Gardening for beginners

Tricks of the Trade
Last Updated 30 May 2013, 14:29 IST

If you have always wanted to try your hand at gardening and didn’t know where to start, Rashmi Shrinivas offers some simple and easy-to-implement gardening tips for you. 

Though everyone appreciates a beautiful flower in full bloom, not many are keen on taking up gardening because the perception is that it is a time-consuming hobby, involving a lot of manual work. Also, many youngsters are hesitant about handling soil with their bare hands. While it is true that modern methods of soil-less gardening are gaining popularity, traditional methods of gardening in naturally available soil are more convenient, because all the ingredients required are readily available in India. If you put in a little effort, gardening can be an enjoyable activity. Since most plants grow very well during this season, this is the right time to take up this hobby.

Here are a few gardening tips for the beginners.

To save your hands from getting soiled while gardening, good gardening gloves can be used. If you feel they are too expensive, you can use old plastic covers slightly bigger than your hand and use a rubber band on your wrist to secure the plastic cover firmly on the hand. This can be discarded once the gardening activity is over. 

How to go about gardening...

Select a moderately big pot because small pots may not be sufficient for holding the cluster of roots many plants have. Also, before starting gardening, spread a big sheet of plastic or paper on the floor of your balcony, which will ensure that the floor remains clean even after working with the soil. Once you have completed your work, this can be removed. While buying pots, ensure that they have a hole below for free flow of excess water. Place a small piece of an old broken pot against this hole to regulate the flow of water at a moderate speed. Otherwise, a lot of soil too may come out, thus making re-potting at frequent intervals unavoidable. Fill one fourth of the pot with gravel or jelly. The next quarter of the pot is to be filled with sand. The third quarter is to be filled with a soil mix containing red soil and the goat droppings (kuri gobbara) in a proportion of 50:50. Don’t fill the pot up to the brim. Place a small saucer underneath to collect the water that drains out of the pot. Now, your pot is ready.

If you are sowing seeds, ensure that they are sowed superficially and not too deep in the soil. Lightly sprinkle the soil until the seeds germinate and seedlings are formed. Don’t sow too many seeds in a single pot, since it may result in weak seedlings. Once the plants reach a satisfactory size, you can transplant them in different pots, preferably one in each. Place the plants in the area getting plenty of sunlight, since it is in the sunlight that plants thrive well. If your pots contain climbers, see that advance planning of its vertical path is done, which will enable your climber grow in the direction and support provided.

Do not over water them. Many succulents and cacti are xerophytes that do not need much water at all. As far as possible, water the plants in the morning. If it is likely to rain in the evening, there’s no need to water them. Before watering, you can try to poke your finger in the soil. Water the plants only if the soil is dry.

Remove stagnant water

See that the water collected in the saucer below is removed promptly or else the roots of the plant may rot in stagnant water, resulting in the death of the plant, besides encouraging growth of mosquitoes. Cover the soil with coconut husks or dry leaves to arrest loss of water by way of evaporation. While rainwater harvesting is now made compulsory by authorities, in the present days of water scarcity, one can still use water used for washing the vegetables and vessels and rinsing the clothes etc.

Prepare your own compost. In a small old pot, put a layer of red soil. Put biodegradable kitchen waste like peels of fruits and vegetables, flowers used for worshipping, etc. and cover it with a layer of red soil. Repeat this process every day. Stir occasionally. After a few weeks brown or blackish humus is formed. This compost provides all the nutrients a plant needs. A leguminous weed called crotalaria that grows on vacant sites can be grown by collecting seeds and, once well grown, can be crushed and mixed with the soil.

 In fact, this is the practice recommended by the agricultural department and successfully implemented in some parts of the State like Gulbarga. The nodules present in the roots of this plant help in fixation of nitrogen in soil. Periodically, loosen the topmost layer of soil in the pot and mix compost into it. This ensures that the fertility of the soil is retained.

Planting a sapling

If you are planting a ready plant bought from the vendor, see that the plastic cover of the plant is slowly cut and removed without causing any harm to the roots of the plant. Put the entire mass along with plant slowly in the middle of the pot made ready in the way explained above. Don’t buy a plant that has already reached its peak of growth. It may soon complete its life cycle and leave you disappointed. Buy a healthy plant in growing stage, so that it may grow and bloom fully in your own garden. Initially, it may require to be watered twice a day. Once the roots are established, watering moderately will do. If you want to grow plants like dieffenbachia (‘dumb cane’), you can easily multiply them if you get a mature stem. Cut them into small pieces of an inch or two, ensuring that each piece contains at least one node in it. Then plant them horizontally in your pot superficially and sprinkle water every day. Each piece grows into a new plant from the nodes, and bears lots of roots below. You can then plant them separately in different pots. If you are planting a stump of a mature plant, apply a small ball of cow dung at the cut end at the top to arrest loss of water from that end.

Keeping them safe

Wash and clean your plants periodically so that they are dust free and do not wilt and die as a consequence. There are no particular rules when it comes to gardening. All that plants need is a bit of love and care. If you tend your plants with love and care, they respond too in a similar way and grow happily. It is now scientifically proved that plants respond to your affection.

(Published 30 May 2013, 14:29 IST)

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