For a beginner, gardening may seem quite difficult, especially after experiencing or seeing people fail at it. It is also easy to assume some people have a green thumb while others do not. Before giving up, every beginning gardener needs to know and appreciate that anyone can be successful at gardening, as long as he understands the needs of the plants he intends to plant. Different plants thrive under different conditions. The type of soil, watering patterns, plant growth and care needed all influence the growth and productivity of plants.
What do plants need?
All living things rely on the sun as the main source of energy. Plants especially need the sun for photosynthesis. Plants produce their own source of food to grow and survive. For the photosynthesis process to be complete, the plant needs water, gasses from the atmosphere and sunlight. A combination of these results in the production of glucose which is the fuel needed by plants to grow and be productive. If the energy from the sun is insufficient for the plant, the photosynthesis process slows down.
Without water, the photosynthesis process would be hampered. The plants will not be able to produce the food needed for growth. The hydrogen in water plays a vital role in the production of glucose. For the stems of the plants to remain firm, water is very important. The leaves will begin to shrivel and droop if the plant does not get sufficient water.
Plants need the minerals and vitamins found in soil for a healthy growth. The only way the plants will be able to fully utilize these nutrients is when the nutrients are dissolved in water and thereafter absorbed by the roots of the plants. Water is also important in the development of roots. Poorly developed roots will result in the poor growth of the plant
Plants need different nutrients for a healthy growth. The deficiency of any of the crucial nutrients will result in an unhealthy growth.
- Nitrate, which is the form of nitrogen utilized by plants, helps in boosting the growth of foliage. It plays an important role in the leaf development process and the production of chlorophyl which is responsible for the green color of leaves.
- Potassium helps in the retention of water and is important during the initial growth of plants. It is also vital in fighting disease and insect attacks on plants.
- Phosphorus boosts the growth of roots and flowers. It is also a vital component in the protection of the plants from harsh environmental conditions that would otherwise affect the growth and productivity of the plants.
- Magnesium is a very important component in the production of chlorophyll. It also helps in the activation of enzymes which aid in protein synthesis and growth. The most obvious sign that there is insufficient supply of magnesium in a plant is when the leaves begin to yellow with visible green veins.
- Sulfur is an essential mineral to plants. It helps in the formation of enzymes that aid in the formation of plant proteins. It also plays an important role in protecting the plants from diseases. The growth and formation of seeds is also reliant on sulfur. Although sulfur is only required in small amounts, its deficiency results in the poor health of the plants.
- Calcium is key in the development of plant cells. It holds the walls of plants cells together resulting in the healthy growth of tips of roots, young leaves and shoot tips. Inadequate supply of calcium leads to the poor growth of new plant tissues. The best way to find out if your plants have insufficient calcium is by looking at how new leaves and buds develop. If they look distorted or withered, it is likely that the plants are lacking calcium.
Soil stores the nutrients needed by plants to grow. It provides support for the roots and retains the moisture needed by the plants for a healthy growth.
When planting, it is important to know how much space the plants need to be healthy. Plants need space to avoid competing for nutrients. The space needed varies depending on the plants grown. When crowded, plants compete for nutrients. This affects the fruit and vegetable size. The yield from the plants will also be greater when there is adequate space. When it comes to plants that develop bulbs, such as onions and beetroots, the more the room, the bigger the bulb size. If you would like medium sized bulbs, then the plants need to be moderately spaced.
The care needed by plants vary. Some plants need to be watered more frequently than others. The type of soil and factors such as shading also determine how frequently you need to water the plants. Some plants also need to be pruned at a particular age to boost growth while others do not need pruning. It is therefore important to understand the needs of the plant for you to be able to give it the care it needs. What all plants need though, is regular weeding. Weeds when left to grow will compete with the plants for nutrients. This will affect the growth and productivity of the plants.
Where should you put a plant?
The decision whether to plant under full sun, partial sun or shade depends on the plant and the care demands. If the plant needs regular watering, it may be best to place it under partial sun to reduce evaporation. Some plants, however, do well under full sun. When placed under partial sun or shade, they start to droop and wither. Understanding what full sun, partial sun and partial shade means will help you plan on where to put your plants.
- Full sun means the plant will be exposed to at least 6 hours of direct sunlight. Depending on the position of the garden, those hours could be in the morning or later in the afternoon.
- Partial sun means the plant is exposed to between 3 and 6 hours of sunlight. The rest of the time, the plant is under partial shade either from a tree or shade.
Importance of wind to plants
The direction of wind plays a crucial role in the growth of plants. Plants need carbon dioxide in the photosynthesis process. Wind increases the movement of gasses, and with adequate sunlight and water, plants are able to produce their own food through improved photosynthesis resulting in improved growth. It is however important to note that strong winds can cause damage to plants. Some of the negative impacts of strong winds on plants are;
- Damage to the shoots of plants.
- Premature dropping of flowers and fruits
- Uprooting of plants with shallow roots
- Soil erosion
Important gardening tools
Gardening tools are important for every gardener. As a beginning gardener, it is important for you to get the right tools to make your life easier and your gardening effective. Some of the vital tools for a gardener are;
- Garden Trowel is great for transplanting plants and possibly weeding areas closest to the plant so as to avoid causing damage to the plant. When getting a garden trowel, it is important to get one that fits comfortably in your hand. The handle needs to have a well fitted blade, that won’t come lose easily.
- Garden Knife comes in handy when trimming fruits, vegetables, cutting strings and flowers among other gardening jobs that require a sharp blade.
- Garden Secateurs is handy when it comes to prunning
- Hoe is great when you are breaking new ground to establish your garden
- Golden Gark is great for raking, shoveling and sifting soil without much effort
- Garden scissors make it easier when it comes to opening seed packets, potting soil bags, snipping herbs as well as removing deadhead flowers.
How to deal with weeds?
Weeds are every gardener’s nightmare. However, there are several ways of managing them so that they do no affect the growth and productivity of your plants.
- Mulching is a great way of slowing down the growth of weeds. This is because weeds need light and air to grow. Besides controlling weed growth, mulching keeps the soil cool and retains moisture which helps to boost the growth of the plants.
- If you can, use alternative means of watering where only the plant is watered, while depriving weeds of water.
- Hand pick the weeds, especially when the ground is wet.
How to keep insects and animals from your garden
Although there are chemicals available in the market to deal with insects and animals, it is important to try organic solutions. Some chemicals end up causing harm to the plants even though they actually get rid of your insect problem. Some of the organic solutions you can try out are;
- Sprinkle cornmeal near ant hills to egt rid of ants. They will eat it but will be unable to digest it.
- To get rid of Aphids, puree onions to create a solution. Using a spray bottle, mist the plants which have been attacked by aphids.
- Scarecrows come in handy when it comes to keeping birds away from your garden.
- Using cayenne pepper spray will keep animals like raccoons and some insects from your garden since they cannot stand the smell
- Woodpiles and and over grown shrubs close to the garden serve as nesting grounds for rodents. Getting rid of these could help reduce the attack on your plants.
- Cover any compost pits and garbage bins as these provide a feeding area for rats and rodents.