In honor of Tu B’Shevat, we asked some of our Inside Scoop members to tell us about the things they’ve planted
Planting can be a lot of fun… and everyone knows that there’s nothing like eating the literal fruits of your hard labor. But sometimes it just seems so mysterious, how some people can seem to make anything grow while others are left staring at clumps of dirt they’ve been watering for weeks and wondering what on earth they’re doing wrong
The Cohen family of Baltimore banded together with their neighbors and created a flourishing and delicious watermelon patch from scratch. So many delicious watermelons grew, they were able to give some away to other neighbors!
During lockdown, Rachelli Spector of Edgware, London created a stunning pond with her family. It has beautiful flowers, rocks, plants, and a pump. (Rachelli’s jobs were some digging and offering her family members moral support while they did the hard work!) Check out the awesome pic!
Tzirel Zar of Jackson, NJ’s entire class once planted popcorn kernels… and she excitedly took the plant home and watched it grow really tall, even taller than her! But just when the corn started to sprout… the plant died!
Eliyahu Mevorach of Yerushalayim planted some seeds from his esrog after Succos 2020 and it’s still growing! Who knows when it will sprout!? Maybe in a few years we’ll all be buying our esrogim from him and you’ll get to say you heard about his first esrog plant in an issue of Jr.!
But for many of us, planting starts with high hopes and expectations… but ends up being not quite what we had envisioned…
We planted tomatoes but squirrels ate them. We planted peppers but only one pepper grew… and there were bugs inside. Then we planted cucumbers but we only got one cucumber… and it wasn’t even good.
— Kayla Subar, 10
Los Angeles, CA
I grew a garden with my father and brothers but two different plants didn’t last. At least we still have beautiful lavender!
— Zahava S., 14
We tried to plant orange seeds from an orange, but nothing happened, it just got moldy.
Givat Ze’ev, Israel
My family once planted a cucumber plant and instead of cucumbers growing off the plant, cantaloupes and honeydews grew! It was very interesting and cool because I don’t know anyone else who grew cantaloupes or honeydews… especially by mistake!
— Shaindy, 11
One time we took an apple seed and planted it next to our swings. We watered it every day but nothing happened.
— Ella and Ezzy Jaffe, 9 & 8
My family once planted tomatoes but a stray bunny ate the plants.
— Esther Beren, 10
My family doesn’t plant but my grandmother has a green thumb and she plants a ton! This past summer as usual she started planting tomato and pepper plants, but for some reason every time a tomato or pepper started sprouting, it disappeared! One day she decided to do some investigating and she saw a groundhog eating up all the tomatoes!
— Dubba Esther Laub, 14
I tried planting potatoes, and it started growing, but then shemittah came along and I had to stop, so we never saw anything from it.
— Sara Friedman, 11
Once we tried planting tomatoes, and a deer ate them up.
—Yonatan Bachrach, 11
Some supermarkets in the Netherlands give out small boxes with seeds so you can plant a vegetable garden. My family has tried it multiple times, but nothing happened. Sometimes a little flower would grow, but nothing else. I don’t know what we do wrong, although it’s probably the fact that we water them once a month… or forget altogether…
— Chaya Mushka Levine, 13
Nijmegen, The Netherlands
Last summer my family brought pepper and tomato plants, but they didn’t grow properly. I think one pepper grew, but it was very small and we didn’t find it until it was moldy!
— Mia Schwab, 10
I planted peppers in the summer with my uncle and it didn’t work because we were supposed to plant them earlier.
— Dovid, 8
We once tried planting peppers, but birds kept on coming back and eating the leaves, without giving it a chance to grow.
— Esti Dyckman, 12 Jerusalem, Israel
We opened the pit of a peach, took out the seed, and planted it, but nothing happened.
— Tzippy Dyckman, 10
We tried to plant an avocado pit. We waited and waited, but nothing came out.
— Dina G., 11
Stamford Hill, England
Once we tried growing a grass head… but even that didn’t work!
— Malki, 13
We had an orange tree, but in the summer, the chlorine from our pool splashed onto it and the tree slowly died.
— Batsheva Dyckman, 8
My family once planted an avocado pit that grew into a small tree. Then it got makkas kinim! There were tons of little bugs in the soil, even though we sprayed it with lots of bug spray.
