The skill I learned during lockdown

Gardening at home

2020 was a life-changing year for all of us. The pandemic forced us to make many changes to our daily lives and the way we do things. Remote work became “the norm”, face-masks became a prerequisite and lockdowns meant that we spent a lot more time at home than we did before.

As difficult as this was, it wasn't all bad news. Being at home 24-7 meant that many of us saved a lot of time commuting and had more time to invest in ourselves. Many people took up new skills and I was most certainly one of them. Inspired by some friends and some photos I saw on social media, I began a hobby which has now become an important part of my life—gardening.

Fortunately, two months before the beginning of a 5-month lockdown I had moved into an apartment in the suburbs of Buenos Aires. One of the main features that attracted me to this place was a lovely balcony. Having that space was crucial during the lockdown and I set about transforming it into my sanctuary.

I started out with two small chili plants which a friend gave me as a housewarming present. I bought some pots and some soil and began. I decided to grow things which I eat regularly and are quite easy to cultivate: tomatoes, rocket, basil, eggplant and peppers. My landlord is also a keen gardener and gifted me some seeds, thereby helping me to start converting my balcony into a vegetable garden. It began as a process of trial and error but I quickly got the hang of it.

Soon enough the sunny spot next to my living room window began to look like a plant nursery. Tiny plants in recycled plastic containers took up all of the space and sunlight. It wasn't easy, though. My project required a lot of commitment. Checking on and watering my seedlings became a part of my daily routine. As the plants grew, I had to pay attention to them and monitor them for any signs of pests that could harm them. I lost several plants to birds and others to insects. Despite these difficulties, spending time outside in my garden was a welcome source of stress-relief.

From one month to the next, the balcony became full of plants to look after. I even had to change my daily routine on account of my new hobby. Summer in Argentina is hot and humid so it was necessary to water the plants at least once a day. Although I didn't like having to wake up 30 minutes earlier, I really enjoyed watching the plants grow and learning how to look for signs of them being healthy and happy. The internet was a great source of information. I wasn't the only one doing such a project and I found a lot of excellent information from other people who were also learning. 

As well as commitment, I needed patience. I learned to appreciate the process and the time it takes to achieve something. It took six or seven months of hard work but all of my hard work paid off in the end in the form of a never-ending supply of delicious produce. I was able to harvest rocket to put in salads, basil and tomatoes to put on top of pizzas and lots of chili peppers to make the food I prepared at home very spicy. There's nothing quite like eating something that you have grown at home!

Learning any new task requires commitment and every little bit of action each day goes a long way. By doing an activity every day and incorporating it as part of a daily routine we can work our way towards interesting results. As a teacher, I really believe that the process of learning a language (or any skill) is the same.

set about doing something [phrasal verb]—to start doing something, especially something that requires a lot of time or energy.

housewarming [noun]—a party celebrating a move to a new home.

landlord [noun]—a person who rents out land, a building, or accommodation.

rocket [noun/Commonwealth English]—an annual leafy vegetable with dark green leaves, also known as Arugula (American English)

trial and error [phrase]—a phrase used to talk about a way of achieving an aim or solving a problem by trying a number of different methods and learning from the mistakes that you make.

plant nursery [noun]—a building or place that grows and sells plants. 

seedling [noun]—a very young plant that has grown from a seed.

produce [noun]—fruit and vegetables that farmers grow.