Our plants and gardens give us so much joy, reduce stress, add beauty and colour to our lives. So it is only natural for us to want to give them the tender-loving-care (TLC) that they so richly deserve.
If like me you are interested in how to make your plants and gardens happier and healthier, then let’s share a few useful tips together:
- Light: Light is a basic requirement for our plants as they need it to process their food, a term referred to as photosynthesis. Although different plants have varying needs, do ensure that your planets have access to adequate sunlight. If possible take your indoor plants outside from time to time to enjoy some sunlight.
- Water: Not just water but the right amount of water. Too much water is as harmful as too little. It is therefore important to find out what works best for each plant in your home and garden. While some plants like it moist between waterings, some prefer it completely dry. Here are some watering tips:
- Check the soil moisture between waterings by inserting a stick or your finger and pushing below the top layer.
- Use a good watering can and water well around the base.
- Go for pots with drainage holes and water your plants until water begins to drain out.
- Use lukewarm or warm water. Avoid extremes – hot or cold water.
- Give plants a humidity boost by spritzing with water.
- Repot: No one wants to out-grow their clothing. Same applies to plants. When a plant becomes top-heavy or its roots begin to grow out of the drainage hole then it is definitely time to repot. Remember to choose a bigger container that has a drainage hole and use suitable potting soil.
- Temperature: Again, every plant has its specific temperature preferences and you need to know what works best with each plant. Young plants are more vulnerable and should be protected to ensure survival. When plants are raised indoors, they should be introduced gradually to outdoor temperatures. Sensitive plants should be wrapped up and protected in winter.
- Food: Plants have varying nutritional needs. The three key elements required for healthy plant growth are Nitrogen (N), Phosphorus (P) and Potassium (K) hence the popular NPK fertilizer used in agriculture. N governs the growth of leaves and shoots, P promotes strong good growth while K is responsible for flowering and fruiting. So you see, you do not want to do without one or the other. Shortage of these nutrients result in deficiency symptoms like stunted or distorted growth and discoloured foliage. So, ensure your plants are well fed by using compost and manures regularly.
- Pests and dust: If your plants get dusty, you can clean them with a soft rag. You may also want to consider moving them to a new location. Organic insecticide soap may help if you like to use them. Alternatively, wash plants off with lukewarm water in your sink or shower.
- Unhealthy growth: Plants do fall ill sometimes. When this happens, use a small pair of gardening shears to trim off excess growth and cut away dead or sick parts of the plant. This will keep the plants looking healthier.
- Weeds: Weeds are the plants enemy and they should be yours too! Weeds steal valuable nutrients and soil space that your plants need to grow and thrive. Pull out all weeds from the roots and check regularly to make sure your plants are weed-free. If you want to keep your plants healthy and happy, you must make weeding a regular part of your plant care routine.
- Pruning & Trimming: From time to time, you should cut off dead flowers, leaves and branches, as well as any other sickly looking part of your plants. At the end of each growing season you are also encouraged to dead-head – cut off the brown flowers and leaves. You can also cut back plants that you feel are getting too big.
- Bugs and Slugs: Beautiful and healthy plants don’t just make you happy. They are equally attractive to insects, slugs and snails who are always in search of food. There are several ways to tackle this such as using organic insecticides or predatory insects that eat up the plant-eating bugs as an all-natural alternative. For instance, nematodes will eat up spider mites while ladybugs will feed on aphids. Fortunately, these predators will not damage or consume your plants. Sprinkling crushed egg-shells around the perimeter will keep off slugs and snails while a bowl of beer will kill them.
- Mulching: A 2-3 inch layer of good mulch like leaves and grass clippings will help your plants retain moisture, regulate soil temperature and keep down weed pressure.
- Safe-guard: Guard your plants jealously and do not allow anyone to tip tea, coffee or other drink into plant containers as this attracts flies and other pests.
- When away: Remember to make adequate arrangements for the care and maintenance of your plants when you need to travel or are unavailable to do it yourself. Plants need regular and consistent care. You can place an inverted perforated container to slowly dispense water to your plants over a certain period.
- Consistency: Plants acclamatise slowly to different conditions and surroundings by changing their leaf orientation and structure. Try to avoid moving plants around too often as they may not adapt very easily.
- Extra Nourishment: In addition, you may want to keep the excess water after you cook potatoes or rice. Allow to cool and give your plants. The starch-rich content will do some good to your green friends.
So, these are a few tips and ways to keep your plants ever-green and bubbling with happiness. What other ways have you learnt to care for your plants and gardens? It will be great to hear about them.