For most of us, gardening isn’t a full-time job. It’s something we do when we have spare time, no matter how enjoyable we find it. But with the lockdown, plenty of us will have had plenty more time on our hands, so why not give all your plants a bit of tender loving care – you’ll soon see the difference.
Give ’em a soak
Summer’s on its way and both your houseplants and garden residents could use a good soak. Spend twice as long as normal waving the hose around or doing your rounds with the watering can, and give exhausted looking houseplant a watering from the bottom up, leaving them in a trayful of water for a few hours.
Freed and Nourish
Plants don’t just need water – fertilizer is also vital and, fortunately, it’s still available at supermarkets. Don’t leave it until later – low nutrition is probably the main cause of disappointing plants.
The three chemical keys to fertilizer are N, P and K – that’s Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium to those who failed chemistry. Most commercial fertilizers will mention the mix of these elements on the packet, and they don’t change in Spanish.
Choose a nitrogen-rich fertilizer for maximum greenery, but be aware that too much can cause plants to bolt; go for phosphorus when you want flowers and ensure that potassium is available for generally healthy plants.
Wipe and Polish
Leaves aren’t just pretty – they’re the way plants breathe, and when they get dusty or dirty, that breathing is obstructed. Outdoors, a decent hose with an adjustable mister nozzle will do the job for most plants, while indoor plants will welcome a wipe with a wet cloth. If your plants get pests, try a little soap or vinegar in the water, and a mix of milk and water can add shine to glossy leaves.
Deadhead and Prune
Deadheading is easy enough, a quick and simple way of keeping flowers looking fresh and encouraging new blooms. All you have to do is pinch off faded flowers just above the first healthy part of the stalk. If you can’t do it with your fingers, use some scissors.
Pruning is a different matter entirely and requires a bit of experience and knowledge of the plant in question.
You’ll often have to cut back stalks quite drastically to get bushier, more attractive plants, and it’s worth learning exactly how to do it.
Prune just above leaf nodes and look at the plant carefully before going to work. It may be necessary to get rid of dominant budding branches to let less prominent ones get a chance. Staggering cuts on bushier plants (e.g. Pruning some stems by a quarter, some by a half, some completely) will also preserve a natural look.
Plants also need space to grow, so now’s the time to consider repotting plants that seem to have reached their limit. Sunlight is also a factor worth taking into account – here on Lanzarote it can mean both life or death. If you’re not sure whether a plant is thriving in one location, move it to another, give it some time and see what happens.