Workshop on Gardening tips by Teenage Gardener

Gardening is an activity that requires no age. Childhood, teenage, adulthood or retirement, and old age, gardening can be done in every stage of life. The best time to start is probably as a kid. It brings immense joy and keeps us connected with mother earth & nature. It’s one of the best pass times one can get their children indulged in. Helping children to love plants and pursue them as a hobby can go a long way in preserving our planet and environment.

In this video, we have with us a very young gardener who started planting at a very young age. Her father & grandfather were her source of inspiration she says. Watch our workshop on “Gardening Tips by Teenage Gardener” with our speaker Miss Anushka Bhanja. She is an enthusiastic 11-grade student and a passionate plant lover. She wants to inspire the youth today to love gardening by sharing her amazing planting journey with us and much more. You can connect with her on her Instagram page “crazy.for.plants”

Anushka’s tips for growing winter plants:

“Hello, everyone. Welcome to another workshop by TAOS. Today we have with us, Miss Anushka Bhanja. Let me introduce her to our audience. She is a student and has amazing knowledge about gardening. She has been nurturing her passion for gardening for the past few years. Let us start without any further delay to hear what she has in store for us,” said Zehra.

“Gardening has been a passion for me since childhood, but I have taken it seriously for the past three years. I got it from my father because they had the same passion for gardening. I will be sharing my experiences today. There are endless opportunities in gardening. I am also in the act of propagation for some time, so buying plants isn’t always a necessity. You can start with the most basic plants. I personally do not keep much interest in expensive or exotic plants. 

So, our first topic of the day is winter flowers. There is a wide range of them, such as Marigold, Petunia, Asiatic lilies, Calendulas, etc. Starting with the sowing time, the perfect time to sow the seeds is in September. You need to use perlite and compost mix in the soil and then sow the seeds. If you don’t have a seed tray, you can use egg cartons also to plant the seeds. The seeds should always be of good quality, or else the yield won’t be very good. Then, if you want to grow it from saplings, you can always get them in a nursery. You can buy them from October end to November end, and then you can plant them. 

  • Keep the saplings in a shady area since they won’t survive direct heat.
  • Check them for pests and other problems from time to time.

The pot size needs not to be very big, but take a wider pot so that the roots can spread. A pot size of 6-8 inches would be appropriate. Coming to soil composition, I prefer 30% of garden soil, 30% of sand, 20% of vermicompost, and 20% of cocopeat. 

  • Sand will ensure proper drainage and prevent chances of root rot. 
  • Vermicompost will supply the most essential nutrients to the plant and help it grow faster. Phosphorus and Potassium will ensure proper flowering of the plant.
  • Cocopeat, made up of coconut husks, helps retain the required amount of moisture in the soil. It is a great mix of newly planted seeds.

“Do you make your own compost?”

“I have made my own compost, but we have started out this very month.”

Coming to sunlight requirement, you’ll notice some require more sunlight than others. Plants like Marigold, petunias, calendula, aster, etc., need 6-8 hours of sunlight a day. Otherwise, the quality, color, and size of the flower will get compromised. Then, plants like geanthus, malo flowers, etc. will need at most 4-5 hours of sunlight only. 

“Can you clarify if it’s direct or indirect sunlight you’re talking about?”

“Plants like Petunia, Marigold, etc., can be kept in direct sunlight. The winter sun isn’t very strong. Malo flowers and others, direct sunlight of 4-5 hours, or indirect of 7-8 hours would do.”

Watering these plants is not very difficult. If you are a beginner, you can use a pencil or stick to check the water level. If at least an inch or half of the stick comes out dry when you have dipped it in the soil, that would mean you need to water the plants. Make sure you avoid overwatering strictly.

For fertilizing, you should add them once in fifteen days. The manures that I use include cow dung primarily. You can use vermicompost. Never apply fertilizer in the daytime. Either do it early morning or else in the evening since the plant may not react well if the fertilizer is added in the daytime,” said Anushka.

