Saturday, October 23

Gardening made easy for the New Year


Having the right garden tools can simplify the gardening process.

QUITE often I have been asked how to do simple and easy home gardening. I have a new neighbour who is keen to grow some vegetables in the backyard. The problem encountered was a lack of good soil and lots of weeds.

To simplify things, I suggested using polystyrene boxes or just polybags and arranging them on the ground. To be better for the environment, my neighbour has started to make compost for her gardening purposes.

I have also wanted to enlarge the space for growing vegetables around the cemented area. The way to achieve a planting bed is by bordering the space with planks and blocks of cement to hold in the soil. The need for a good planting medium is naturally important. It can be incorporated with compost and fertiliser such as chicken dung or processed chicken dung with microbes to speed up growth.

Other items that we need are handy tools and tips for new gardeners, who are spending more time at home during this Covid-19 period. I will try to provide some tips for reference this week. We should choose sturdy high-quality tools to get the best results from our gardens and to make the task itself more pleasurable. Good tools definitely make our gardening work easier.

Gardening tools

Light digging tools – a garden trowel should have a comfortable solid wood or moulded plastic handle and a thick cast steel blade. The garden spade needs to be strong enough for doing heavy digging. In the Asian context, we would use a small hoe with a good cutting edge and firm handle.

Cutting tools – select secateurs with smooth movements and a lock button. For heavy cuts, use loppers with long solid handles and solid jaws. Choose a pruning saw with comfortable curved handle and a flexible blade. A machete or parang can also be used to cut branches and stems.

Breaking up tools – a garden fork with sharp, thick tines and a non-slip handle. The garden shovel should have sharp blades of tempered steel and sturdy rivets.

Surface preparation tools – have a steel rake with a good firmly fixed handle to work the soil.

Weeding tools – choose a long-handled cultivator that can cut clean any weeds with surface soil attached. Also try a small hand hoe for weeding larger beds if not removing by hand.

Sprayers – a hand sprayer with an air pump and adjustable nozzle with different patterns of spraying can be used for either weeds and to water crops. A big unit one can come with a four litre tank sprayer with shoulder straps.

A wheelbarrow would be the most convenient for moving soil, compost, and other inputs like large fertiliser packs.

Sun protection – gloves, garden shoes, boots, and hats are necessary when working in our hot tropical weather.

Gardening supplies – compost, fertiliser, lime, mulch, pesticides, potting mix, and seedling trays.

Use containers or create planting beds for vegetables and other plants.

Gardening glossary

I’ve decided to add a glossary as some terms may sound foreign to new gardeners. Hope this helps for easy reference.

Acidic soil – soil that has a pH level of less than 7 is not suitable for growing many vegetables. Add lime to reduce the acidity.

Alkaline soil – has a pH of more than 7.

Backfill – to fill in a planting hole around a plant’s roots when planting bare rooted plants. Do be careful not to damage the tender roots.

Bed – a specific row of soil for planting together.

Compost – a diverse mixture of completely decayed organic matter for conditioning and fertilising the soil.

Corm – a bulb-like structure that serves as a continual source of food underground for a plant.

Cultivar – a plant variety resulting from the cross pollination of two different plants within a species. Local cultivar refers to the new adopted characteristics for its quality in the same environment.

Damping off – wilting of seedlings caused by fungal disease.

Deadhead – to remove flower heads after they have bloomed to encourage a longer flowering period.

Disbudding – removal of some buds to produce better fruits or flowers.

Espalier – method of training a twig or plant against a trellis or wall.

Groundcover – low growing plants used in place of grass, to reduce soil erosion.

Hybrid – an offspring of two parent plants of different varieties, species, or cultivars for better quality.

Humus – dark rich organic soil matter made from decaying plants or animal material.

Hydroponic – growing plants without soil in nutrient solutions used for fertigation farming.

Layering – for propagation using a single stem notched and buried in the soil for initiating new roots.

Leggy – plants with abnormal growth of several stems in relation to foliage.

Loam – soil that has a well-balanced mixture of sand, silt, and clay.

Mulch – any organic material spread on top of soil to reduce water loss or weed growth, and enrich the soil for good growth.

Offshoots – new plants that branch out from the base of the main stem.

Pinch back – a method of encouraging bushy growth by removing tips by hand.

Root-bound – root growth tangled around the container.

Staking – a method of supporting young plants to grow.

Sucker – a shoot that grows in an undesirable region as offshoots.

Thinning – removal of flowers or young fruits in order to allow the others to develop to a bigger size.

Top dressing – feeding plants by sprinkling fertiliser or compost on top of the soil.

Topiary – the art of pruning and shaping trees and shrubs into decorative shapes.

Variegation – a pattern of stripes or patches on otherwise solid coloured leaves.

I hope this list of glossary would clear some misunderstanding we may hold for gardening purposes. Do send me an email if you have questions, comments, or suggestions. Wishing all readers a very Happy Christmas and Blessed New Year 2021. Happy gardening.