The Covid-19 pandemic has not been kind and has had negative impacts on various sectors.
Nevertheless, it has encouraged people around the world to pick up new hobbies such as cooking, farming and gardening.
In Malaysia, the movement control order (MCO) implemented in March last year gave many Malaysians a lot of free time at home and this manifested a sense of loss for direction to those who are used to having a busy schedule.
While the younger generation resorted to creating and following trends on social media like the Dalgona coffee and Don’t Rush challenge to keep themselves occupied, the older generation chose to enhance their cooking skills or grow green fingers to pass the time.
Ilnara Mukatayeva, 28, founder of The Raw Kitchen Company said that MCO provided her with opportunity to try and enjoy gardening.
“Since my family and I are vegan, most of our meals are made from plants. We always loved the idea of growing our own food, but we never managed to do it properly because we used to travel a lot,” she said.
Among the plants that Ilnara has in her garden are Russian kale, curly kale, scarlet kale, lemon tree, lime tree, cacao tree, curry leaves tree, banana tree, mulberry tree, basil, mint, dill, cherry tomatoes, rosemary, strawberries, fig trees, lady fingers and local spinach.
Ilnara added that gardening has taught her three-year-old son, Sammy Kiew Mukatayev important life skills and appreciation for Mother Nature.
She also said that seeing the result of work put into her garden is rewarding and eating homegrown food brings a lot of joy.
“Everyone in my family has a special task for our garden; I am happy that Sammy loves taking care of it. It is teaching him how to be responsible, discipline and appreciate nature.
“My favourite thing about gardening is definitely harvesting. It is so rewarding when you can eat your own organic fruits, vegetables and herbs. We often use them for cooking, blending smoothies and juices, making salad and salad dressings,” she added.
Meanwhile, Dillah Tuah, 41 said that gardening is an inexpensive hobby, but it requires energy and hard work at the initial stage.
“I’ve always been interested in gardening since I was small. It is not an expensive hobby, but I do advice beginners to start off with basic plants that are easy to take care of,” he said.
Similar to Ilnara, the lecturer has an extensive collection of vegetables, herbs and fruits planted in his garden at home which he calls ‘Serambi Udak’.
“I also breed stingless bees for their raw kelulut honey as well as farm chickens and ducks. My time during the MCO revolved around gardening because it is a safe activity that does not involve many people.
“It is an activity that I share with my family and they love it. My children enjoy learning about the different types of plants and how to take care of them,” he said.
He pointed out that his gardening and farming hobby has helped to reduce approximately 30 percent in his family’s expenditures.
Nur Farizza Ramli, 34, a senior executive at Sarawak Energy Berhad said that she would not have picked up gardening if it was not for MCO.
Gardening helps her to relax and relieve stress especially during MCO when everyone is required to work from home, she added.
“I usually spend an hour after work with my plants and I like how it helps me to relax. It is definitely an activity that is good for both mind and body which can be enjoyed by people of all ages,” she pointed out.
Nur Farizza also said that gardening helped her to foster better relationship with her family and friends.
“I share my hobby with my children, I love teaching them about different plants especially how different plants have different needs and growing conditions.
“Among the plants that I have are snake plants, cactus, succulent and monstera. They are perfect for decoration and gift, so I do sell them through social media for those who are interested,” she added.
Meanwhile, for Michael Lam, 68, a retiree, gardening is like an adventure and he enjoys learning about the plants.
“It is important to learn the characteristics and habits of the plants before you plant them. This is why I see it as an adventure and it’s only through experience you will learn.
“I usually tend to my garden in the morning before it gets too hot and I’d continue again in the evening around 5pm to 6.30pm. As for weeding, I do it once a fortnight and I give fertilisers to my plant about once a month,” he explained.
Michael said that he found it rewarding to see his flowers bloom as well as his fruits and vegetables flourish.
“I have about 40 yam plants; it takes at least nine months for them to be ready for harvest. I have harvested some already because we use them mainly around the Chinese New Year time.
“Once you pick up the interest, you get satisfaction when you see the results of the many hours that you spend on your garden,” he enthused.
Besides reaping bountiful bouquets of flowers and delicious harvests of fruits as well as vegetables, gardening has many surprising benefits such as building self-esteem, reducing stress and boosting mood.