“We have seen previously that people use banana peels; they soak it overnight and then use the water on plants. What is your take on it?”

“You can use banana leaf fertilizer, onion leaf fertilizer, and even tea leaves for the purpose. For banana peel fertilizer, soak it for 4-5 days so that it turns brownish. After that, dilute it by adding at least five liters of water. The process is the same for all such fertilizers. Onion and tea leaf fertilizer are very beneficial in enhancing the color of the flower,” said Anushka. 

“People also use tea powder, right?”

“The residue left after making tea needs to be dried properly in the sun, and then can be used on plants. Even mustard cake fertilizers can be used. The residue that is left after extracting mustard oil is known as mustard cake. It needs to be kept in water for 4-5 days, and the water can then be used as a fertilizer. I don’t prefer inorganic fertilizers much.”

“The peels that we are soaking in water, are we going to use them in vermicomposting?”

“You can actually use them for composting. There won’t be much nutrition in it, but it can be used, though.”

“Now, People say that their plant is sometimes not growing tall and bushy. A very important tip for that is pinching your plants. The top two-three stems of the plants need to be removed, and it would make the plant grow new leaves. Also, remove the seeds that the plant develops, or else the plant will focus all its energy on seed-making instead of growth. If you want to have seeds, grow them in February since the plant will soon dry out. You can use the seeds to propagate new plants. 

Pest control is another important issue that many plants are disturbed with. You can use neem oil for 1-2 drops of it, with a mix of handwash or shampoo, since it will increase the power of the fertilizer. You can also use homemade solutions. I have been using one such mix. You have to take one garlic, chop it, and grind it. Put 1 litre of water in a pan or container and boil the garlic in it for 10-15 mins. Put one tablespoon of vegetable oil and handwash. This mixture can then be used for all kinds of pests.”

“What is the shelf life of this mixture?”

“It is the only flaw of this mixture. You can only use it for a week at most.”

“Next, we would be talking of some gardening terms. 

  • Weeding: It means removing the weeds from your plant which grow in the pot. They take up the soil nutrients hindering the growth of the main plant. You can use Epsom salt for this purpose which dries out the weeds.  

“Will Epsom salt not harm the main plant?”

“No, it is rather beneficial for the plant. It would help remove weeds so that the weeds will dry on their own.”

  • Pruning: It is an essential part of gardening, which helps in providing more growth to the plant. You can prune a plant using a knife or scissors, but make sure that it is sanitized. After pruning, you can cut the lower leaves and then keep them in water for propagation.
  • Mulching: It is a layer of anything you put on a layer of topsoil so that the water doesn’t drain out very quickly. This will ensure you do not need to water your plant very frequently. I use a thin layer of peanut shells on it for the purpose. It is very useful for plants that love moisture. You can also use dried leaves from your garden, or coconut husks would also serve the purpose. Do not use thick materials because there might be pest attacks.”

“Can it be added at any time?”

“Yes, just make sure the layer is not too thick.

Moving on to transplanting, your pots should have holes at the bottom. You also need to cover these holes to prevent the soil from seeping out. You can use the peanut shells for the purpose. The potting mix needs to have soil, cocopeat, vermicompost, and sand. These four elements are necessary for the growth of any plant. The texture of this soil mix is also very light. Then we just need to plant the cutting into the soil. After transplantation, 

  • These cuttings need to be kept in shady areas for them to adapt to these new surroundings for at least a week.
  • It would need bright sunlight for the color of the leaf to develop. However, they won’t need direct sunlight.

The last word is Rootbound, which is when the plant has no space for growth. In this event, the plant needs to be repotted in a bigger pot. The plant may die if the plant is kept like this for too long. There are exceptions, such as the Spider plant. They produce baby plants only when they are root bound,” said Anushka.

“That was a great session. Thank you for joining us today.”