Balcony Garden

Newsletter Final Thought: July 2011

I am preparing to leave Beijing this week and head back to Canada for the first time in over six months. In fact, this is the longest stretch that I have spent away from my homeland.

This morning, I found myself quiet on the balcony after I had watered the tomatoes, cucumbers and other veggies and wished the new lettuce seeds safe germination while I’m gone. I have so enjoyed having a space to excercise my green thumb, especially since this space is tucked on the 6th floor of an apartment complex in such a dense urban city like this one.

My balcony garden is a haven. I spend at least an hour a day out there, even if there’s no work to do, just being near the surplus of green and chatting with the plants. Yes, I do talk to them.

In fact, about two weeks ago I was having trouble with bugs eating my totsoi (sort of like bok choy). They were also attacking my peas and a few beet plants, a tomato plant and they were seriously chompong down on my lettuce.

I decided I’d have a little conference with the bugs. Following the example of a video I saw here in China about a Buddhist temple growing organic food who then decided to dedicate a separate veggie plot to bugs, I decided to offer the bugs my bok choy in exchange for the safe delivery of my other plants. I said, “Okay, bugs, I promise to give you the bok choy. It’s yours. You can eat this to your heart’s content, but in exchange, stay off the others, will ‘ya?” At that, I rinsed the leaves of the other plants for the 10th time and left the bok choy alone.

Amazingingly enough, the totsoi is now a pile of chewed and holey leaves and the rest of the garden is untouched. I think the bugs were really listening!

Isn’t it amazing how just a moment of trusting in the possibility of communication with other species that we can actually attain it? I truly think that the bugs and I did strike a deal that day that was beneficial to both parties. I mean, whether the totsoi is consumed by humans or bugs, its purpose is to feed. So, everyone’s happy!

But, more than that, I think the power lay in the acknowledgement of a wider balance in this space—a space that isn’t mine simply because I rent it and reside here; it’s the world’s. The bugs have a right to it as much as I do. I mean, it’s outside and that’s where they live!


So, in the quiet of the morning today, I smiled at all this and offered up my thanks to the growing tomatoes and cucumbers, beans and beats, peas and lettuce, chard and kale, and even to the bugs.

When I get back in early August, I’m sure there’ll be even more growth to smile upon that will pair nicely with the increased growth of my belly. Maybe it will even be time to harvest some tomatoes?! “Little Spark” will definitely appreciate such clean and healthy, organic vitamin C!

My partner, Guo Jian, is going to have to take over caregiving for the next three weeks. Good training for the father-to-be! Luckily, I have faith that he’ll keep them well watered and loved.


Let’s just hope the bugs don’t run out of totsoi before I get back!


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Spring in Beijing

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