Hello friends and welcome back!
Every hobby needs some basic supplies and gardening is no different. In this post I will list out some items which are, in my opinion, essential for you to start and tend to your own garden on a regular basis. When I say essential, I mean for those of us who like to get our hands dirty (literally) doing the digging and planting and sowing on our own. Before we delve into the list, remember the most important point – always understand your plants and their needs; everything else revolves around that.
So, let’s get started!
Please click on the pictures to enlarge them.
The first in the list (no prizes for guessing why). There are many options available in materials ranging from plastic to metal to ceramic. You can also recycle at home and use anything with drainage holes as a planter. However, you should consider your climate, your plants and the place where you will put your plant etc. before finalising a pot. Fragility is another consideration, so watch out for pets and small children as well while choosing your pots.
The most popular choice in India remains the age old terracotta (baked clay), and with good reason. Terracotta is porous and allows circulation of air and evaporation of water which cools down the soil and lets the roots breathe. These are important, since the primary season in India is summer and the temperatures soar above 40°C in many parts of the country. Plastic, ceramic and metal containers are not porous and hence, if temperatures go very high where you live and you are planning to put your plants outdoors; terracotta is the best choice for you.
However, if you really want to use those shiny, pretty containers you saw online; you can use them for indoor plants. The inside of the house is cooler and allows you more flexibility. You can also use such containers if you live in a place with more moderate climate.
Pebbles and Drainage:
Any pot you decide to use must have drainage holes. The amount of water needed to soak the soil is enough for the plants and any extra water needs to seep out. If there is standing water in your pot, the roots will rot. While drainage holes are essential, they aren’t enough. You need to put a bed of pebbles for the soil to rest on; otherwise the soil will fall out. Upon watering, the wet soil will clog the holes. You can use anything as long as it serves the purpose. Pieces of broken crockery, broken terracotta pots and old bricks are some things I have used in my pots.
You will most probably get your plants from nurseries in pots, but you need to have your own soil and pots so that you can transplant your plants afresh. The nurseries only need to keep the plants alive till sale and do not put in much effort to plant them in ideal conditions. You should also keep extra soil in case you need to transplant something that’s getting too big for its pot.
Remember: Bigger plant = Larger pot = More soil.
Ascertain the needs of your plants before choosing soil. Plants from arid regions need well draining soil, some plants need soil rich in nutrients so some manure needs to be incorporated. Some plants need high moisture and compact soil with high water retention is best. Read online, or ask your nursery about the plants you have and what kind of soil would be best. You can accordingly alter the configuration of your soil.
Most plants don’t need much manure right away, so mix some compost (cow dung + vegetable waste usually) in your soil when you are just starting out and you won’t need to worry about this for some time. Packets of compost are available at most nurseries; you can keep a few at home to use whenever you need.
Again, the needs of the plant have to be foremost. Read. Talk to your nursery guy. Talk to people who have successfully grown those plants and find out how much extra help your plant needs. Some plants are better left alone, and too much help will result in no flowers (Looking at you, Bougainvillea). Some plants such as Periwinkle are very friendly, and a little goes a long way.
I will write about manures separately; so if you’re looking for more information, stay tuned.
A couple of basic tools, such as a trowel (khurpi in Hindi) and secateurs (pruning shears), are helpful even if not essential.
The soil in your pot sets to a hard mass after many cycles of watering and drying up. You need to dig it up and set it a little loose intermittently to give the roots some breathing room. This is where a trowel is needed. Secateurs are small pruning shears, and will help you shape your plants and remove dead bits. While some of this you can do with hands as well; it is important to make a nice clean cut in some instances, such as when taking cuttings for propagation. Remember to clean and dry your tools after every use.
Gardening gloves are not exactly tools, but are important for those of us who do not fancy sticking bare hands in a pile of compost. Gardening can be tough on hands – I had to trim my nails since the dirt won’t go away. Gloves take care of hands and also protect you from skin irritations some plants might cause. Look for gloves in latex or any other kind of rubber; fabric gloves get stained and also don’t dry fast enough.
So that’s all about essential supplies from my end. Do you think if I’ve missed anything? Do add on to the list, I’d love to hear your views!