Hindustan Times (Chandigarh) - City

Newbie gardeners

Plants need a little care but can change the mood of any space at home

- Farozan Akhtar farozan.akhtar@htlive.com

If you’ve created your own little green haven on your balcony, you would be aware of its therapeuti­c benefits.

Amid the hustle and bustle of city life, a few hours spent amid Nature can feel like a spa retreat for your mind and soul.

However, growing plants, even on the balcony or inside the house, has its share of challenges, especially for newbies at gardening.

What works for one plant may not work for another, so keep learning through observatio­ns, experiment­s and research.

Balcony gardening enthusiast­s assure us it’s not rocket science.

KNOW YOUR GARDEN SPACE

llllSee how much space your balcony has, and the duration and strength of sunlight it receives. Choose plants to grow based on that. Consider future space requiremen­ts of a plant. It may be a tiny sapling when you bought it, but will it get too big for your balcony later?

Smaller vegetables, flowers, and herbs suit balcony spaces better — spinach, tomato, chilli, basil, rosemary, beans are good options to grow edibles.

Maximise garden space with hanging planters, railing planters and window boxes. Picking plants native to your area can make your life very easy.

llPlace plants with similar needs together. For example, plants like pothos, monstera, syngonium, etc have similar needs and so do snake plant, aloe vera, peace lily and ZZ plant. It will be easier to remember which section of your garden needs how much water. If you’re planting seeds, label the pots.

DIY PLANT FOOD

llllCompos­t your kitchen waste for some extra nutritious and inexpensiv­e food for your plant babies. Collect food waste into a compost bin, add soil and let it sit covered for about two months.

Soak a handful of onion peels (only the outer skin) in one litre of water. Cover and leave in the shade or indoors for 24 hours in summers and 48 hours in winters. Strain the water the following day and use it directly on the soil or as a foliage spray.

Banana peels are excellent for growth of fruits and flowers. Put banana peels (whole or chopped) onto a large plate and let them dry in the sun. Crush them up and add to your soil. Grind cleaned and dried egg shells, and mix this into the soil. It takes several months to break down so don’t add it very frequently.

DIY PEST CONTROL

Remember, not all insects are pests. Good insects, such as bees and ladybugs, are also natural predators who kill or drive away unwanted insects. Mix of two teaspoons of neem oil, one teaspoon of mild liquid soap with one quart of water. Shake well, spray on the plants affected by common garden pests.

Yellow sticky pads, inexpensiv­e and available in stores and online, can be placed around plants to trap flies, aphids, etc. The bright colour attracts the bugs who then stick to the adhesive.

For infestatio­ns, make a paste with 500g each of green chillies, ginger and garlic. Mix it in one litre of water. Keep it in a jar overnight. Spray this on foliage.

lllMONSOON CARE

Check drainage of pots, and ensure that the bottom of the pot or planter has a proper, unclogged hole. Remove the pot plate as they hold excess water in monsoon. Cover plants that are most exposed to the harsh wind and rain, with transparen­t plastic sheets. Rearrange your pots so plants which don’t like too much water, such as succulents, are away from the edge of the balcony.

After a heavy shower, tilt the pots to pour out excess water

Change watering schedule during the monsoon. If the plants have enough water, courtesy the rain, skip watering for some days.

(Inputs by plant geeks and gardening enthusiast­s Ann Mathews, Dipti Mudaliar, Pranav Sukhija and

Megha Chauhan)

lllll

 ?? PHOTO: SHUTTERSTO­CK (FOR REPRESENTA­TIONAL PURPOSE ONLY) ?? CHEAT SHEET FTW!
PHOTO: SHUTTERSTO­CK (FOR REPRESENTA­TIONAL PURPOSE ONLY) CHEAT SHEET FTW!

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