Friday, May 27, 2016

Gardening tips for idiots

It’s only been recently when I joined an online gardening group that I’ve picked up a few tips on plants. Before that, I kind of just planted them, watered and fertilized them. Occasionally I changed the soil, using a standard potting mix that I bought in the nurseries or hardware stores. Now that I’ve been reading plant blogs and you tube videos, I’m beginning to realize that, idiot that I am, I don’t know anything about plants! Like you should use a cactus mix instead of normal potting mix for succulents. No wonder all of mine died!

Someone shared a theory (or superstition) with me that plants won’t survive in the northeast corner, don’t ask me why. I’ve test it out and yes, plants that I’ve placed in the northeast corner of my balcony don’t do well. I’ve told a few others about this and they also concurred.

Through trial and error, I now know a few tips and hints about gardening that seem to work for me and my plants.

I use a general fertilizer by Miracle Gro. It’s pricey but I don’t need to use too much of it since I only have a balcony of plants. I’ve taken to supplementing that with a seaweed fertilizer which is supposed to provide minerals, vitamins and enzymes that are natural growth stimulants. They fuel the plant cells’ growth, resulting in healthier, stronger and more disease-resistant plants. I just soak a little bit of dried seaweed in water for about a day or two, and dilute the seaweed liquid in my watering can. The proportion is (give or take) about 2 tablespoons of seaweed liquid to a liter of water.

I also found another concoction on the internet which includes epsom salt which is supposed to be great for promoting greener plants. Here’s the recipe:
1/2 tbp baking soda
1/2 tbp apple cider vinegar
1 tbp epsom salt
1 lit water

I’ve tried these few fertilizers and my plants seem to be happy with them. Um, well I think they’re happy because none have died on me yet.

Rather than buying standard soils and potting mixes, I’m now making my own, using about 3 parts compost to 1 part each of cocopeat and perlite. I don’t have a proper garden so making my own compost is out of the question. But again, because I don’t have that many plants, buying the compost isn’t all that expensive.

I do get visits from pests occasionally, mostly aphids. I’ve used a commercial pesticide to get rid of the critters, although I intend to spray a more eco-friendly neem oil/dishwashing liquid mixture the next time my plants are attacked.

Every time I start puttering around with my plants, I naturally get dirt under my fingernails which can sometimes be difficult to get rid off. A neat trick I read about is to scratch your nails over a bar of soap before you do any gardening. That way, dirt won’t be able to get under your nails, and you can just wash off the soap later. I should really use the cute gardening gloves I received  as a present but they're still in their box!

This crazy plant lady not only talks to my plants, I also pamper them by wiping their leaves! It gets really dusty on my balcony, especially in the hot, dry season. So occasionally I’ll wipe the leaves with some milk, which is supposed to promote glossy growth!

My dream has always been to own a little house surrounded by a garden, preferably by a scenic lake somewhere. When I visit more temperate countries, I ogle at little cottages with flowers growing profusely in baskets, apple trees and lavender bushes. Meanwhile, when my cousin visits me from Canada, she oohs and aahs over the tropical plants she sees here, like orchids and bougainvilleas. I guess it’s human nature never to be satisfied with what we have. I just need to look at all my pots of greenery to be thankful that at least some plants have taken root and are growing profusely for me.

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