Episode 42: Behind the Seeds with Mohamed Osman
Around eighteen months ago, veterinarian Mohamed Osman led a pretty regular life in Cairo, Egypt: working, spending time with wife and children, going to the gym.... then out of nowhere he had a cardiac arrest and his heart stopped for four minutes.
Doctors managed to revive him and operated on his heart, but when he got out of hospital, he was advised to rest at home for a month. He decided to buy a couple of cactus plants to look after during his recuperation. They died due to overwatering, but then Mohamed started to read up on houseplants and bought replacements. Before he knew it, his plant collection began to grow rapidly.
Now a few houseplants has turned into dozens of houseplants, a huge following on Instagram and a shining example of how to create an indoor jungle. His wife and children have gown to love the transformation that's taken place in their home, too and are keen to help him look after his collection.
I talk to Mohamed about how it all began, what his family think of the transformation, how plants helped him psychologically, and what's next for Behind The Seeds. You can read more about Mohamed and his plants in this feature in Cairo West magazine.
Question of the week
Jacob Fuentes Navarro writes:
"I have many plants in my home that are still in the pot i bought them in and I'm not quite satisfied with the soil. Some are basically just peat moss and others the soil seem almost solid and hard for me to even put my finger to check if they need water. My question is can I remove most of the soil they currently have and replace it with a more lightweight mix of coco coir and other mixtures something that lets the roots breathe better and i know exactly what its made off?"
The short answer is yes! Houseplants often arrive in your house in less-than-ideal potting mix. It's wise - especially at this time of year when it's prime repotting time - to take them out of their pots and check that the growing medium isn't too dense. Cacti and succulents like good drainage, but often are sold in very heavy, damp compost, so they will need repotting.
Compost with a high organic material content can be a problem for houseplants, especially if they are not repotted annually, as the organic material continues to decompose and slumps down in the pot, blocking air pockets that allow oxygen to reach the roots. So consider switching to a soil-based compost such as John Innes No 2 - which you can buy or make your own mix - there's a recipe here, and I think you could substitute the peat content for coir (but I haven't tried this! Coir is a more sustainable alternative to peat, and definitely worth considering as an additive to your houseplant potting mix. In the UK you can buy a coir-based houseplant compost called E-Coco.
On The Ledge talks, live show and houseplant chats
If you are in or near London and around on the evening of April 10, come and see me talking to Alice Vincent of the Telegraph and plant historian Catherine Horwood about the future of houseplants at the Garden Museum. Book your tickets now.
I'll also be making an appearance at Gardeners' World Live in Birmingham on June 14 on the Blooming Interiors stage - check out the schedule here. I am also going to be at the Hampton Court Palace Flower Show on the afternoon of July 4 giving talks on houseplants in the roses theatre - do join me if you can. And on the evening of Friday October 26 I'll be bringing a live show of On The Ledge to the RHS London Urban Garden show, with special guests including Alys Fowler and all kinds of leafy fun! Put those dates in your diary NOW!
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This week's show featured Roll Jordan Roll by the Joy Drops, An Instrument the Boy Called Happy Day Gokarna and A Man Approaches with Bowed Sitar, Rishkesh by Samuel Corwin, and Overthrown by Josh Woodward, all licensed under Creative Commons.