My grandfather was a 'plant lover'. From the cactus on the table at his office, to the age-old trees that line the road in front of Sir Salimullah Hall- his abode as a student of DU- his passion for plants was wide and varied. Everyday after returning from the office, he would put on his gardening gear- lungi and a tee shirt, armed with his gardening gadgets and head to his garden. It was his respite; even in his dying days he never gave up visiting the green sanctuary that he had himself built with his own hands.
But times have changed. The city is a stifling place. Where there previously used to be lawns and gardens, are now concrete apartment buildings.
A large proportion of us city dwellers don't have the luxury of a sprawling garden, but that should be no impediment to having plants inside our homes. Other than their environmental benefits, plants also beautify a place and lend character to an otherwise droll setting.
Gardening in tropical and humid climates such as ours is an ordeal but once you get the hang of it you will see it more as an adventure and less as a chore. Not all plants are suited for indoor cultivation, but you can easily grow outdoor plants such as Hibiscus, Miscanthus cabaret, New Zealand flax, Cardinal lobelia, Canary reed-grass (ground-cover), Kalanchoe (annual plant), Agave (for sandy well-drained soil) in a patch of land overlooking the patio, if you have one.
However, many tropical plants require some extra care as they perish quite easily if they do not find the favourable conditions in your garden. The trick is to follow some simple, basic rules.
The obvious thing to be careful about is the quality of soil. Tropical plants need well-soaked soil, so make sure that the soil in your garden or flowering pot is capable of retaining moisture for a long time after watering.
Another consideration is the choice of fertilizers. For instance, tropical flower plants should not be supplied with too much of nitrogenous fertilizers; it hampers their normal growth. It increases the growth of the leaves, but decreases the blooming of the flowers. Also, apart from nitrogen rich chemicals, fertilizers containing phosphorus and potash are also recommended for tropical plants. You may use these in minimal quantity, so that they do not hamper the growth of the plants.
As mentioned earlier, not many of us have an outdoor space in which to indulge our gardening aspirations. As a seasoned gardener says, “Plants in the outdoors get a lot of rainfall in our climate, except in the winter. But when plants are indoors, it is very important to keep them hydrated by watering the pots at least once a day. Also important is to remember that plants should be kept close to a light source, preferably by a window, because as we all know green plants cannot survive without sunlight.”
The prevailing temperature is a major factor in determining whether your plants will thrive or wilt. Generally, it is useful to keep your plants outside in the summer, and inside during the winter. Although it is recommended that the plants have some sort of heating during the winter, as frost is undesirable for their normal growth, it is not relevant for plants in Bangladesh because of our mild winters. However, if you live in the northern parts and it gets quite chilly, use a heating source at your own discretion; by then you should have developed quite a green thumb.
It is best not to take too much upon yourself. If you have no prior experience or knowledge of gardening, it is important that you consult and take the advice of someone who has done it before. Information on how much fertilizer to use and what to grow can only be supplied by an experienced gardener who has a firm grasp of local conditions. With so much information at our fingertips, it is quite easy to go online and hunt around for tips, but that must be complemented by sound practical knowledge.
We automatically think that gardening is for someone else to do and that it's too much of a hassle. You may be surprised however, at how easily you grow into the role of gardener once you start doing it. Although it may seem unlikely now, you may even begin to share a bond with the plants that you have nurtured from little saplings; it's only natural.
By STS and Mannan Mashhur Zarif
Photo: Sazzad Ibne Sayed
Tips on Home Gardening
If horticulture is your passion, or you are merely in pursuit to add greenery both in and outside your home, there are certain thumb rules that you must follow. Home gardening, though far from a strenuous task, requires consistent maintenance and nurturing. You must take care of your plants but always remember that 'too much' care often causes more harm than good.
“How much to water?” is an age-old question raised by home gardeners. Too much water floods the plants and cripples them from absorbing the minerals and nutrients from the soil. Whereas insufficient watering dehydrates plants, making the branches limp and lifeless.
The species of your plants plays a role in determining the right amount of water that it requires. A thorough research should be conducted before implementing the necessities. If you feel too lazy to read books and magazines to learn about plant care, at least ask the vendor of the nursery you buy your plants to inform you about plant care.
It is pivotal that the appropriate amounts are showered. One deep watering is much better than watering lightly several times a day. If the weather pertains to hot and humid conditions, a little more than usual water should be sprinkled.
Uninvited moss, grass and mould of various genres take residence in the nearby alleys or on the flower plants in your outside garden. Instead of bending over to tug at the roots of these or scrubbing them off, sprinkle sufficient amount of regular table salt directly on the areas. Salt chokes the life out of these.
Plants and stagnant water bodies are homes to dengue and malaria causing mosquitoes. Remove any water deposits in your gardens as a preliminary precaution to preventing the spread of any disease. Insecticides and pesticides should be sprayed on a regular basis.
Pruning limbs and branches is necessary for a healthy growth and a less disease-prone garden. Air out plants stored within confinements at least once a week to filter out any germs, which might have been dwelling in them.
Consider planting insect repelling plants such as but not limited to-
Ants: mint, tansy, pennyroyal;
Aphids: mints, garlic, chives, coriander, anise;
Squash Bug: radish, marigolds tansy and nasturtium.
These plants have their own chemically designed defence systems and when placed among flowers and vegetables they keep unwanted pests at bay.
By Sanjana Rahman