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Balcony gardens help Chinese people reduce stress

Balcony gardens help urban Chinese to ensure clean, safe food and relieve stress during the lockdown.

The recent strict blockade in China has brought attention to a previously forgotten issue: food security.

During the period of self-isolation at home, some people turn their balconies into vegetable gardens, as a form of food supply and improve mental health.

Shi Huanglei, 39, a medical worker in Shanghai who lives with her husband and 11-year-old daughter, said the home garden helped them get enough nutritious food like tomatoes, lettuce and strawberries. She also grows coriander and basil to spice up the dish.

Huanglei has been hooked on gardening since 2019, after accidentally throwing tomato seeds into a potted plant. She was surprised and delighted when they grew into saplings.

“That’s when I became interested in gardening and reading books, searching for information about it online,” Shi shared.

Wenwen, Shi’s daughter, helps her mother with the garden out of curiosity, reading together and learning more tips from the forums.

“Before, my daughter didn’t know how vegetables and fruits grow. Now, she can write about her experiences of growing vegetables in her school essays,” Shi said.

As Shanghai continues to experience a severe wave of Covid-19 caused by the spread of the Omicron strain, Shi joined the frontline epidemic prevention volunteer, working more than 10 hours a day since March 28.

Despite her busy schedule, she still finds time to take care of the plants. She said this is what helps her relax, relieve stress and take care of her mental health during the pandemic.

“Looking at the garden calms me down. Even though it’s not enough to feed the whole family, it still gives me a sense of security,” she said.

The balcony garden of Zhong Liu, a 32-year-old painter, in Shenzhen.  Photo: SCMP

The balcony garden of Zhong Liu, a 32-year-old painter, in Shenzhen. Image: SCMP

1,500 km from Shanghai, in Shenzhen, 32-year-old painter Zhong Liu also grows his own vegetables on a 5.9 square meter balcony. Since Shenzhen began to blockade on March 14, she does not need to rush to hoard food like many others because she can be self-sufficient.

“I don’t often go to buy vegetables during the closure of the city. I don’t worry because I have a balcony growing vegetables to eat gradually,” she said.

On the balcony garden, Zhong grows a variety of fruit trees such as peaches, plums, passion fruit and grapes. She has been growing vegetables on her balcony since the spring of 2020, when Covid-19 first appeared in Wuhan.

“My house was locked down because some people fled from Wuhan to Shenzhen and tested positive,” Zhong said.

Her and her family’s main concern at that time was the inconvenience of having to go out to buy vegetables. Worried about the crowd and eager to find new activities to relieve the boredom of quarantine life, she started growing water spinach and garlic on the balcony.

Before that, Zhong had a lot of experience growing flowers. “I find growing vegetables much more useful and easier, they make me feel safe to use them,” she says.

Thuc Linh (According to SCMP)

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