Unleash Your Inner Gardener Part 5: Plant Whisperer’s Secrets

Unleash Your Inner Gardener Part 5: Plant Whisperer’s Secrets

Just like humans thrive with proper care, plants need the right balance of elements to flourish. This guide unveils the secrets to becoming a plant whisperer and cultivating a thriving green space. In case you’re looking for a guide to start growing you plant, we covered 3 methods in last week’s blog “Unleash Your Inner Gardener: Let’s Get Growing”. Let’s begin with soil maintenance!


Building a Strong Foundation: Essential Practices for Healthy Soil

Soil maintenance is a crucial part of planting. Let's learn a few tips to manage your soil fertility and keep it in good health.

  • When and How to Repot: Repotting is a process where the plant is moved from its current pot to another new pot usually due to size constraints but can also be in order to give the plant fresh soil with more nutrients. It’s usually needed when the plant grows too big for the pot, like with Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Cucumber, etc. The stem of the plant could split because the growing plant cannot fit in the small pot. 
  • Benefits of Tilling Your Soil: In this process, the soil is turned and loosened up with the help of a hand trowel. It’s best to do this before planting, and only needs to be done a couple times throughout the year if you need to aerate your soil to have a better drainage system without any waterlogging.

  • Understanding and Managing Soil pH: Soil pH (0 to 14) tells you how acidic or alkaline your soil is. The optimal pH range is between 5.5 and 7.0. Soil pH will influence the availability of soil nutrients and how they react with each other. At a low pH some elements aren’t available to plants and others become toxic. You may see purple or red discoloration in plant leaves. To test the pH of the soil you can use pH meter. Stir the sample of soil in 200ml distilled water then pour just the water in the clean container and then measure it with a pH meter. If the number is higher than 7.0, it is acidic and if it’s lower, then it is alkaline. 

Plant Food 101: Choosing and Using Fertilizer for Health Growth

Fertilizers provide your plants with essential nutrients through the soil. There are organic and chemical fertilizers. Choosing the right fertilizer depends on your plant type, pot size, and flowering needs. 

  • Organic fertilizers: These come from natural sources like compost. They release nutrients slowly over time and improve soil health, making them a good option for houseplants. Making compost from your organic waste like dry leaves, dead or dry flowers, vegetable peels, eggshells, coffee grounds, banana peels, etc. means that you can make your own fertilizer at home. We’ll discuss much more about compost in week 7 or you can check out this video we made with 73 questions about compost
  • Chemical fertilizers: These provide a concentrated dose of nutrients and are fast acting but they can be harsher on the soil and require careful use to avoid burning the plants. They can be very salty and cause dehydration. Always follow the instructions on the package for dilution and application frequency.
    • Fertilizers should always be stored in moisture proof containers because excessive moisture can increase nitrate concentration which can burn the plants.
    • Wear gloves as the nitrogen can cause chemical burns on your skin.

Hydration Station: Watering Techniques for Thriving Plants

There are different watering techniques you can use depending on the watering requirement for your plant. If your pot size is small, it might only need water once in two days. If it is average size, then it might need watering once a day.]

  • Deep Watering: In this method, the soil and roots are soaked in water for promoting the growth of plants. It is not for all plant types, but mainly for plants with high water demand like plants of Rosemary, Oregano, Tomatoes, and Peppers etc.
  • Bottom Watering: In bottom watering, a tray or plant saucer is placed under the pot and you pour the water into the tray or plant saucer instead of into the pot directly. Then the plant absorbs the water from the tray. If it is really dry, you may need to refill the saucer. Just, don’t put too much water because you don’t want the plant to sit in water overnight. You can always pour out any excess. Bottom watering allows for even water distribution, but it is still recommended to hydrate your plants from the top every few months to drain the soil of any trapped salts or minerals. This is best for hairy or fuzzy leaves, plants that don’t like getting their leaves wet (else they will rot easily), plants with dense leaf cover, or small home plants like Snake plant, Aloe Vera, Zebra plant, Calathea, Philodendron, Peace Lily, and Cast-Iron plant, etc. 
  • Spray Watering or Misting: This is great for plants that need humidity. It also helps remove dust and refresh your plants. It’s not a complete replacement for watering and should not be done on plants, like African Violets, Piggyback plants, Succulents, Fiddle Leaf Fig, etc, where the leaves will rot easily with water. This is best for plants like the  Money plant, Snake plant, Golden Pothos, Areca Palm, Rubber plant, Spider plant and more.
  • Under Watering: If you under water your plant, it could suffer from stunted growth. Some common signs include: drooping leaves, browning leaves, curling leaves or leaves with brown edges, brittle stems, wilting, or dry soil, etc.
  • Over Watering: Overwatering can cause other problems because it can dilute the nutrients in the soil or create an environment that promotes mold. Some signs of overwatering include: yellowing leaves, wilting (but feeling soft and mushy instead of brittle), edema (when cells burst leading to blisters or lesions), green or white mold or algae on the soil’s surface or pot edges, or root rot (usually smelly and black mushy roots).

