BASIC TIPS FOR GARDENING
1. Soil: The potting mix should be made in such way so that water should reach bottom of pot within 20-25 seconds of watering. This is the basic quality of fast draining soil. Soil of pot should be sandy or loamy to allow easy drainage of excess water. To make the ideal potting mix for most of the plants, minimum 20 % drainage media in potting mix must be available. We can choose any of the drainage media from: coarse river sand, crushed Leca, Rice Husk, Perlite or Pumice Stones. All these items help in roots aeration also. We should also add 25 % sterilized garden soil (soil taken from more than 2 feet depth-such soil is considered as free from harmful pathogens and weeds), 20% vermi – compost, 5% Neem Cake and 30% cocopeat.
COMPOSITION OF THE POTTING MIX DEPENDS UPON VARIETY OF PLANTS AND DIFFERS FROM EACH OTHER.
2. Care for Indoor Plants: This is a myth that indoor plants can be kept continuously inside our closed living rooms or offices. Generally, most of the shade loving plants are suggested as indoor plant. All the plants prefer to grow in open atmosphere with proper ventilation. If you are capable to provide properly ventilated area with indirect / diffused sunlight inside your homes, you can keep them as indoor. But if you don’t find such area, keep them at your balconies, Varandah or any other area with suitable atmosphere. Some shade loving plants can be kept in our rooms for 1 or 2 weeks continuously. Plants of Sensieviera family (snake plants’ varieties) can grow even with less ventilation and low sunlight. These plants also will grow better, if we keep them in ventilated area at least for one day per week. Different plants have different tolerance limits to survive without sufficient ventilation. Following types of unusual behaviours have been observed, while keeping indoor plants inside room without proper ventilation:
(a) Leaves of some plants start turning yellowish, after keeping them in closed area. Subsequently growth of such plants is adversely affected due to lack of fresh air flow.
(b) Some plants show their dormant behaviour without showing any visual growth change on leaves.
(c) Leaves shedding have also been observed in some plants.
(d) Few plants display wilting of leaves.
3. Watering: Daily watering may be required during extreme hot weather. But most of the plants do not need daily watering even during summer. Whenever the soil becomes slightly dry, you can water your plants- A golden rule of watering. By following this rule, we can minimize the chances of root rot and some other diseases. However, some plants prefer damp soil also. But continuous water logging in pot is always harmful for your plants. Water requirement depends upon variety of plant and may differ from other plants.
4. Drainage: Each pot must have sufficient holes in bottom for better drainage. If there is only one drainage hole, that may be blocked after a passage of time. Hence, we should always try to make more than 1 hole in the bottom of pots or polybags. We can also make some holes in lower sides of the pot / grow bag (in addition to bottom) to ensure faster drainage. In earthen pots, we should try to make holes by a drilling machine only. While watering, we must ensure that after thorough watering of the plant, excess water must drain out from bottom of the pot. The soil must receive sufficient water to grow the plant.
5. Pruning: It helps plant to grow more branches and increase flowering. For this purpose, we should do only pinching of branch tips. However, in case of large bushy plants, we can prune as per our choice from any portion of the branch. Pruning should stop at least six weeks before blooming season of plants.
6. Misting: All the leaves enjoy misting and stomata available mostly on lower sides of leaves perform their basic function of respiration very well after misting. Many gardeners opine that Misting is as good as bath for plants and helps in cleaning of plants’ foliage. Moreover, misting helps plants by increasing humidity level in surroundings of plants. During summer, regular misting will be more advantageous for the plant, but misting should not be a reason for water logging in the pot. We should increase frequency of misting during summer. During rainy season, all the plants enjoy natural misting and increased humidity. Consequently we see lush green surroundings everywhere in rainy season.
7. Excess fertilizing: Most of the plants do not like over fertilizing. We must ensure that plant is never having more than 30 % compost in its potting mix. Some plants have slow growth rate and more fertilizing will not increase their growth rate.