— Mordechai Katz, 10
Many times I tried planting plants like beans or seeds my teacher gave out. But none of them ever survived more than a week, some got ruined from the rain and some died forgotten.
— Esty Kern, 12
This year after Succos, my father tried to plant the aravos. But they dried up even though they were in water.
— Yossi David, 9
One time my family planted corn in our backyard. We watched it grow all summer until one day, we looked outside and saw it totally trampled and eaten by raccoons.
— Liora G, 13
We asked our Inside Scoop members:
If you could ask a professional gardener one question, what would it be?
And as a Tu B’Shevat gift to our Inside Scoopers (and to all our readers), we went ahead and got those questions answered!
Meet our professional gardeners:
A mother, writer, and businesswoman who loves gardening, farming, and growing things… and talking about gardening, farming, and growing things. This year, along with farmers and other gardeners in Eretz Yisrael, she has the special zechus to NOT take care of her plants.
A father, Hatzalah EMT, police chaplain, and the CEO of TLK Landscaping in Baltimore. He started a lawn mowing company when he was a kid and he now has a fleet of trucks, several employees, and lots of special equipment in his flourishing business.
(And yes, if you think their names sound familiar, you might remember them from previous issues of Jr. when their work/gardens were featured!)
Ezzy Jaffe, Faigy V., Tzippy Dyckman, and the Schlesinger sisters asked:
What is simple to plant and needs the least care?
NAOMI: The easiest things to plant are those that are already around you, so you don’t have to convince your parents to buy you things.
Many vegetables in your kitchen contain seeds that can be planted in a little pot on a sunny windowsill. For example, tomatoes and butternut squash. Dried beans from your pantry are also easy. If you start them in the spring, you can move them outside when it gets warmer and they will grow very big — and hopefully produce some yummy vegetables! But even if they don’t, the process of watching them sprout and grow is so thrilling.
Chaya Mushka Levine of the Netherlands asked:
Where is the best place to plant your plants? In the ground or in plant pots?
TZVI: Great question! But the answer completely depends on the plant. Some need warmer weather, some thrive in the cold, and some are meant to be indoors only.
Batsheva Dyckman asked:
Is it possible to revive a plant that’s dried out?
NAOMI: All plants need watering. If the plant is still alive, extra water will revive it. If a plant is no longer alive, that’s okay. Every gardener loses plants. Bury it in a garden and it will break down and make food for future plants to grow there. It’s not an ending, but rather a new beginning!
Mia Schwab from London asked: What’s the most interesting plant you’ve ever grown?
TZVI: The coolest tree we planted was a crimson king maple tree with a five foot trunk caliper. It was so big, we needed a Tree Spade Truck with four spade-shaped blades to dig it out.
NAOMI: This is a tough question for me! I have so many favorite plants. But the king of our garden is our Panama Berry tree. We planted it before Pesach of 2020 and it is already four meters tall (157 inches) and full of beautiful pink berries most months of the year. It has gorgeous silvery bark on its smooth elegant trunk. Birds and butterflies come to drink the nectar from the white flowers. I love to sit in its shade and enjoy my garden! Next year, the three-year orlah period will end. My kids can’t wait to pick those panama berries and eat them! They are called cotton candy berries because they are so sweet and delicious.
Zahava S. asked:
How do you get rid of poison ivy without getting hurt?
TZVI: The best thing to do is first use a spray that will kill the plant to prevent it from coming back after you’ve pulled it out. Once the plant’s dead, you still need to protect yourself when removing it because it could still contain poison ivy oil. Cover up well, wear gloves, and be careful.
Ella Jaffe wanted to know
if there are flowers that can survive a cold winter.
TZVI: Yes, pansies and violas (mini pansies) are usually good through the colder months. When the frost comes, the flowers might die, but the plant itself will stay dormant, which kind of means it’s just hibernating. Then, when the spring arrives, the flowers will usually start growing again on their own without any major care from you.
Dina G. from Stamford Hill asked:
Is there a flower that bees don’t like?
NAOMI: Bees are wonderful creatures but some kids think they are scary, because they know someone who says they got stung by a bee. But in reality bees almost never sting — most stings are from wasps and hornets. If for some reason you are really scared, don’t worry, bees don’t like common annual flowers, like pansies and petunias. Those flowers don’t have nectar, so they are not attractive to bees.
