seed. So it was with a touch of trepidation that I rattled the seeds in the matchbox. There were more seeds. My friend Mushtaq the Handsome Kashmiri had produced a tollah of weed in a sealed plastic packet that filled my palm. And there were seeds for a small forest.
Nick told me what to do for soil (mix all the soils together with some sand) and germination (soak seeds in water for 24 hours) and what to do when I have plants growing (email again for further instructions). I began to feel a bit cocky about the project, imagining the dozens of plants I could grow. The rooftop is an ideal place to grow, bathed in light, mostly hidden from view, and already covered in hundreds of other plants
I pictured the plants and where I’d place them to blend in with the others, having to fertilize them and transplant ones that outgrew their containers. I imagined harvesting and curing and smoking my treasures. But I couldn’t get the bloody things to grow.
I soaked the seeds and put them in good potting soil in egg containers and set them outside in the shade. There were 16 seeds in the trays and I watered them and eagerly awaited the first signs of green. But nothing happened. The soil went dry a few times and I know that’s bad, and some days they got soaked by the late monsoon rains and that’s not ideal.
Perhaps I should have kept them inside but when I tried that later, this time with 2 seeds in each of the 6 egg cups, still nothing happened. Perhaps the seeds just aren’t very good, but then again I would have thought that in India cannabis strains would be much viable as seed. Who knows? Probably my brother actually, I should ask him.
I did manage to get 6 plants to grow, though four of them were touch and go
And I experimented more with germination. I remembered that pre-school standby of growing seeds in between layers of paper towel, and found to delight that it worked like a charm. Out of two-dozen seeds at least a quarter are sprouting and after only a week. Things are looking up.
I shouldn’t be surprised that it’s hard to grow things right now, as the seasons turn to what passes for winter in India. The weather will be warm and dry and sunny in the day, and cool at night, and it is absolutely wonderful. And it will be fun to play with my nursery, something to look forward to coming home from work. I get more out of the soil than I put in. Gardening gives me much, even if for now I can’t do it on any grander scale than to grow my own weed. But then again, I get to grow my own weed.
Will keep you posted.
Just a week after I wrote this story my plants were not only spied on by reported to the police, who tactfully notified my roommate and gave us notice and time to destroy any evidence before they made a visit.
It was exceedingly difficult to kill my plants, though some day I will have to grown more, in tribute.