An act of cultivating plants of all varieties for their flowers, foliage, fruits, and appearance is called gardening. This practice extends further and as a part of gardening, people have started growing herbs, vegetables and other stuff required for their consumption or for medicinal and cosmetic purposes. Some people consider gardening as a relaxing activity and invest much time into growing healthy plants.
A garden is a small placce attached to the residence where people grow plants,
but when people are passionate about growing plants and have less space around
them, they tend to create gardens at places like rooftop, atrium, balcony, window
box, patio and vivarium. Gardening is not restricted to these small residential
areas; it can also be done in public places like parks, botanical gardens, tourist
places, hotels etc. Typically gardening can be classified into the following:
Indoor gardening: growing plants in a residence, building or a greenhouse.
Native plant gardening: growing plants in harmony with the environment and conditions of that particular region.
Water gardening: growing plants in ponds or pools e.g. Aquascaping.
Container gardening: growing plants in pots, baskets, planters etc.
Raised bed gardening: growing plants on piles of rotting wood called as hugelkultur.
Community gardening: horticulture activity, mostly undertaken by local government or by nonprofit organizations.
Organic gardening: using natural and sustainable ways of growing crops or plants.
The basic requirements for starting a garden are:
- Choose an appropriate area around the house where sunlight is adequate.
- Determine the type of needed for your plants, I.e. in-ground or raised bed.
- Prepare the soil with organic compost.
- Procure organic seeds from trusted dealers.
- Plant the seeds or seedling.
- Label the area for the type of plants.
Vegetables and annual flower plant seeds should be planted 6 months before the winter season, but there are some vegetables and flowers that can tolerate winter. So, the planting depends greatly on what one is planning to grow in their garden.
Preparing the soil before planting is very important to maintain healthy plants in the garden, the following steps would guide in building a perfect soil base:
- Test the soil to understand its structure and the deficiencies.
- Amend the soil pH so as to avoid the risk of deficiency or toxicity.
- Organic manure addition could release nutrients and increase the microbial activity in the soil.
- Maintain the NPK levels accordingly for the type of plant being grown.
- To fix the soil, accordingly add coarse sand, peat, and compost to clay soil; add humus, manure, sawdust and peat to sandy soil; add coarse sand, gravel, compost to silt soil.
Soaked seeds when sprout with 2 to 3 mm of the root, they should be planted in the soil at a depth of 0.5 to 1 cm with the root facing downwards and doing so will help seeds germinate within 3 to 5 days of sowing.
Two basic things which indicate fertile soil are organic matter and mineral availability. It is important to know that the soil should not be tilled very often otherwise it would disturb the soil structure. Improving the fertility of the soil can be done by:
- Adding manure for nitrogen.
- Preparing rich compost.
- Add organic materials to the soil.
- Plant cover crops.
- Add green manure.
- Add wood ash to the soil.
A block or box-like structure prepared over the ground which is used as a planting area. To build a raised garden bed the following should be done:
- Choose the material with which the garden bed should be made like wood etc.
- Choose the location of the bed such that it receives good sunlight.
- Length of the bed depends on the number of plants one wants to accommodate but depth of the bed should be 6 inches minimum. Some plants may even need 12 inches depth.
- The bed should be filled with topsoil, compost, organic matter, etc. And should be property mulched so that it doesn’t dry easily.
- Water the beds property during early stages of plant growth.
A raised garden bed is restricted space for growing flowers, fruits and vegetables, so in order to provide enough space and adequate soil for root development, the depth of the raised bed is maintained properly. The minimum depth of the soil bed should be around 6 to 8 inches for vegetables like turnips, cucumbers, broccoli, beet, lettuce, etc. but vegetables like cabbage need a depth of 10 inches. Vegetables like tomatoes, carrots, peppers, etc. need a depth of 12 inches to survive. As a general rule of growing vegetables in limited space, it is advisable to leave a space of 2 inches around the sides and 6 inches at the bottom.
Preparing the bed is almost similar to soil preparation and is important because the roots of the plants thrive in this area. There could be a possibility of three types of garden areas such as the new bed, the empty bed, and the existing garden bed.
Rules for preparing new garden beds:
- The soil should be moist while ploughing.
- The soil in the area should be turned over to a depth of 12 inches.
- Compost should be added to it such that it forms 2-3 inches of bed like structure.
- Mulch the bed with grass clippings (3-4 inch layers).
- Add more compost to the garden to preserve moisture.
Transplanting the pot plants into the garden area can be done by:
- Checking the compatibility of the soil, sunlight and temperature requirements.
- Preparing the ground before planting to ensure proper growth.
- Creating pits to hold the entire pot plant along with its roots.
