Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Volume 1, Issue 13, Tuesday, August 26, 2003







i dream of green...

MY mother had a green thumb, and that is one of the things she's passed on to me," says Rita, a housewife. "Whenever I feel really stressed out, or burdened with worries about any pressing issue, I just grab a spade and get down to some gardening. An hour's worth of honest hands-on work is all it takes to smooth the frustration away, and moreover, the sight of so much green is so soothing."

Rita is lucky enough to have a small yard where she can exercise her gardening creativity, but many of us are denied that luxury. More people than ever live in flats which have very little open space, and hardly any scope for gardening. Even for these people, gardening can be an option…if they grow potted plants. "I prefer to grow money-plants, because they require very little sunlight and management. Just keep them supplied with water, and you can build your own mini-garden" says Nasser Ahmad, who lives all by himself, and maintains a very tight schedule that leaves little room for hobbies.

Many banks, stores and restaurants have used innovational gardening techniques to make good use of whatever open space they have. The USIS centre, has a paved walkway leading to the main building, bordered by a strip of land, where money-plants are grown on the ground, and made to wind around huge fruit trees, creating an effect of a controlled profusion of greenness.

If you happen to venture into the Arirang restaurant in Gulshan-2, for Korean food, you'll find that the parking lot is designed to look like an Oriental yard, with a huge open space, bordered by an assortment of trees and shrubs. How the open space is designed has an important impact on the whole ambience of the exterior of the building. A well-maintained patch of green outside a bank, using a variety of low-maintenance grasses and herbs to create an interesting aesthetic effect, can act as an effective marketing strategy, creating the impression that the bank pays attention to detail.
Coming back to gardening as a hobby, there are many ways to utilize space and resources in order to create a garden. Good planning is essential to successful gardening. Start your garden off right by selecting a location that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight daily. Check the site for good drainage by making sure water doesn't tend to stand after a rain or irrigation. Try to steer clear of trees and shrubs that would compete with your garden plants for water, light and nutrients.

Once you've selected your site, sketch your plans on paper. Decide how big the garden will be, what crops you want to grow and where to place them. Beginners have a tendency to go overboard, not realizing how much work lies ahead. It's best to start out small and gradually add to your patch each year as needed.

Before heading out to the garden to plant, you'll need to gather some tools and properly prepare the soil. A spade, a steady water supply, strings and stakes are about the minimum tool supply you'll need. It's a good idea to have your soil tested as early as possible to learn how much of what kind of fertilizer to apply.

Most seed packages will list planting directions such as depth and spacing. When setting out transplants, be sure to dig a hole larger than the soil ball of the plant to aid root establishment. Most transplants are sold in containers that must be removed before planting. Transplants dry out and wilt rapidly, so be sure to get those transplants watered thoroughly as soon as possible.

The job doesn't end with planting. There are always weeds, insects and diseases to battle. There are numerous cultural types of controls and preventive measures along with chemicals. No one chemical will control all problems on all crops, so you'll need to identify your problem correctly and then choose the proper control. A pesticide is not necessarily always the best method.

Here are some handy tips for special considerations, courtesy of some garden experts:

If you have big trees in your garden, chances are, you won't be able to grow much grass, since very little sunlight reaches the ground. Opt for rocky beds to form a wide border around the boundary of your garden. Line the border with rocks or pebbles, according to taste (you can even paint these, to add color), and fill the beds with plants that grow in the shade, like sweet alyssum, snapdragon, wax begonia, basketflower, coleus, Chinese forget-me-not, columbine, cyclamen, day lily, and foxglove, which grow in partial shade. Plants like lily-of-the-valley, dwarf forget-me-not, bluebell, various ferns, wild ginger, Kenilworth ivy, ground ivy, and creeping buttercup grow in full shade, so you could use them too. Before planting these recommended shrubs, flowers, and ground cover, check with the nearest nursery to find out which of these plants will grow in our climate, and whether they're available locally. If possible, get your soil tested, to find out whether it would be compatible with these plants.

