Turning over a new leaf

Turning over a new leaf


How about green resolutions for the new year? Try planting an aromatherapy garden or taking up sustainable gardening measures. Surabhi Johri offers a slew of ideas.

A brand new year is ahead of us. Full of new beginnings and fresh opportunities, the start of a year is the best time to reflect on how to make your new year more fulfilling. If you enjoy gardening, your garden holds a lot of promise. There are myriads of possible resolutions to choose from. Pick one or more to make the year more meaningful and gardening more fulfilling.  

* In case you are one of the self declared brown thumbs, don’t give up yet. Give yourself another chance to grow and nurture a plant. This time, make plant choices based on what growing conditions your home has to offer rather than what looks pretty on the market shelf.

Match those with the plant’s needs and then purchase. Plan ahead of buying and planting. You will not make costly mistakes and improve chances of successful growing.

* If you are already into gardening, see what new practices you can adopt. Why not ponder and resolve to practise something which you did not do before? The choices are many. Give them a shot.

* Be an organised gardener. Good planning will always help you achieve what you target for without running into expensive mistakes.

* Prepare a garden calendar and keep chores spread out so that you enjoy doing those and never have to rush for urgent fixes. Also it is easier to follow sustainable practices if you plan ahead.

* Break the conventional pattern and make bold choices. If you have a small patch, decide to fill it with interesting plants or abundant flowers rather than struggling to keep a grass patch.

* Plant an aromatherapy garden. Use plants that have aromatic leaves and stems not just fragrant flowers.

* Make eco-conscious choices. Have an arid garden which will use only those plants that do well under low water conditions.

* If choosing to practise sustainable gardening, start with reducing water consumption. Club plants of similar requirement, recycle water from kitchen, reduce number of high water demanding plants. Practise deep watering, trickle or drip irrigation, and apply mulch to conserve that water.

* Opt for organic fertilising to make soil healthy and reduce chemical overload. Go for manures, composts and organic micronutrients.

* Bring in some worms. Apply vermicompost periodically and introduce gardener’s best friend, earthworms, into the soil. Over time, they will bring down fertiliser costs, build healthy soil and reduce garden waste to compost.

* Recycle garden waste into compost. Locate dead spots in your garden and dig pits which are filled with garden waste. Cover those and let nature take its course. Just water once a week. Every few months, you can have an inhouse compost production.

* This time, choose to know the difference between gardener’s friends and pests. Not all insects are harmful. You need not eradicate every living creature in the garden. Praying mantis, lady beetles, lacewings and many more feed on the most common plant pests.
Another reason to choose fewer chemicals is because you do not want to harm these friends.

* Give organic pest control and easy home recipes a chance. This time when the mealy bugs appear, use swab sticks dipped in methylated spirit. Use detergent sprays and mineral oils to discourage many pests. Fix a beer trap for slugs and sticky cards for flying pests. Go for borax when ants become bothersome. But always practise good garden hygiene and stay vigilant so that you can handle the pests in early stage using simpler methods.

* Grow something native. A plant that is indigenous to your region, or one that brings memories of some other time.

* Get over the fascination with grass in unused areas. Instead, use less hungry and less thirsty ground covers like Lantana, Verbena, Ajuga and ornamental grasses.

* Encourage butterflies and birds or squirrels to your garden. Leave on some fruits and seed heads for them to feed on. Visit the butterfly garden in Bannerghatta National Park; you will discover the host plants you can easily grow to attract butterflies. Give birds a house and some seed to feed on.

* Grow your own herbs. These do not need large space but can be extremely rewarding. A chilli plant, coriander, mint or fresh curry leaves, all are easy to grow. Pick fresh tender spinach for salad.

* Grow medicinal herbs at home. Lemon grass, tulsi, aloe vera, are few of the most widely used and helpful herbs. The next time your nose starts running, all you will need is a leaf from lemon grass.

* Plant just one tree – in your neighbourhood, in the community garden, in your property, wherever it is possible for you. I know a septuagenarian whose yearly resolutions include planting a certain number of trees in and around his locality. So far he has recreated two public parks of decent size. The mature trees are full of flowers and birds. What a great way to be remembered by.

* This time gift your friend a plant. A herb or accent, whatever you prefer, but be assured it will be a more personal gesture and thus well appreciated.

* Grow something from seed. Watch it emerge and flourish.

Involve your child into growing and nurturing a plant. Growing sweet potato vine from a big piece of it is fun because you just need water and the vine will sprout. Children love to watch the process.

Sit back and enjoy the shade of the tree or fragrance of the flower. You have worked hard, give yourself a chance to relish it.

(The writer is a landscape designer)

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