Light Matters: Understanding Sunlight Needs for Happy Plants

Sun is great, but it’s important not to have too much or too little depending on the plant.

  • Positioning of Pots: Depending on the plant’s needs, each has their own requirement. So position your plants the right way for them to receive just enough sunlight.
  • Insufficient Light: Some signs your plant is not getting enough sunlight are that the stems will be long and skinny as they try to reach for more sun, the plant itself will lean to one side, the leaves will be smaller than average, or have an abnormal color or there will be no new growth. When the plant starts to lean, you can rotate the pot to help it straighten out or shift it to a different location. You can try this with Tulsi (Holy basil), Curry leaves, Aloe vera, Mint, etc.
  • Too Much Light: Some signs that your plant is getting too much light are that the leaves might be drooping or have faded color or even crumble when touched. In this case, you can use a shed or covers to protect the plants from the harsh climate like heat, freezing cold or storms, etc.

Snip, Snip, Grow! The Benefits and Techniques of Plant Pruning

Pinching, pruning or deadheading is when you remove any dead or faded part of the plant so that it can spend more energy growing new parts. Regularly pinching, pruning and deadheading can enhance your flower garden. It’s probably less likely you’ll need to do this for most vegetables, except tomatoes. There are 3 methods and they help plants produce more flowers, maintain a bushier form, and extend their blooming period throughout the season.

  • Pinching: In pinching, you remove the growing tip with your thumb and forefinger on young plants to encourage bushier growth and more flowers. Many annual and perennial plants contain a hormone called auxin which is stored at the top of the stem, once this is removed then it allows side branches to develop. 
  • Pruning: Pruning is for older plants that get long and stretched. By cutting back long branches to a set of leaves near the main stem, it will encourage new shoots to grow and keep the plant bushy. You can either use a pruner or scissors depending on how thick the stem or branches are. You might have seen a gardener cutting extra stems of Rose or cutting out extra bushes from your front lawn. These are all examples of pruning. Plants like Duranta Golden Hedge, Thuja Evergreen trees, etc. have huge bushes that need regular shaping and maintenance.

  • Deadheading: This involves removing faded flowers to trick the plant into producing more flowers. By removing the entire flower and seed pod, the plant focuses its energy on blooming again.

Plant Parent Fails: Avoid These Common Mistakes

From one plant parent to another, here are a few of the key things I learned throughout my plant parenting journey:

Do’s:

  • Try to water during the cool parts of the day (morning/evening) as there will be less evaporation and plants can use the water effectively.
  • Ensure that your pot has a good drainage system so that it doesn’t collect and rot the roots.
  • Be patient and nurture and love your plants.

Don’ts:

  • Don't fertilize frequently. It will not help your plant grow quicker. 
  • Don’t compare your plant journey with others. Every plant grows at their own pace and time, so adjust accordingly.
  • Don’t overcrowd one specific place with too many plant pots. Always keep a gap between 2 pots for them to have proper air circulation.

Now you have all the tools to be a plant whisperer! Remember, happy plants require a balance of elements - healthy soil, proper watering, adequate sunlight, and occasional supplemental nourishment. By observing your plants’ specific needs, you’ll be well on your way to creating a flourishing green haven in your home. You can also check out this video (REEL) to recap all the key maintenance techniques. Next week, in part 6 of our gardening guide, “Outsmarting the Garden Gremlins” we’ll cover remedies for those annoying garden pests.  Stay tuned for more updates on our Instagram, where we will post new tips each week.


About the series

This fun and informative series makes gardening easy for beginners ! learn everything you need to know from choosing plants to composting basics, In just 7 weeks. Each week covers a new topic to help you cultivate a thriving green space and embrace a sustainable lifestyle.

Ready to grow happiness and healthy plants? Join us for the next 2 weeks.

Previous post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published