Ezzy Jaffe of Clifton, NJ and Faigy V. of Brooklyn, NY asked:
What’s the fastest thing to grow?
TZVI: Probably a sunflower.
NAOMI: Beans grow very fast and are fun and easy to grow from a seed — which is just a dried bean that you can take out of the cholent mix (before it starts cooking!) Soak it in water overnight and then plant it in a cup filled with cotton wool. Keep it moist (but not drowning) and watch the miracle of life unfold on your windowsill, day by day.
Yossi David from Manchester and Eliyahu Mevorach from Israel wanted
tips on growing an esrog tree.
NAOMI: They say you should put the seeds in the fridge after Succos and then take them out and sprout them in a pot after Pesach.
Dubba Esther Laub of Monsey, Liora G. of Thornhill, and Esther Beren of Lakewood asked:
How do you keep animals and insects away from plants outside?
NAOMI: Some pets can be a pain in the garden, as can wild animals, depending on where you live. Usually it’s not too horrible. If they are really destroying your garden, then there are specific solutions for specific animals. We had a feral cat living in our yard for a while causing big problems. But don’t try anything without talking to your parents.
TZVI: It depends on the animal. Different areas have different animals that eat the plants. In my city, it’s deer and rabbits. You might want to try protecting your plants and flowers with a mesh netting. There are also plenty of special repellent sprays you can try using (with adult permission and supervision, of course). If you do go that route, it’s recommended to switch and use different products so the animals don’t get used to one particular spray, because then you might wind up back to square one!
Refoel Kalish of Edison, NJ asked:
Is it fun to plant trees?
NAOMI: I adore planting trees. I have planted a lot of fruit trees in my garden — orange, pomegranate, blueberry, grapes, bananas, pineapple, dragon fruit — but it’s never enough for me. After shemittah ends, I think I will move around some of the smaller plants so I can plant more fruit trees! Nothing can be compared to fruit that grew in your own garden. It’s like tasting Hashem’s homemade candy!
Tzirel Zar of Jackson, NJ asked:
Why did my corn plant die if I was taking such good care of it?
NAOMI: Some plants don’t live very long. That’s the way Hashem made them. For example, a tomato plant will always die in the autumn, no matter how well you treat it. It’s a summer plant! Some plants can live a long time but they die for some reason anyhow. The most common reason is not enough water or too much water. The soil should never dry out and it should never be muddy.
Esti Dyckman wanted to know about watering plants and flowers:
How much water do they need and how often?
TZVI: When you first plant flowers in the ground, they require more care and more water. Thoroughly soak the soil around them. Once the plant is more established in the ground, you can scale back the watering. After that, the general rule of thumb is that flowers need about 1–2 inches of moisture every week. If you’re not a fan of watering, you can cover the plants with mulch — and the soil won’t dry out as fast and require as much water.
Kayla Subar of Los Angeles asked:
What’s the best type of soil to plant in?
TZVI: Plants, shrubs, and trees can require different types of soil. Usually one that is good for most is what’s known as a nutrient-based soil. It’s easy to make it yourself! Shred up some old leaves and make a compost out of them, then let it sit until it turns into dirt. Those leaves give the soil lots of nutrients — perfect plant food!
Leah G. from Sydney wanted to know:
Do you have tips on planting fruit pits?
NAOMI: You can do this with many fruits, such as apple, apricot, grapes, tangerine, and avocado. The instructions would be different for each kind of fruit… so I guess, the best advice is: Look up instructions for your particular fruit! This can be a very fun project, but be aware that if you do grow a tree, even after many years of waiting, it may never produce edible fruit. If your goal is to eat something you grew before you grow old, I recommend you plant vegetables! Or else buy a productive young fruit tree from a nursery.
TZVI: After reading all your stories of how so many Inside Scoop members tried it, I know it’s not so simple. There could be any number of reasons why it didn’t work all those times; maybe it was the climate, the type of soil, maybe the water… But guess what, there’s a job site near me that has no grass, only a tiny crack near a dumpster with some dirt. Once, a tomato seed must have fallen out of someone’s garbage right into that crack… and a plant started growing out of it! No one planted it, no one watered it, no one even meant for that to happen! You know who is the True Gardener.
Hopefully some of these answers have helped and inspired you on your planting journey.
(Originally featured in Mishpacha Jr., Issue 894)
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