A plant nursery for you

Surabhi Johri details how you can create a self-sufficient plant nursery in the confines of your home

A plant nursery for you

For plant lovers, nothing is more fun than being able to raise more of their favourite plants by using simple means right at home. It is easy, satisfying and costs far less than purchasing the plant. The only catch is that it requires patience. Such multiplication of plants can be a hobby that will not only fill your own pots and gardens, but many other venues too. In today’s time, green life around us is getting depleted. Gifting home grown plants to a friend or contributing towards a bigger cause like a community garden becomes meaningful.

For community gardens, it is especially significant to know how to multiply the plants. Common garden beds can be replenished easily and individual homeowners can also purchase such saplings at a nominal price. If one is composting at home, it becomes even more holistic and cheaper. The special connect ensures that plants are not taken for granted and that they carry forward a deeper meaning. Many of us would like to be able to do that. It carries a satisfaction like none other. Whether you are an individual garden owner or living in a large society with a community garden, raising your own plants is a fun and cheap way to raise as many as you like.

The process

A basic setup comes in handy when you intend to propagate plants. Hygienic space, sharp tools, growing medium and other equipment are important. The space and surroundings should be bright and airy and clear of any kind of debris. In bigger setups, three types of light conditions are chosen, from the initial stages to the growth stage to acclimatisation. At home, choose a place that has brightness, but is not exposed to scorching sun. A bright window sill is also good. Equipment required is simple, like a sharp knife or a pair of scissors, by which you can trim the plant easily.

Containers can be specific germination trays, small pots or Tetrapak containers. This can be achieved easily by washing with warm soap water and sun drying, as it prevents contamination and rotting. But make sure a few holes are punched in the bottom of such containers to prevent water logging. For most cases, light and rich potting of garden soil suffices, but for germination of small seeds which will have to be transplanted, it is better to use a light mix of cocopeat and compost. A tightly packed medium deters germination.

Propagation is the multiplication of plants which can happen through root cuttings, stem cuttings, leaf cuttings or seeds. Many ornamental plants can be easily multiplied via cuttings. Seeds are the way for most vegetables and seasonal flowers. Use a moist, light-weight medium and sow the seeds at recommended distance. Overwatered soggy medium is the main cause for rotting of seeds and baby plants. You may cover the container with a transparent wrap or glass top to prevent dryness, while leaving some gap for air circulation. Every plant has its own germination time. Watch for the first peek of green. After this sprouting, uncover the container and provide bright location for growth of roots and leaves. Keep the medium moist by sprinkling water. Usually, four to six weeks is the period for roots and leaves to develop.

Every plant has a sapling maturity stage, at which point it should be moved to a bigger container or to the ground. Shifting too early may reduce success of growth. For some plants, a transition stage is required in an upgraded size so that roots can develop nicely before they can be safely moved in the ground. Leafy vegetables and root vegetables do not like disturbance. Those should be sowed where maturity will occur. While removing the saplings from the original container, always ensure that the roots and their finer hair stay as undisturbed as possible. A sufficiently grown root system holds together the surrounding soil.

Therefore, by simple loosening from sides, the entire soil and root mass can be taken out. To plant it in the main place, the soil should be already loose and a pocket should be dug in it. Just place the root soil mass gently in it and cover it with the dug-out soil while patting it down gently. Water it gently so that roots stay covered with soil.

And for the choices...

For kids, growing a butter fruit or avocado from seeds is an amazing experience. It doesnt even need soil to germinate or become a sapling. Ornamental plants can be multiplied through vegetative means, i.e., cuttings of various types of root division. It is amazing to watch a stem give out leaves and roots.

Dieffenbachia is a common and hardy house plant. When the stem grows tall and the lower part becomes bare, it can be cut to make a new plant and boost leaf growth in the older one. The cut part goes into the soil, a few weeks after which it will develop roots and new leaves. Soft stems like that of begonia, ivy, jade, coleus, aglaonema, mint, geranium, cactus, pileas, philodendrons, portulaca and succulents are easy to grow.

Woody stems like that of hibiscus, crotons, banyan, rose, cordyline, dracaena, can also ‘root’ easily. Peace lily, also a hardy indoor, can be separated at root when growth is clumped. A lot of people are scared of pulling out a plant safely. But really, it’s all about the grip and the location of where you hold the stem.

Always loosen the soil in contact with the container, hold gently but firmly with palm grip at the base of stem i.e., towards the juncture of root and stem. If the soil medium is loose and moist (not wet), chances of success are very high. The idea is that roots should not get separated from the stem and that the main and thickest root should not break away.

Many types of lilies, caladium, ferns, asparagus, spider plant, snake plant, grasses, colacasias and alocasias can be propagated in a similar manner and the roots here come out from a solid ball-like thing called bulb, each of which becomes a plant. Plants can be very resilient when handled properly. Handle with patience and there is no doubt that growing new plants will become your favourite hobby.

(The author is with True Nature Advisors)

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