If you have shortage of water, choose plants that are known for their drought resistant properties. Perennials (plants that grow all year round) for this purpose include some of these favorites: Yarrow, butterfly weed, coreopsis, gillardia, blanket flower, oriental poppy, balloon flower, black eyed susan, sedums, hollyhocks, artemesia, baby's breath, lambs ear. Favorite annuals (seasonal plants) for dry areas include marigold, zinnia, geranium, dusty miller, portulacas, salvia, nicotiana and sunflowers. If you want to be daring, experiment with cacti. Again, check with your local nursery before you start.

If you have a few big trees, but absolutely no space to build a garden in, do what my mother does: train creepers like money-plant, orchid, and lilies to grow around the tree. Add variety by hanging potted plants from the branches of the trees, and viola! You have your own 'hanging garden'.

Whether you're working with a big yard or just a small collection of potted plants in your veranda, gardening is a rewarding experience, especially when your pet plant sprouts flowers for the first time. As housewife Fatma Ahmad puts it, "There's no better way to get in touch with your roots…literally."

By Sabrina F. Ahmad;
Photo Zahedul I Khan

nursery news

IN Bangladesh, there are lot of nurseries where the flower lovers can get a whole variety of options to choose from. People can even find flowers such as rose, tuberose, gladiola, anthorium, gerbera, hibiscus bushes and many more to choose from. The nursery that is located in Baridhara is a great place to visit. It has an impressive collection of flowers and green plants that will leave you totally spellbound. There are bonsai that cost about TK 2000, plants such as Spider lily at about TK10 per packet, Shotomul about TK 150, Bashok, a rare medicine plant, Chinese banyan costs about TK 100, hybrid kamranga (star fruit) around TK 120, Chinese guava at TK 200, Australian fern between TK 400-500. You can also find other plants like water lily, which is a good bargain at TK 200, cactus of about TK 300, bamboo plants of about TK 80.

You can even find indoor plants of interesting shapes and colours between TK 100 -300, which can be used to decorate your houses. The seeds in this nursery basically come from India. Md Hasan and Shohodeb Sarkar are the two workers who have been working in this nursery for almost about 12 to 13 years. They are very dedicated in their work and spend most of their time taking care of the green plants and giving them life. In this nursery during the winter season you can find flowers such as dantus, hollyhocks, cosmos, daisy, helikusum, poppy, aster, dahlia, salvia, Chinese plants and many more other species of flowers. The place is located beside Baridhara Lake and is a place worth visiting.

The art of home gardening

To provide the optimum growing conditions, and to avoid disease and insect problems, seeds should be started in a culture medium, not in garden soil.

Since an optimum temperature is essential for germination, ensure that your seeds are kept warm. You can place the containers on top of a warm refrigerator, television, or keep them in a warm room until the seeds germinate.

Once the seeds begin to sprout, make sure they are exposed to light. Seedlings are ready to be transplanted in soil within three or four weeks. The sooner your plants are put into individual cells with plenty of root space, the happier they will be.

Moisture is another important factor. The soil should be moist but not soggy to prevent the seeds from rotting.

Your seedlings will be much happier if you water them with room-temperature water rather than ice-cold tap water.

Higher humidity levels and poor air circulation can lead to fungus growth on the soil surface and disease problems. If the air in your house is very dry, you can keep your seedlings happy by setting them on capillary matting, or in a waterproof tray filled with small stones and a little water. If your plants are in a small room, you may consider running a small fan to keep the air circulating.

Once your seedlings develop their second set of true leaves, it is time to start feeding them. Young seedlings are very tender and can't tolerate a full dose of fertilizer. Give them a half-strength dose until they are three or four weeks old.

After that, you should start full-strength fertilizing every week or two. Since your seedlings are growing in a sterile, soil-less medium, fertilizing them is absolutely critical. For best results, use an organic fertilizer, such as urea, which contains trace elements to ensure that seedlings get all the major and minor nutrients.

You may need to transplant your seedlings into larger pots if they start to get crowded and it's still too early to put them outdoors. Don't wait until the plants are a tangle of foliage and roots. The less you rip and tear, the better your plants will survive the move.

When handling tiny seedlings, grasp them by their leaves or roots. Avoid holding them by their stems, which are fragile and can be easily crushed or bent.

By Sarah Zermin Huq


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