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Tired of killing houseplants? Grow a green thumb with these home gardening tips

Updated on: 01 June,2021 06:30 PM IST  |  Mumbai
Nascimento Pinto |

It is not hard to start a home garden but making it thrive requires an understanding of the right amount of sunlight, water and compost. The results are worth all that research and effort, say three expert gardeners from Mumbai

Tired of killing houseplants? Grow a green thumb with these home gardening tips

Ekta Chaudhary, founder, Garden Up. Photo: Ekta Chaudhary

Mumbai-based career coach Srinivas Kulkarni made the most of his love for gardening during his time indoors in quarantine. Kulkarni started his home garden last April, a passion for which the seed had been sown much before, and he is savouring it more than ever now. “I was always interested in gardening but never had the time to do it," he says. "The lockdown helped me implement and spend my time on gardening and so I have managed to do it successfully for the last one year and will continue doing it in the time to come.” In the last one year, he has ambitiously grown broad beans, flat beans, and even okra.

It has been a year of adapting and learning for people in the city and around the world. Those who were previously unable to do justice to their hobbies have built on them during the last 12 months and used that as a distraction from the overwhelming nature of Covid-19. Among the various hobbies, gardening became particularly popular. Many are now growing that skill in full swing, as work-from-home seems to be the new normal. 

Rooftop gardening is easy, believes Kulkarni, because it is not cost-intensive and can be done if one simply follows the basics. While Kulkarni, who is also a talent scout, picked up his hobby seriously in 2020, Talegaon-based Sneha Hanumant Pote has been building her terrace garden for over two and a half years now. The Covid-19 pandemic-induced lockdown took her love for the practice to the next level as she put theory into full-fledged practice. “During the lockdown, I grew all my vegetables at home and used the likes of tomatoes, brinjal and bottle gourd for my dishes. I did not purchase anything from outside except eggs and milk,” explains Pote, who says it is easiest to grow kitchen ingredients. 

Kulkarni and Pote have been experimenting with kitchen ingredients and flowers. Doing your research and knowing the basics of light and water can help you grow these and various other types of indoor houseplants. 

Tomato and brinjal plants growing in Sneha Pote's terrace garden in Talegaon. Photo: Sneha Pote 

Understanding sunlight and water

Mumbai-based Ekta Chaudhary, founder of Garden Up, a gardening education and retail company, says, "Look at the kind of sun conditions you have in your home because it is the one factor that cannot be moved around, while you can take care of the watering and fertiliser needs of your plant."

Chaudhary, who has a PhD in Ecology, advises that it is best to avoid the harsh afternoon sunlight for plants and try starting with the snake plant, Zeezee plant, Pothos (Devil’s Ivy), and any kind of phylodendron before building your green thumb. However, if you live in a place with a lot of sunlight, then it is best to experiment with vegetables as they require a lot of it. Kulkarni and Pote clearly seem to be winning that game. 

Pote, who is a former Vasai resident and now has the luxury of having her own terrace garden, says there are many challenges while trying to grow plants while living in an apartment because it not only has less sunlight but also less space. She is now a successful home gardener of over 60 pots including vegetables and her favourite flowers. 

From her personal experience, she explains, “Gardening at home isn’t limited to watering your plants. If you have put the seeds, make sure you don’t crowd the pot as they each require a place to grow and breathe. So, only add one or two seeds.” 

Over-watering is another concern that most beginners face and Pote advises to put only enough water so that the mud remains wet and is able to drain out easily. 
Chaudhary similarly warns beginners. “Be cautious of the kind of plant you have and the water conditions it requires. Is it a 'zerophyte' that prefers lesser water like the succulents or is it a 'mesophyte', which likes watering whenever the soil dries, or is it a plant that really enjoys wet feet?”

Care for compost
After figuring out sunlight and moisture, it is time to move to compost. Pote osberves, “It is important to add a little compost every 15 days to help the plant grow or it will not last long.” Pote makes her own compost at home and stores it in unused pots for about three months. 

“I never discard my dry kitchen waste and instead use it to make compost. It includes onion skins, tomato waste and any other kind, which is mixed with a little water and peat,” she adds. Adding the water extracted from onion skins, after it is soaked for a few hours, to the mud in her pots is one of her own helpful tricks to grow plants successfully.

Srinivas Kulkarni's home garden. Photo: Srinivas Kulkarni

What you can grow and why
While Pote says growing vegetables is easy, Kulkarni says if one wants to go beyond that, growing ornamental, bamboo and snake plants is also not difficult as they can be planted indoors as well as outdoors. 

Flowers like marigold and roses are easier than most others. Lemongrass and money plants are convenient to grow. Lemongrass and marigold are known to help prevent insects/pests and nurture other plants too. Concurring with both, Chaudhary recommends starting with a mix of both and with methi (fenugreek), coriander, mustard, tomatoes, which are best for the current weather conditions.

It isn’t always necessary to have pots and plant bags. Bottles and canisters at home are more than enough to start with gardening indoors, say the experts. “The key is to take small steps to know how much water, sunlight, and periodical doses of fertiliser are needed, and to keep the plant in a decluttered environment. A lot of times, people get lazy and clutter the balcony gardens with random stuff. It is important to be minimalistic,” informs Kulkarni. 

For those starting out, Chaudhary has a simple suggestion, “Let the plants be and give them time to acclimatise themselves with the surroundings. Beginners also tend to overwater their plants. To avoid it, inspect the soil and see if it is completely dry or there is a chance you will suffocate the roots through that.” However, she says it is important to use well-draining soil and prepare the soil in such a way that the mixture allows good drainage. Make sure the water doesn’t stand on top of the pot, which means that the soil is thick and will suffocate the roots. 

Last but not the least, Pote highlights that it is important to know when is the right time to repot your plants so that they get enough space to grow and thrive.

Also Read: Are computer snags breaking your work-from-home routine? Experts share hacks for making tech tick

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