- Planting the plants into the pit by loosening the edges of the root ball.
- Light watering after transplantation.
- Observing its performance closely for about a week.
The depth of the hole for planting depends on the type of plant and its size. Small plants of about 3 inches need a planting depth of 6 to 12 inches; when slightly greater than 3-inch plants need a depth twice the diameter of the existing pot size so as to have plenty of room for roots.
Clay soil is categorized as a heavy soil type and it should be loosened so as to facilitate proper plant growth. Some important ways of improving the clay soil texture are:
- Avoid compaction
- Add organic matter
- Cover it with organic material
- Grow cover crops
- Loosen the soil by adding humus and sand
- Turn the soil upside down
- Add sand for aeration
- Adding gypsum improves aeration and drainage
Sand is considered not good for growing plants because of its inability to retain water and nutrients. Naturally obtained sand has silt and little organic matter which is considered better for plants and it is not the pure form of sand rather it is called sandy loam or loamy sand depending on the amount of sand and silt present in it. Sandy soil needs to be amended according to the plant type acidic soil is added with lime to balance the pH and alkaline sandy soil is added with sulphur to make it neutral.
Seeds that be used for the gardening area are:
Vegetables: broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, eggplant, lettuce, onion, peas, peppers, tomatoes, nerbs, and greens (mustard and coriander) etc.
Flowers: sunflower, marigold etc.
This factor depends on the type of plants one is growing in the garden. Normally, seeds germinate within one or two weeks time and then depending on the maintenance of the garden one can expect to see a garden ready in about 60 to 90 days after planting.
When plants are grown for flowers, fruits or vegetables on the roof of a building, balconies or an the terrace of a home, then it is referred to as terrace garden and this started with space constraints around the home for forming a traditional garden. The advantages of a terrace garden are:
- Reduces the internal room temperature by almost 6-8 degrees.
- Insulates the building from heat and cold conditions.
- The possibility of growing fresh greens and healthy food without the use of chemicals.
- Gives a little physical workout to the owner during cleaning and maintenance.
- Increases amount of fresh oxygen in the air.
- Reduces unnecessary sound or noise around the area.
- Attracts birds of different varieties.
It is estimated that to start a simple terrace garden, the minimum investment for pots, soil, organic manure, garden equipment, seeds or sapling etc. would be around Rs. 15,000.
Planting tap root plants (e.g. Mango) would be a probable risk for a terrace gardener because the roots of such plants penetrate deep into the soil structure and could harm the building, but otherwise planting fibrous root plants do not cause any problem to the building.
For a 1 sqm of the garden area, if one starts growing around 6 varieties of plants, then the produce could range from 25 to 50 kgs in a year approximately.
Some plants that grow indoors in less space, are Aloe Vera, basil, spider plant, snake plant, weeping plant, Areca palm, English ivy, lady slipper orchid etc apart from these vegetables and fruit plants also grow in shade like cabbage, carrots, lettuce, herbs, blackberries, pears, etc.
This depends on many factors like the type of soil, plant requirement, mulching techniques, weather conditions, etc. The general watering count is one to two inches of water every week, but it is important to know that sandy soil holds less water than clay soil and will hence dry early. The best time to water the plants is in the morning or late afternoon so as to avoid evaporation and fungal infections. 2 inches deep watering once is a week is preferable, and shallow watering frequently should be avoided.
To keep the houseplants properly aerated, fresh and healthy, it is advisable to prune or remove the dead leaves, limbs, flowers from the plants. Sometimes even the stem or branches are cut to encourage fresh growth and foliage. The following should be done to prune the plants:
- Use a sharp instrument to cut the parts of the plant because dull scissors would damage the plant.
- Pruning should be done after the growing season has started.
- Cut the diseased or dead part at an angle of 45°.
- Trim the dead flowers off the plant to encourage new bloom.
- The longest branches on the main stem should be cut almost to one-third.
- Never cut the nodules of the plant having new buds.
Growing plants the natural way, I.e. without the use of chemicals or synthetic fertilizer is the main idea of an organic garden. When the ecosystem in which the plants sustain and get nourished is controlled by soil microbes and beneficial insects rather than artificial agents, then it becomes an organic garden.
A method of gardening in which plants are encouraged to grow upward in the vertical space with the help of a frame or a wall. This method utilizes various resources and techniques to grow plants in a particular fashion. Vertical gardening has gained important because of the following:
- It is ideal for people who have limited space available.
- The frame of plants can be designed anywhere around the house without any problem.
- Good for an urban population where greenery is scared.
- Constantly look at the greenery is being developed as a cure for certain types of sickness.
