Fulfillment: A garden of her own

Fulfillment%3A+A+garden+of+her+own

Katerina Pappas

It was about five years ago, when she found her new home. It was perfect — everything she could have asked for. There was even a quaint backyard, a change from her old house. The previous owners had tried to start a garden in the existing space. However, they never went farther than planting a few vegetable beds. So she set out to continue their work, creating her own utopia.  

A few years later, Math and Physics teacher Sushma Bana now looks out at her garden with sheer pride, looking at the various fruits and vegetables around her.

“I [fixed] up that area with the help of my gardener [and] over the years added more soil,” Bana said. “[For] the last three years it has been pretty good, especially the summers are really awesome and I love that.”

Bana finds working in her garden therapeutic; there’s just something about working with plants, and the feeling of soil under her hands.

veggie tALES
Graphic by Emma Lam and Katerina Pappas.

“These [summer vegetables] [somehow] sort of survive and I’m able to get something in spite of myself. These are the vegetables I can grow in a not too time consuming manner.”

Winter, on the other hand is less abundant with plants due to the harsher weather. Although Bana does not get the opportunity to grow a high amount of produce, she is able to manage with year-round plants such as arugula and different types of lettuce, which are able to survive the colder months.

She compares the work in her garden to teaching — her plants are her children.

“My neighbor is Italian so she cooks a lot,” Bana said. “We have this thing so she can come in my backyard and use the herb garden as much as she wants. She doesn’t need my permission every time she comes in, she just goes through the backyard and gets her stuff. Then I get [her] pasta, so I think it has been really nice in terms for me.”

Just as she does with her students, Bana forms an extremely close bond with her plants. They mean everything to her and she can’t bear the idea of any harm coming to them.

“It’s almost like they become your babies,” Bana said. “There is a connection that you make with your plants and you want to take care of them. [Protect] them and feed them and water them and whatnot.”

Regardless of the sense of pride she feels whenever she looks at her plants, there is a feeling of relief lingering as well. When she first started growing her plants, she often worried if she was taking care of her “babies” correctly, and if they would even grow. But after five years, she has grown confident in her skills.

“It’s almost like an achievement, to not kill them,” Bana said. “That was my worry, I thought ‘I shouldn’t be over-watering, I shouldn’t be under watering’… and I would go to Home Depot and ask those people [for help]. The first two years were like figuring out what works and what doesn’t.”

Now, she is in the stages where it is not as stressful to be thinking about her plants. It has mellowed in the past three years as she has become more and more involved and familiar with gardening.

Bana has even made new friends because of her ever-growing plant garden. Her neighbors are constantly visiting her backyard and taking advantage of the offers given to them by her. Their vegetable of choice? Zucchini.

FRUIT
Graphic by Katerina Pappas and Emma Lam.

“Because of growing vegetables, I have made new friends in my neighborhood,” Bana said. “Sometimes if you have zucchini, it’s too much and I’ve been sharing that with my neighbors and they also look forward to [see what I have]”

One friendship she has developed thanks to her vegetable garden is with her nextdoor neighbor. As Bana tends to subconsciously reach for the coriander and mint — a staple to Indian cuisine — she often neglects herbs like sage and rosemary. But her neighbor happily uses them instead. In exchange for her herbs, Bana enjoys the dishes her neighbor makes using these spices.

“My neighbor is Italian so she cooks a lot,” Bana said. “We have this thing so she can come in my backyard and use the herb garden as much as she wants. She doesn’t need my permission every time she comes in, she just goes through the backyard and gets her stuff. Then I get [her] pasta, so I think it has been really nice in terms for me.”

Her motivation for continuing in the future is not only from the bond she has made with her plants, but also from the bonds she has made with her neighbors. Gardening has provided Bana with more than just an outlet for a bad day, but a community.

“You don’t feel like you make more friends with vegetables,” Bana said. “But that’s how it has been.”