How I Accidentally Found a Passion for Plants (#TSQL2sDay 99)

on February 13, 2018

For TSQL Tuesday #99, @AaronBertrand gave us an invitation to write about something we’re passionate about outside of SQL Server.

As a community we spend a lot of time digging into nerdy topics, which is fun, but I think it’s interesting to find out what people are involved in.

I used to think I couldn’t grow plants

I went to the kind of college where students often grew plants.

That’s not a metaphor for growing pot. Quite a lot of my fellow students were into gardening and liked to grow houseplants in the dorm.

But I couldn’t even keep an air-plant alive. (It turns out they don’t just live on air. I had no idea.) After a couple of failed attempts at indoor gardening, I gave up.

I realized our home was not very … lively

Last year had some rough personal moments at our house. We had two much-loved elderly cats, and they both passed away over the course of the year from different illnesses.

Everything felt very empty around the house. Even our dog, Mister, agreed.

One day I was at a store and saw a set of three succulents on sale. I thought, hey— maybe caring for a plant could be a good thing?

I didn’t think of it as a replacement for a pet, but honestly we had spent so much time caring for the cats when they were ill that simply having something new to care for seemed like a decent idea.

Little did I know that about a year later, I would have more than 30 plants.

Luckily, succulents are pretty easy

Like most new plant owners, I over watered the plants at first. Then I under watered them. The succulents put up with it pretty well, and bounced back each time.

And I found I liked them. I really liked them. I got interested in learning their names, and I bought a few more succulents. And then I ventured into buying more and more plants.

Things I’ve learned about raising plants, in no particular order

I still make a lot of goofs with my plants, but here’s a few things I’ve learned

  • Don’t blow all your money at Home Depot if you’re just starting out. Ikea is a much more affordable source for inexpensive pots and inexpensive live plants.
  • Local nurseries are not created equal: some are far more affordable than others! Compare prices and look for sales.
  • Don’t re-pot plants just because. You’re usually better off keeping the plants in the pot they come in for a while. To dress the plant up, just buy a pot that fits around the built-in pot.
  • Succulents and cacti like different types of soil than moisture loving plants. When you do get to the point where you want to re-pot something, look up what type of soil it does best in before you jump in. (Sorry, jade plant!)
  • Different plants need different light levels and amounts of water. It’s worth the time to research what your plant is and then look up how dry you should let the soil get. Here is a quick reference guide for houseplants.

Like a lot of things, the secret to growing plants is persistence

We love going to the restaurant Nodoguro here in Portland. We don’t eat out a ton these days, but it’s our very favorite place and we budget to make it happen as often as we can. We go there enough that we’ve met several other regulars.

At one dinner recently, I got to sit next to a regular who loves growing roses. I’m still pretty intimidated by “fancy things” like outdoor roses, so I asked him a bunch of questions.

His main piece of advice to me was to start by purchasing one plant, and to think of it as an annual in a way (even if it isn’t). He said that it’s often important to experiment, and he still sometimes has plants that don’t do well. He said that even if you enjoy the plant for just that one season and it doesn’t make it, then that’s a win.

Thinking about it this way basically makes it easier to try again. It makes it easier to be persistent.

Plants are exciting … in a slow way

I think of my houseplants as interesting friends, in a way. It’s not that I think they’re people, or pets. They share the space in our home and they contribute – our home is more green and more fresh now. It’s more alive.

I love wandering around the house, checking on the health of my favorite philodendron, seeing how the spider plant is coming along (I think soon it will be old enough to sprout “pups”), and looking at the fern which I have very nearly killed four times to see if it may bounce back for real, this time.

Another thing I learned: ferns aren’t all that easy.

I’m not quite to the level of becoming a plant nerd, but I’m glad that I discovered that I could develop a green thumb. It turns out, just about anyone can.

Oh, but another thing I learned: if you start searching for grow lights for your houseplants on Amazon, you start getting all sorts of weird product recommendations, because they too assume that you want to grow marijuana. (I just want my succulents to look fabulous, even in a cloudy Northwest winter.)