OTHER IMPORTANT FACTS ABOUT GARDENING
A. Aerated Potting Mix: Most of us have seen gardeners while digging the soil around plants to loosen them so that the soil does not become hard. This effort is put up by farmers also to improve the health of crops (by ploughing the farms). Reason for doing this hard work is – to provide maximum aeration to plants’ rooting system. Aerated potting mix is a key to successful drainage media also. Whenever we prepare potting mix for our plants, we must use at least 20 % media to provide better aeration. Traditionally, plant lovers have been using Perlite for this purpose. But, there are many more better options than using Perlite, like- Pumice stones and Crushed Leca. Rice Husk is also a good option due to easy local availability. All these items have air cavities and allow proper aeration while ensuring fast drainage too. Use of Pumice is considered better than Perlite due to additional capability of supplying micro nutrients to plants. Moreover, Pumice has longer life than Perlite and Pumice does not disintegrate into powder easily. All these items are lighter in weight than garden soil. Hence potting mix becomes light weight due to use of these items and lower soil of potted plants does not become very compact. It helps roots to grow further easily. If we use rice husk for this purpose, that rice husk will decompose in soil within 3-4 months. Use of Leca is also preferred by many gardeners due to its porous composition.
B. Use of Leca/ Terrace Gardening: Whenever we use them to decorate our plants by covering soil with Leca, we should use uncrushed / unbroken Leca. But, if we are using as a component in potting mix to improve drainage and aeration, we should use crushed Leca (3-7 mm). Leca of bigger size will definitely have bigger air cavities. Plant roots find it very easy to grow inside air cavities. Leca helps in controlling soil temperature also. Leca is mainly used in construction industries to make insulated thermal and sound proof wall panels & buildings.
By use of Leca in potting mix, we can make light weight potting medium which is mandatory for terrace gardening. By doing so, we can do more plantation on our terrace without giving any stress to our building.
C. Re- Potting: We should do re-potting of our plants approximately once in six months, to ensure better health of plants. We can initiate this repotting work earlier also, if we observe any unusual or harmful development (no flowering for a long time, leaf shedding excessively, rotting of stem/root etc. ) for the plant. If required, we should pot the plant in a bigger pot after re-potting. Change of soil helps a plant to replenish nutrients’ deficiency. Try to use gentle water spray to remove old soil from roots, so that roots may not be damaged by our hands. Before repotting, we must also check for any harmful growth in roots or worms / bugs in soil. Repotting is considered as an opportunity for check-up of potting medium.
D. Rotation of Compost: If we are not observing expected positive change in our plants after using fertilisers, we must use different type of compost. If we have already given vermi-compost, we should give mustard cake / castor cake / Epsom salt/ bone meal or any other different type of fertilisers. It ensures fulfilment of all nutrients. By giving same type of compost every time, there may be nutritional imbalance in plants’ soil. In case of flowering plants, presence of all needful nutrients in balance quantity is more important for healthy life of plants.
To find out exact reason for slow / insufficient growth of plants, we should carry out a detailed analysis of soil test in a lab. But in case of garden plants, this is not feasible and advisable from economic point of view. However, this practice of soil test is adopted in commercial farming to decide the quantity and composition of fertiliser. To avoid this lengthy procedure, we advise gardeners to rotate use of fertilisers for better results. Even if this is not possible by our plant lovers, try to replace soil of the potted plants.
E. Coarse River Sand: It is useful for fast drainage and better root growth of plants. Moreover, it helps in protection from termite attack. But river sand is very heavy and without air cavities. Both these drawbacks can be overcome by use of crushed Leca or smallest size of Leca (3-7mm).
F. Cocopeat: This is a myth that cocopeat is a complete substitute for soil. We agree that cocopeat is a germ free and healthy potting medium. Moreover, this is capable to absorb and supply continuous moisture to plants. In addition to this, cocopeat helps in building of aerated, light weight and loose potting mix. Due to these reasons, roots grow rapidly in cocopeat based potting medium.
In spite of this, we should not use cocopeat more than 40% in potting mix, because excess use of cocopeat becomes a reason for root rot (during rainy and winter season). Moreover, cocopeat does not contain any nutrition for the plants. Requirement of cocopeat in soil depends upon type of plants and weather conditions. We also suggest that minimum 10 % cocopeat must be added in soil for all types of plant. Presence of partial cocopeat in soil acts as slow release of moisture for plants. While using drip irrigation system, plants grow more healthily due to this slow and continuous release of moisture to plants.
G. Plantation on Open Ground: If you have done plantation on open ground or soil, requirement of fertilizers will reduce, because roots can grow deep in ground to absorb needful nutrients. But if you are having the same plant in pot, you must add some liquid fertilizers or vermi-compost periodically for better results. Because roots cannot grow beyond pot.