Top tips for keeping that much loved Christmas plant alive. We've tested a plant sensor and mixed it up with some good old gardening knowledge...
Being a gardener in Spring is like being parent to a teenager. You desperately want them to grow into a beautiful person… but sometimes it’s difficult to know how to encourage that growth.
Just like encouraging a teenager to turn into a healthy, attractive and responsible adult, plant growth is much more complex than it might first appear to the novice gardener. Use the wrong fertiliser, and you might not end up with the plant that you hoped.
So how do you encourage your plants to grow? Well, it’s surprisingly similar to looking after a teenager.
A healthy environment – plants, like teenagers, thrive in a healthy environment. For any plant, this environment can be improved by the addition of organic fertilisers like mulch (rotted leaves, tree bark etc), manure or rotted compost. Ironically, not dissimilar to the unhealthy situation in many teenagers’ bedrooms.
Mulching is simple – simply add a layer of your chosen organic fertiliser to the surface of the soil. Your choice of mulch should take into account the soil type and the plants you want to grow. For example:
- Leaf mould and composted bark have a low nutrient level but also a low pH, which makes them ideal for mulching woodland plants and lime-hating plants like rhododendrons and azaleas.
- Wood chippings are a good weed suppressant and can help to retain moisture around the base of trees and shrubs.
- Well rotted manure, often mixed with straw, provides a lot of nutrients and can be good for fruit and vegetable gardens or roses.
Plenty of food – if you want your teenager to grow big and strong, then you need to give him food. The same’s true for your plants and if you want to encourage your plants to grow big, they’ll need nitrogen. It’s responsible for vigorous growth and the formation of chlorophyll (that makes plants green) so is ideal for lawns, hedges and evergreens. It’s not suitable for sunflowers, as my friend learnt when she ended up with a two metre long pillar with tiny flowers.
Good roots – if they’re your child, it goes without saying that a teenager has got good roots… the same is not necessarily true of the plants in your garden, so encourage them with phosphorus, which is responsible for cell division and growing roots and plant tips. It’s therefore ideal for seedlings and young plants.
The opportunity to blossom – everyone wants the chance to blossom and a teenager is no different. Unfortunately that’s a lot more complicated than with flowers, where simply ensuring that there are adequate levels of potassium will encourage flowering, fruit growth and general hardiness. Potassium is normally required in gardens low in organic matter.
Time outdoors – cue rant about how young people these days spend all of their time indoors. Unfortunately, not much is a substitute for sunshine and fresh air for a teenager; for a houseplant, you can use a controlled release fertiliser. Every time the plant is watered, this fertiliser releases small amounts of nutrients to the soil.