A green toy for the home

I’m the last person to think of myself as a green thumb. I remember when I was at college (away from home in America), my host mom gave me a succulent to decorate my dorm room. It was the easiest thing to maintain as it needed almost no water. But by the end of the year as I moved out of the dorm room, I found it withering with sad wilted leaves and had to throw it away. Nothing could sink my confidence further in that miserable freshman year. (Really, a cactus died on me? Am I not even capable of keeping a cactus alive???)
Fast-forward over ten years and here I am, married with a kid, without still ever growing a plant properly. But I decided things have to be different for Bean – she needs to know more about botany than I do. So last weekend we went to the flower market in Mong Kok and bought a bunch of seeds, pots, and soil. Bean and I would plant the sprouts for the first time! In Hong Kong’s not-so-generous living space, one should feel grateful for any opportunity for gardening – so though it’s not an ideal gardening ground we’d give our narrow window ledge a go.
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I chose the sprouts because it seemed the easiest thing to plant (the promise on the package is “ready to eat in 14 days”). Nothing would give her a livelier lesson (and suit my impatient nature) than seeing the plant grow literally in front of our eyes. The seeding process with a toddler was chaotic though. I spread out some garbage sacks to pre-empt the mess, but still there was a lot of shouting (“NO! Don’t dig your hands in the soil”, or “The water goes into the soil, NOT the other way round!!!” as she picks up handfuls of soil and dump into the water bowl). After much wrangling it was eventually my own effort – I just hope she did learn somehow that putting the seeds in the soil is how to start growing a plant (not mommy shouting and soil spreading all over the place, that is).
I’m happy to report our result after almost a week! It is so gratifying to see the green tiny sprout grow. I feel accomplished that I’m teaching her something about botany with this “live toy”. I will need to relearn the gardening vocabulary (parts of the plant, the growth cycle – in both English and Vietnamese) to teach her. Right now all she knows is (in her own words) “We will cut the vegetables and we will eat it!” Which is not how it goes for all plants, but probably will be true in our case ☺ (I picked out organic basil seeds for this purpose).
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There are lots of places to buy seeds in Hong Kong, but if you make a trip to the Mong Kok flower market (which I’d highly recommend for sightseeing purpose), one of the Brighten stores has a large section marked “organic” where you can buy all types of seeds from Holland (if you exit Prince Edward MTR station and head towards the flower market, turn left at the junction and you’d see lots of the Brighten flower shops). That’s where we buy these seeds from. They are called “Bio Knip & Eat” – or Organic Cut & Eat)
Hope this will give some encouragement to other moms who don’t consider themselves a green thumb, but want to give their kids a green toy!

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