Moving to Soilless

After almost a year into my gardening hobby, I finally looked into soilless potting mixes. Supposedly soilless mixes would eliminate or vastly reduce the presence of bugs. Originally, I wasn’t too bothered by soil indoors, but I somehow accumulated several plants in my bedroom, and I was not comfortable with the thought of so many bugs crawling in such close proximity to my bed. Since I kept my favorite plants in my bedroom (I wanted to see them when I woke up), I didn’t want to risk killing my them with an untested soilless mix.

Anyway, what would I use? Peat moss? Sphagnum moss? Coco peat? Will plants really survive without soil? I had seen plant enthusiasts talk about soilless for some time now, but it took me some time to switch: it didn’t seem convenient. If I were to move to soilless, I would prefer to use media that I could use with my other plants as well.

Around the same time I was considering going soilless, I noticed one of my carnivorous plants also needed repotting. Domesticated carnivorous plants were typically grown in soilless mixes—my byblis and venus fly trap were in sphagnum moss from their past owners, and my nepenthes in coco peat. I thought I’d need to buy sphagnum moss for my byblis and venus fly trap, but this frustrated me because sphagnum moss isn’t exactly cheap, and I would only use it for my carnivorous plants. So I asked other carnivorous plant enthusiasts, and I figured out that most carnivorous plants can survive in coco peat, which is affordable and readily available here.

Perfect. I can use coco peat for both my ornamental and carnivorous plants.

For my soilless potting mix, I use coco peat as my base and add pumice for drainage and CRH for good luck. I like to sprinkle in a bit of perlite to the mix when I have some on hand, but I’m not sure if there’s truly a benefit to using both pumice and perlite. (No harm done anyway.) I use the same mix as amendments to loam soil for my outdoor plants.

The first plants I repotted into soilless were my golden pothos and njoy pothos. I figured that if my most resilient plants couldn’t survive in a soilless mix, none of my other plants would. I also started new propagations: I cut a stem of my byblis and propagated it in my cocopeat mix (no CRH) as a safeguard before repotting it into a new medium, and I trimmed my leggy pothos and stuck the nodes into the new mix.

Two weeks after testing, my golden pothos started showing new growth (I guess it was business as usual), so I was appeased. After that, I repotted a few others (not all just yet) into soilless.

In particular, I planted two calatheas (plant enthusiasts know these to be diva plants) into my soilless mix and prayed the plants would survive. They’ve been in the mix for over three weeks, and the results are good so far. I have yet to see new growth, but, well, they haven’t died. I recently started spraying a soil conditioner into the pots, so I’m hoping it will encourage new growth soon. For now, I’m considering the move to soilless a success.

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig

I first encountered Matt Haig’s The Midnight Library on the bookstagram community, but I did not consider reading it until my high school friend recommended it to me a few weeks ago. (I value personal recommendations highly. Although I discover book titles on bookstagram, I don’t think I’ve ever picked up a book because it was trending.) Well, after weeks of binge-watching The Big Bang Theory on Netflix and mostly reading short story or essay compilations, I wanted to read a full, decent story that I wouldn’t hate.

Things started on the wrong foot. As I read the first few chapters, I found myself not liking the main character, Nora Seed. I did not have much patience for her. However, Nora’s indecision and incapacitation sounded similar to Haig’s experience in Reasons to Stay Alive (which I read last year), so I thought this must be a very real experience for some people. With that in mind, I decided to read on. I had a feeling I would enjoy the story more once I got to the library part anyway, and I was not wrong. The Midnight Library served as an eye-opener not only for Nora but also for myself: I developed more empathy towards Nora as I read through the lives she could have led, and I was able to understand how she ended up in her root life present.

Similar to How to Stop Time (which I read in 2019), The Midnight Library was an easy yet captivating read (once I got past the set up). I finished the whole book in a day (I even had some breaks in between sittings), and I was genuinely interested to see how it would end. There were some predictable moments in the book, but I don’t think Haig meant to shock anyone with a major twist anyway. Overall, I thought the book was heartwarming. I loved the way it ended, as it focused on personal growth.

If you are looking for a feel-good read that touches on mental and emotional health, give this a try. Although the mental and emotional health issue was not as obvious here as it was in Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, which I loved, the anxiety that haunted Nora Seed felt relevant to the current pandemic life. At this point we’re all dealing with some sort of quarantine fatigue, and, yes, it is ok to take a breather to recharge.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

Back in high school, I was quite taken by Greek mythology. We learned about the 12 gods on Olympus in Literature class, and I took it to another level and read more myths that weren’t covered in class. Fast forward seven (?) years later, and I found a special edition of Norse Mythology at my favorite local bookstore on Independent Bookstore Day in 2017. Truth be told, I was not interested in Norse mythology at that time (I was late to the Marvel game), but I figured I’d grab the copy anyway because (1) Neil Gaiman wrote it and (2) I might end up liking it.

Unfortunately, I have a bad habit of hoarding books and not reading them until years after, so here we are in 2021, and I still have unread books from 2016. Since I am on a quest to read all the unread books on my shelf, I finally picked up Norse Mythology and read it in March 2021.

As someone who has finally watched (at least half of the) movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), I have some familiarity with the Norse gods. Truth be told, I only knew two things:

  1. Thor, the god of thunder, had a hammer that no one else could lift; and
  2. Loki was Thor’s evil but not-so-evil brother whom I never truly understood.

While Norse Mythology definitely had a lot of tales of the mighty Thor, it was Loki who stood out for me. I loved his mischievous character, and I thought he was just as daring as Thor … in a different way. For me, Thor came off a little arrogant, and I felt like ok I get it you’re Thor… I did find his insanely large appetite for food entertaining, so there’s that.

Now that I’m done with the book, I will say this: for some reason, I’d thought that Norse Mythology was going to be a dark or serious read. I was pleasantly surprised to find it a light and easy read. At times, the stories were funny. I’m going to attribute this to Neil Gaiman’s storytelling until I read other Norse mythology materials. Finally, I loved that I did not feel pressured to binge-read the book since every tale, while related to the next, stood for itself—though I did read more than one story a day.

This is definitely staying on my shelf.