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Saigon mother finds peace, not profit, in urban garden

Saturday, February 13, 2021, 11:08 GMT+7
Saigon mother finds peace, not profit, in urban garden
Sunflowers grown for Tet in Bui Thuong’s front garden. Photo: Hong Van / Tuoi Tre

A beautiful and abundant urban garden requires 1 percent green thumb and 99 percent hard work. This is my conclusion after visiting the wonderful garden of Bui Thuong, a Binh Tan district resident and mother of an eight-month-old baby.

The moment you set foot in Thuong’s front yard, you are greeted by a row of 13 beautiful sunflowers, all lined-up to greet you amid Tet, the Vietnamese New Year holiday. Flowers are one of the necessary items for the proper atmosphere during Tet for Vietnamese. For most people, these flowers can be purchased from the market. For Thuong, the sunflowers were a well-planned project that started 65 days ago.

This is the second Tet that Thuong has grown her own flowers. Sunflowers need about 70 days to grow until they blossom, so Thuong scheduled hers with this knowledge and some personal adjustments based on her own experience.

Many of her friends have asked to buy the flowers she grows, but Thuong prefers to grow things for herself instead of for money.

Tomatoes from a previous year on Thuong’s rooftop
Tomatoes from a previous year on Bui Thuong’s rooftop

Along with sunflowers, Thuong loves to grow tomatoes since they produce so many delicious fuits, and she has plenty of red, yellow, and green varieties throughout her garden. On her rooftop, where she can have eight to 10 hours of sun light, Thuong grows roses, many kinds of herbs, kale, cantaloupe, cabbages, and many more tasty things for her family.

Thuong’s love story with gardening started in 2015. Although she was not lucky enough to have a villa with a garden space on the ground to grow things, Thuong soon found that her balcony and rooftop could host her dream garden with some effort and planning.

As the saying goes: practice makes perfect, Thuong admits that she is not looking for perfection, but her garden is the result of non-stop learning by doing, and it involved many failed attempts over the years. Through this trial and error, Thuong created her own growing pots, designed a watering system, made her own organic fertilizers, and accomplished many other things.

When her son was two months old, Thuong went back to working on her garden.

“My life changed completely with a baby. I am busy, of course, but I decided to manage my time better to continue gardening. It is a small pleasure that I am not willing to give up,” she explained.

Typically, the day of this young mother starts at 2:00 am. At this time, she gets up to pump her milk for 45 minutes so she can feed her baby later. Then, she tries to get back to sleep for a little bit longer. Depending on her husband’s schedule, she may get up again at 3:00 am, if he will be busy for the day.

Squash hanging on the vine in Thuong’s rooftop garden
Squash hanging on the vine in Bui Thuong’s rooftop garden

While it is still dark, Thuong will spend two hours in the garden, and then another one or two hours later in the evening when her husband returns. In the day time, she does housework and takes care of her son.

When asked whether or not a successful harvest saves her money, the answer might surprise many people. Though Thuong now grows an abundance of healthy produce for her family, she admits that she probably spent more than VND200 million ($8,685) to get to where she is now.

Explaining to Tuoi Tre News why she continues to garden, Thuong said “homegrown organic vegetables are not cheap. I make my fertilizer at home from eggs, milk, and bananas, which adds to the expense. However, I see this as a hobby, and a positive addiction. I want to grow pesticide-free vegetables for the health of my family, but gardening helps me in other ways too. When I am in the garden, I smile to myself and all the stresses and any tired feeling I have disappears.”

In this day and age, it’s hard to put a price on anything with such benefits.

Bui Thuong’s baby with the day’s harvest. Photo: Bui Thuong / Tuoi Tre
Bui Thuong’s baby with the day’s harvest. Photo: Bui Thuong / Tuoi Tre
Bui Thuong’s love for food goes beyond just growing it
Bui Thuong’s love for food goes beyond just growing it
Bui Thuong’s love for food goes beyond just growing it
Bui Thuong’s love for food goes beyond just growing it
Bui Thuong’s love for food goes beyond just growing it
Bui Thuong’s love for food goes beyond just growing it
Red and yellow tomatoes harvested from Thuong’s balcony garden. Photo: Bui Thuong / Tuoi Tre
Red and yellow tomatoes harvested from Bui Thuong’s balcony garden. Photo: Bui Thuong / Tuoi Tre
Cabbage from a previous year on Thuong’s rooftop
Cabbage from a previous year on Bui Thuong’s rooftop
Bui Thuong is attending to the sunflowers in her front garden
Bui Thuong is attending to the sunflowers in her front garden
A day’s cabbage harvest from a previous year
A day’s cabbage harvest from a previous year
A day’s melon and squash harvest from a previous year
A day’s melon and squash harvest from a previous year

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Hong Van / Tuoi Tre News

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