Achieving better planting through new techniques


Many people have turned to pot-planting during lockdowns. — AFP photo

HORTICULTURISTS are constantly looking at better ways and the latest techniques in planting.

What if we’re to apply the ‘lateral-thinking’ concept to solve land scarcity?

There is this thing called ‘air-planting’ utilising circular transparent upright columns for growing vegetables. Roots of the seedlings are inserted to the holes around the tube – very little or no amount of water is used; there’s only a supply film of moist air for the plants.

These are kept indoors to avoid pests, and some have netting over them as protection. Such experiment has resulted in large-scale plantings in Canton, China and also in Singapore.

Food production is becoming critical in terms of chemical input and pest control.

Today, half of the world’s population still does not have enough food.

But what if the scientists could cooperate in finding better means of cultivation with improved hybridised seeds? Surely, we could overcome the current problem.

The world also faces shortage of labour and distribution problems as seen in the UK now – no driver and no petroleum on sale at the kiosks because of problematic distribution and the supply chains being in trouble.

Networking failures have also resulted in no filling-ups at the pumps.

Due to the shortage of workforce at ports and less frequency of flights, even the net orders would take double the time, plus incurring more expensive charges on transportation.

New norm for those with green fingers

During this Covid-19 pandemic, lockdowns are in force and people stay at home, with some spare time to try planting vegetables and flowers. The home-decoration greens and flowers have taken a new turn too.

More people have fallen in love with the art of planting just for show. Some have begun growing vegetables in all types of containers – old utensils, paint cans and even the light polyfoam containers are being widely reused.

My friend Paul and his wife have created a beautiful display shelf.

The trade has expanded through the convenience of the website-ordering nowadays. It is a new business entity for horticulturists.

People living in condominium units are now able to appreciate the lovely ornamentals on their balconies.

Recently, my son asked me for some pots for growing some plants at his condo unit too. I was more surprised to find a large display of lovely plants being put up for sale now at the Upper Ground Floor, Green Road, Wisma Saberkas, Kuching. There, we found various potted miniature foliage plants ranging from tiny climbers, ferns and shrubs, to palms, cycads and trees. Among these are planting pots of various sizes including crafted porcelain and plastic varieties, as well as the artifice ones fashioned after various car models, which were on sale too.

The growing media comprised a variety of groups slated for specific plant requirements. Traders at their shop fronts had also been displaying the horticulture items, especially in the coffee shops and convenience stores. This could bring in new incomes for the shop assistants, who might one day become the full-time operators.

The prices were reasonable as the input and time for nurturing the plants like watering, fertilising, pruning and the likes were included.

Large-scale landscape outdoors are now replaced by these ‘living little gems’ and can be further cultivated, unlike the cut flowers that are thrown away as their lifespans are limited.

A new trend of trying input for the gardening is also being experimented now. Apart from using the normal input, I have come across the application of ‘Ajinomoto’ – a brand of food seasoning consisting primarily of monosodium glutamate (MSG). It has been proven that MSG-rich fertilisers could enhance plant’s growth.

The main ingredient in Ajinomoto can be sugar cane, sugar beets, cassava or corn – using the natural plant-based amino acids.

I have not tried this fertiliser yet, but I have used Amina organic fertiliser made from what remains of the sugar canes after extraction. All I know is that under some weak and desperate conditions, adding MSG could relieve growth – that is, the plants already get much NPK, but are short of the microelements.

Another failure of growth is the result of soil medium poisoning through the usage of wrong weedicide like Amine, which could kill some notorious weeds, but would leave the soil barren as well. Likewise, the usage of sodium chlorate for poisoning bamboo crumb could lead to the soil problem too. The usage of certain weedicide could lead to fruiting problem of the oil palm and other crops such as durian. Similarly, one must not ignore the effects of taking extra nitrate from hydroponic vegetables.

Popular miniatures for hobbyists

1. A rare dwarf banana tree looks like a bonsai and can be pot-planted from seeds as well. Germination rate is high and the growth rate is fast. Temperature requirement ranges from 12°C to 27°C with bright, filtered light from the sun near windows, if planted indoors. It needs watering to keep the medium moist all the time. It is a bonsai for display at the courtyard, home-gardening and for nursery production. It can be made as a gift for friends, or serves as an ornamental display, especially when the ‘little bananas’ are ripe.

2. Aglaonema presents a range of new varieties of changeable foliage colours. There are at least five colours good for ornamentals. They are actually absorbers of formaldehyde, can filter radiation and also cleanse the surrounding environment of foul air. The plant is good for office and home environments. Cultivation is possible in pots, with moist medium or compost soil. Placing it under diffused light should work. Prune off the dead leaves, leaving five or six healthy ones for display.

3. Graptophylum pictum is another popular small decorative shrub with red stems and variegated leaves, in white patches over the green background. There is a whole range of ‘caladium’ or ‘keladi’ bicolour house plants, of which individuals could appreciate ‘the wonders of floral magic’.

I have seen people buying the miniature plants at the carpark Sunday market in Hui Sing Garden, Kuching.

The list of mini plants and even ‘air plants’ available is long as far as variety is concerned, and it is very convenient too.

Well, whether having green fingers or otherwise, we can always try growing the miniature plants at home and in this regard, I wish you success.

Happy gardening!