Tuesday, September 4, 2012

When Growing Flowering Plants From Seed

A lovely ensemble of flowers is something every gardener wishes and longs for. Growing flowers from seed is one of the most economical and effective way of fulfilling that desire. A vast variety of flowering plants, both perennials as well as annuals can be cultivated from seed, that too, at a healthy pace. Growing flowering plants like Sunflowers, Marigold and Roses from seed is relatively easy, and is fast becoming a popular practice. The reason lies in the market prices of young plants, which is often more than a hundred times the price of individual seeds! Also, gardening from seed allows one to grow even those varieties that aren’t easily available at the local garden centers.

Most seed packets come with labels bearing details of the care and conditions the seeds require. Commercially available starting mediums are ideal for sowing your plant seeds. Moisten the mix at least an hour before sowing. The sowing depth varies with the type of seed and should be in accord with the details on the seed packet. Water lightly after sowing and cover with a plastic sheet or dome. Most new seedlings are pretty identical. It’s hence advisable to label the containers when sowing. Irrigate regularly to fulfill the seeds’ need for moisture while making sure not to over water. Once the seeds germinate, remove the plastic cover. Seedlings generally require ample sunlight for growth. You can use fluorescent lamps or other artificial means to provide the seedlings with the desired amount of light and temperature conditions. Start fertilizing the plants when they’ve grown at least 2 sets of true leaves. Use a good quality fertilizer and feed the plants once a week. You can also remove the young plants to individual pots in order to facilitate the hardening process. Start by allowing the plants a couple of hours in a sheltered spot of your garden. Increase the duration of their time outside over the course of about 2 weeks before transplanting them into the garden.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Basics of Bonsai

An eight year old with a handful of G.I. Joes, I was always on a look out for newer terrains to keep adding my own little chapters to the never ending battle between good and evil. The old study table, bedroom floor, bath tub… these were just some of my preferred ‘battlegrounds’. My favorite was mom’s little Bonsai garden. The bonsai conifers and maples were just perfect for ‘jungle battles’! Sure, I wasn’t even allowed to lay a finger on those ‘precious plants’, doesn’t mean I didn’t. Unfortunately, that also doesn’t mean I never got caught, but that’s another story! My point is- I’ve been fascinated by bonsai ever since I was eight and although it’s become very popular over the last decade or so, I always considered bonsai gardening a tough nut and didn’t try my hands at it until last year. As it turned out, I wish I’d started earlier!

The ancient Japanese art of growing miniature trees and plants does call for some care and dedication, but it allows you to create some truly wonderful spectacles! Bonsai is often confused with Dwarfing, but one has absolutely nothing to do with the other. While dwarfing pertains to developing dwarf trees by means of genetic modification, the essence of bonsai lies in growing small sized trees and plants from regular seed and stock, employing techniques like leaf trimming, root reduction, selective pruning, defoliation and grafting. Virtually all perennial woody trees and shrubs can be used for bonsai. While the material of container is a matter of personal preference, its volume shouldn’t ideally exceed 10 liters. Once your bonsai trees reach their planned final size, the container environment serves to restrict further growth.

Regular, careful irrigation is one of the most important aspects of bonsai care. Along with watering, fertilization and composition of soil too, needs to be specialized to the cultural needs of the bonsai plant. You’ll also be required to re pot your bonsais as they gain in age and vigor.

Remember, the true aim of bonsai is creating a miniature replica of a full grown tree or plant. Keep your goals in mind at all times, have some patience and you’ll do wonders!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Growing Carrots in Containers

Lack of growing space is one factor that obstructs the realization of many a gardening goal. And it can be frustrating as hell! Fortunately, there is a way around this hurdle- innovation! Container gardening is one of the most obvious applications of lateral thinking. The long list of plants that can be successfully grown in containers features many that can surprise you. One of them is Carrot. Carrots, along with tomatoes and pepper are amongst the most popular plants in home gardens. Not many, however, know how easy it is to grow carrots in containers. Take a look.

You can start carrot seeds indoors in a container that’s about15 inches in diameter and 12-13 inches deep. Fill the container with quality potting soil and sprinkle the seeds. Top the seeds with a ¼ inch layer of soil and apply water. Carrot seeds usually take 2-3 weeks to germinate. Make sure you keep the soil moist throughout this period. Once the seedlings grow 2-3 inches tall, thin them such that they’re at least an inch apart.

Caring for carrots isn’t difficult. Place the container at a location that gets at least 5-6 hours of full sun every day, irrigate on a regular basis and fertilize them every 3 weeks, preferably with a liquid organic fertilizer. Carrots will be ready to be harvested within 60-80 days from sowing the seeds. Loosen the soil around the carrots using a garden fork and pull them out.

