I was lucky enough to interview the amazing gardening influencer Shelley Caruana, from the successful “Shelley’s Indoor Jungle” (over 176,000 followers). Together, we had a chat about why she started her blog, a few gardening tips and advice on how to make the best if on a limited budget. Let’s discover her journey below!
Name and Surname?
When did the passion for gardening start?
2 years ago I bought 6 plants to decorate a few empty corners in my home. With the stands and everything, it amounted to about €300 and my husband told me please make sure they don’t die since everything was so expensive! So I did some research and fell into a rabbit hole. Had no idea there were so many different houseplants, with such gorgeous leaves, and how big they can grow!
Explain gardening in your own words?
It’s fantastic for mindfulness. I get completely lost looking for new leaves, repotting, cleaning the leaves, etc. It has really helped my mental well-being. It provides so much satisfaction when you see your plants grow, and it’s a great hobby for those who, perhaps, prefer staying home. Throughout covid, it was my solace.
What are the basics of gardening?
- LIGHT. Plants need light. Don’t believe anyone who says some plants prefer darkness, it’s a big misconception. ALL plants need light. (Not direct sun, but bright, indirect light/shade).
- Overwatering kills plants. If you’re not sure if you should water your plant or not, best is to hold off for a few more days. Also, check the soil with your finger to see if it’s moist and don’t let any water sit in the plate under the pot, as the roots will rot.
Why is gardening important?
So many reasons! Helps us to focus, helps improve our mental health and also helps us to appreciate the wonders of nature. Nature is very, very cool, that’s what I’ve come to realise.
What are the types of gardening?
Not sure how to answer this one. For me, it’s very much a casual hobby. I don’t obsess on what fertilisers to use and I don’t get too scientific.
How do you start a garden for beginners?
First, see which areas in your house have the brightest light. Then start with easy plants like snake plants, ZZ plants, pothos and dracaenas. All are very easy and low-maintenance. Keep in mind if you have pets or toddlers, some plants are toxic. A quick Google search will tell you what plants are ideal for pets or young kids.
Does gardening make you happy?
Incomparably so. However, there are times when you might feel disheartened if you lose plants, and if you’re a perfectionist, or suffer from anxiety, that might send you spiralling. Just keep in mind: if a plant dies, you have room for a new one, and plant shopping is so much fun!
What are the benefits of gardening?
Mental well-being, some physical (repotting requires quite a lot of movement!), and a newfound appreciation for nature.
Why is gardening so popular?
Plants bring a sense of life into a house. Makes it feel more like “home”. Plus, to me, it almost feels like having a pet but with much less responsibility. Plants are also usually quite cheap (unless you’re a collectionist). And seeing something grow and change thanks to your own work is so satisfying.
Is gardening a good hobby?
One of the best, I daresay, especially for people who don’t go out much.
What are the tools for gardening?
Primarily: your hands. I don’t use any fancy tools. I need to know if the soil is moist? Check with my fingers. Do I need to repot? I use my hands. Secondly, a good soil mixture that is well-draining is also a good tool. When you buy universal compost, add some orchid bark and perlite to it. Makes the compost less dense, so it doesn’t retain too much water. You won’t overwater your plants that way.
How do you get good at gardening?
By analysing your environment and observing your plants, and keeping in mind: light is the plants’ primary food and overwatering is terrible for them. Don’t read stuff on Google and assume that it applies to you. People live in different climates, conditions, have different lighting (e.g. some east-facing windows vs. west-facing windows). I am currently designing a journal for people to learn to analyse their plants and surroundings and to empower them to realise what works for their plants.
How many types or varieties of plants exist?
What is so special about indoor plants?
You’re bringing a little bit of nature inside. Indoor plants normally grow on forest beds in the wild so they’re used to the shade of trees. That’s why they can flourish indoors. However, I reiterate, they still need good light.
Do indoor plants need a lot of sun?
Bright, indirect light is key. Some plants with succulent leaves like ZZ plants, snake plants, fiddle leaf figs and hoyas can withstand direct sun if they are eventually exposed to it. I’ve seen massive Hoyas and fiddle leaf figs trees growing in full sun in summer in Malta.
What is the most expensive plant you have?
I have a variegated monstera Adansonii and a massive variegated Albo Monstera. The thing is, plants are so easy to propagate, that prices eventually go down.
What steps would you take to get rid of a garden infestation problem?
- Quarantine plants
- I use an insecticide called Resolva, worked miracles for me (don’t use outside cause it is harmful to bees)
- Throw away plants if the infestation is too much to handle! Not worth the heartache of them spreading
- Unfortunately, loads of local nurseries have infestations. Check the plants thoroughly before bringing them home.
How often should you water a garden and why?
There isn’t a regular schedule you should keep up to. Just remember plants close to windows and plants in smaller pots tend to dry out faster. In summer, plants dry out much faster than in winter. When in doubt, check how dry the soil is a couple of inches in the soil, and check if the pot is light or heavy. Light pot means the plant needs watering.
How to make the most of a garden if on a limited budget?
Propagate, share cuttings with friends and invest in cheap plants – there are so many! Pothos are usually super cheap. And there’s quite a variety.
What are the three most important health and safety regulations of a garden?
I would say ensure that any plants you buy aren’t toxic if you have pets and kids. If you do buy any toxic plants and are handling them, don’t touch your face/mouth and make sure to wash your hands. Don’t handle soil etc if you have any open cuts – wear gloves.
Where do you go when searching for information or when you have a question?
YouTube probably. But again, I learn by observing my own plants, checking the roots, etc.
How do you deal with failure, for example, a dying plant?
I buy a new one! (Or maybe more than one 😂). And I try to understand what killed it so I don’t repeat the mistake.
Where can people contact you or follow your journey?
- Instagram: @shelleys.indoor.jungle
- Facebook: Shelley’s Indoor Jungle – Malta
- Email: email@example.com
- Website: shelleysindoorjungle.com
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