- Improved productivity at work could be noticed with small gardens at home and office.
- A good way to absorb noise because plants act as sound barriers.
- Vertical gardens are a pleasant sight to look at.
- Very fast to create and easy to tend.
- A good source of income.
- Lower the temperature of the surroundings.
- No issues with soil because most vertical structures do not use soil.
- Attracts good flora and fauna.
- The system supports the plant’s natural growth.
These gardens can house a huge variety of plants like:
Foliage: common ivy, boxwood.
Flowers: lavender, hydrangeas, lily geranium.
Succulents: agave, crassula, cacti.
Edible: lettuce, spinach, onions, garlic, and herbs.
The soil in the backyard or garden area can be tested easily without a pH kit. Take one cup of soil from different parts of the garden and put 2 spoonfuls into a separate container and then add half cup vinegar to the soil. If the soil fizzes then it is assumed that the soil has a pH range of 7-8 (alkaline). now if the soil doesn’t fizz, add water and 2 spoons of soil and make it muddy; add half cup baking soda to the muddy mixture to check for fizzes. If fizzes are observed, then the soil is acidic and must be having a pH within a range of 5-6.
Proper nutrient balance can ensure healthy plants and better produce, but every plant has a different fertilizer requirement depending on the season of growth. The fertilization schedule based on the season is given below:
- Summer gardens need fertilizer application during the land preparation process in the previous winter months. A slow release fertilizer NPK (10-10-10) is applied during land preparation and is topped with thick mulch.
- Very little fertilization is required for short duration crops like lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, etc. A quick release NPK 10-10-10 fertilizer is applied during planting or sowing seeds. If liquid form of fertilizer is being used, then it should be applied on the soil surface 4 inches at the base of the plant, but if granules are used, then they should be worked into a depth of 2-4 inches into the soil near the plant.
- Plants growing in the summer season are considered to be heavy feeders, so a quick release fertilizer has to be added to the soil every 3 to 4 weeks. Due to dryness, nutrients are not easily available to the plants and hence it is recommended to add 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt to a gallon of water and supply it at the base of the plant. Doing so increases the mineral absorption capacity of the soil as well as adding magnesium to the plants.
- Once the summer crops are removed, a slow release fertilizer has to be added to the top surface layer before planting new crops. During the fall, if the plants show slow growth a quick release fertilizer is recommended every 4 weeks to boost the growth.
It is estimated that 100 sq ft of the garden area would need 40 pounds of cow manure. It should be applied to the soil before planting and worked into the top 6-9 inches of the soil such that the nutrients mix properly. Fresh manure should be applied during the fall and not during spring or growing season.
It is always advised that preventing the occurrence of a disease is much more important and easier than curing it. The following can be done to prevent diseases:
- Maintaining proper sanitation in and around the garden by trimming and destroyed dead and unhealthy leaves, stems and branches.
- Healthy plants can be maintained in the farm by fertilizing properly and timely.
- Regular inspection of the farm is important to ensure a healthy environment.
- The soil should be allowed to warm before planting.
- Crop rotation can also be healthy for gardens.
- Water the plants only in the morning hours so that they dry before night.
- Mulch the garden bed properly to keep the weeds and soil-borne infestation away.
- Plants should be facilitated with proper air circulation.
- Use biological control measure to keep the insect pests away.
- Any signs of yellowing, browning or diseases should immediately be corrected by removing the diseased parts or foliage from the palnts.
Soil is sterilized to kill the weed seeds and disease causing organisms in the soil. Soil sterilization can be done by oven method, microwave method or sun method. In the sun method, large batches of land can be sterilized at once.
- An area in the garden that receives minimum 6 hours of heat and sunlight is chosen and a clear sheet of plastic is laid over it and it is covered with 4 inches of dirt. This area is sprayed with a generous amount of water.
- Another sheet of plastic is used to cover this area and Is bordered with rocks on the edges.
- It is left in the sun for almost 4 - 6 weeks and in a cold weather for 6 - 8 weeks.
- The dirt is raked every week to ensure that the heat reaches to the soil bed appropriately.
The beneficial insects foe pest control in a garden are a ladybug, praying mantis, spiders, ground beetles, aphid midges, damsel bugs, honey bee, dragonfly and green lacewings.
Some measures to control pests in the garden are:
- Allow beneficial insects in the garden.
- Hand pick the large insects or caterpillar once they are found on the plants.
- Maintain a proper waste management schedule.
- If the infestation is severe, use organic insecticides or pesticides.
- Fence the garden area.
- Use row covers to protect the plants from rodents and small animals.
- Use a lightweight mesh to protect the garden vegetable and fruits from birds and animals.