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Coping: House plants, sourdough and coping with COVID-19

Reporter Jenny Lamothe says you don’t have to be a greenthumb to grow a few house plants, and you’ll love the benefits to your mental health, your creativity and the air-quality of your home
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Well, here we are. Again. The lockiest lockdowns of all the lockdowns. Lockdown 22: Electric Boogaloo. 

So, how do we cope? Probably using the same techniques we’ve used through this two-year journey called “Two weeks to flatten the curve.”

Sourdough and houseplants. Or maybe that’s just me.

I thought this might be a good chance to offer a few tips on my journey with both as a way to cope with the lockdown. 

Now, let’s say ahead that I have no children, and at the moment, I deeply feel for anyone who does. Coping for first responders, for health-care workers, educators, business owners, will be much more than a little greenery can offer, and my thoughts are with all of you. For those of us working office jobs from home, listen up.

The sourdough was something I had been working with for a few years, and I had one or two lonely houseplants. Over the pandemic, that became a wide variety of poorly made baked goods and many, many browning or wilting plants. But you know what, it helped. 

Staring at the four walls, for those of us lucky enough to be able to work from home, has been made brighter by the smell of baking bread (that didn’t rise right and maybe tastes like a delicious brick) but also, from greenery. And greenery is the easiest to achieve. Sort of. 

I don’t believe in greenthumbs, even though many say I have one. It assumes that there is a gift to plants, not thought and work. My vegetable garden is a sight to behold, but every vegetable is a $1,000 a pound because of the work and worry that goes into them.

Outdoor plants are heartier than indoor plants for sure, less sensitive to change, but in no way does being an outdoor gardener prepare me to be an indoor gardener. 

But there is reason to take on a little challenge. Not only are microorganisms in the soil improving air quality in a house you’ve been haunting for sometime now, but they are proven to improve productivity, and more than anything, reduce stress

This is not only in homes, but in offices and workplaces as well, so when your home becomes your workplace, it’s the best of both worlds. 

But it is a challenge, certainly. But getting one plant, one that thrives on being ignored, and completely ignoring it, could be just the thing for you. 

My plants make me want to stare at them, which in turn, ensures I am not staring at a screen all day and night. Even just a momentary reprieve. Also helpful is the need to stare: in the newsroom, and common among writers, it is a usual occurrence to see someone staring off into space for a significant period of time, allowing their brain to make connections and find the words. 

Staring at a plant is not only quite pleasant, but is also conducive to creativity

And yes, my two biggest reasons for getting plants is to stare at them. I’m comfortable with my choices.

But also, there is a symbiotic relationship, and one that is predicated on me admitting I have absolutely no control in the situation; all I can do is my best, and if that isn’t good enough, at least I tried.

That makes it sound like I haven’t cried over a dropped leaf, which I have. It’s still a challenge, but another word for a challenge, in my mind, is distraction. 

Let’s get to it then, with a note that these are my personal findings. Though I am wordy (to say the least), even I couldn’t include in this story everything you need to know.

However, I can tell you to join social media groups: there is a houseplant Facebook group specific to Sudburians that is not only helpful, but a delight to be a part of. I can also tell you the best way to start the journey. 

Start with one of the hardy four: spider plant, snake plant, pothos, aloe vera. Aloe will tell you how it feels: when it is brown, it is too cold or too hot, when it is soft, it needs water. Indirect light, and ignore as much as possible, up to a month at a time.  

Both pothos and snake plant love the newsroom, and I water them every three to four weeks. I gave a snake plant to the publisher of, because the office needed a plant and I am a huge suck-up, and it is thriving. 

It is totally ignored in a corner of his office, watered when I remember, and it is loving every minute of it.

Spider plants, when they get stressed out, make new little baby plants I like to call “second chances.” I have one at the moment that is the great-great-great-great granddaughter of the original. Cut it off, replant: new plant. You are a green thumb once again. 

All are beautiful. If you have a problem with them, the answer is overwatering. You have pests? Overwatering. Discolouration of leaves? Overwatering. If this isn’t the answer, there are answers for you everywhere, and at the moment, we have nothing else to do but find them. 

Water only with rainwater, even in the winter, when it is called snow. My mother swears by this as well, and if she, the woman who can grow orchids, says this is true, believe her. 

In the summer, a bucket outside will do, but installing rain barrels is easy and helpful even if you only have a lawn to water. In the winter, I will fill a bucket with snow and leave it in the bath to melt. You can do it another way that is less lazy, your choice. 

If you can find it, worm compost is a great addition to the potting mix you use. I have a worm composter and it brings me great joy. Especially when I wear gloves so it is not so icky. Because ew, worms. 

So, in closing, get thee to a spider plant, dear friends. Not only are they great to stare at, but chance to find new friends who share your engrossing new hobby.

Jenny Lamothe covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized, including the Black, Indigenous, newcomer and Francophone communities, as well as 2SLGBTQ+ and issues of the downtown core.

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Jenny Lamothe

About the Author: Jenny Lamothe

Jenny Lamothe is a reporter with She covers the diverse communities of Sudbury, especially the vulnerable or marginalized.
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