Growing carrots in containers is a simple process that, while it helps save space also allows you to produce healthy, delicious food for your household. So what are you waiting for? Start now!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Best for Containers- Eggplants

Eggplants in containers? You’ve got to be kidding me!” These, if memory serves me right, are the exact words I uttered when I'd first heard the idea of growing eggplants in containers. I’d chanced upon one of my not too friendly neighbors while out for a jog and had struck a conversation about vegetable gardening. I figured he was just pulling my leg or trying to slow me down- he was struggling to keep up with me. God! I was wrong! After having debated the subject for almost half an hour, I expressed my eagerness to check out his container garden. Hard as I’ve tried, I have, to this day, been unable to forget the disturbing, triumphant guffaw he’d let out as I gaped at that astonishing sight- gorgeous eggplants growing in a 3 gallon container!

It wasn’t too long before I took up the challenge myself. And to be honest, growing eggplants in a container turned out to be a surprisingly simple activity. Here’s an account of my own little success story.

I started eggplant seeds indoors about 8 weeks from the last frost date. I filled the tray with sterile potting mix and planted the seeds. Eggplant seeds should be planted shallow, with no more than ¼ inch of soil covering them. I covered the tray with a plastic sheet and placed it on top of the refrigerator. My main focus was on keeping the soil moist at all times. The seedlings emerged within 2 weeks of planting and I heaved a sigh of relief. I removed the plastic and moved the tray to a sunny window. I started fertilizing eggplants right after they developed a couple of pairs of leaves. I used a 5-10-10 fertilizer and decided to feed the plants every week. It turned out to be the right strategy- the seedlings were soon big enough to be moved to individual containers. I picked 5 gallon containers for my eggplants, spread them along the sunlit sidewalk and irrigated them on a regular basis.  

Growing eggplants from seed is a rewarding process, even for those with a limited growing space. Give it a go!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Best For Containers: Begonias

In a world brimming with color and beauty, where every passing day witnesses the introduction of newer varieties, it’s quite rare for a particular plant to retain its appeal for long. Begonia is one such rarity! This remarkable plant, with its flashy flowers and vibrant foliage comes from the family Begoniaceae and is a wonderful choice for containers and pots. Here’s some information on how you can grow begonia plants in containers.

When growing begonias from seed, sprinkle the seeds on the surface of the medium and mist the surface to help the seeds settle down. Use a plastic or glass sheet to cover the seeds and place them at a shaded spot. Begonia seeds can take up to 2 weeks to germinate. Move them to a bright spot and keep the medium moist at all times. If growth is slow, you can use a balanced fertilizer to feed the plants.

Once the seedlings are strong enough, move them to individual containers. Choose a pot or container with drainage holes at its bottom. If you’re using a pre used container, I’d recommend you sterilize it before planting begonias. Make sure to irrigate begonia seedlings deeply, immediately after planting.

Begonia plants can thrive in both sunny and partially shaded locations and can hence be utilized for hanging baskets, table decorum and other ornamental purposes. Irrigate the young plants on a regular basis. Once the plants establish, you only need water them when the soil feels dry to touch. Fertilize begonia plants once a month, with a standard liquid fertilizer. Potted begonias need to be kept clean in order to prevent diseases and insect build up. Cut off begonia flowers when they fade. Also, remove the dead leaves on a regular basis.

Growing begonias is a fairly simple process. These beauteous plants have a delightful presence, fit for every household and garden!

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Best for Containers- Basil Plants

Basil Siam Queen
Basil is one herb you can find in almost every kitchen! Integral to a number of recipes savored across the world, this perennial herb is a great option for every home garden. Growing basil in containers is both economical and easy. Also, it’s a fun filled way of ensuring that only safe, best tasting food makes it to your plate.

You can start basil seeds indoors 4-6 weeks from the final frost date for your region. Check the seed packet for details of the right planting depth, spacing and temperature range for basil seeds. Basil seeds take about 7-10 days to germinate. Make sure you irrigate on a regular basis so the seeds can get all the moisture they require. After the seedlings develop 3-4 pairs of true leaves, you can transplant them to individual containers. 

An 8 inch container with sufficient drainage holes is perfect for growing basil plants. Fill in with good quality container soil, up to a couple of inches from the top of the container. Dig a hole that can accommodate the plant’s roots with ease. Set the seedling into the hole and refill. Water thoroughly.

Basil plants will do best at a site where they can get full sun for 5-6 hours a day. Mulch the young plants, using a mix of straw, chopped leaves and other organic materials. This will keep away the roots and help in retention of moisture.

Basil plants thrive on moist conditions but have a known dislike for standing water. I’d suggest you water the plants deeply whenever the soil appears to be drying up. Pinch off the tops of new shoots, along with basil flowers. This will encourage faster growth.

Growing basil in containers involves little care and lesser effort. But it’s very rewarding! Start now.