Keen to join the booming trend of growing your own vegetables at home? Take note of these tips so that you can avoid being a plant killer and enjoy your own organic homegrown vegetables!
TOP 1 Adequate Sunlight
Sunlight is an essential component in the growth of plants, hence it is of utmost importance to find a sunny spot in your house where the plants can get a fair share of sunlight. Most vegetables need about 4-6 hours of direct sunlight for optimal growth. However, do take note that too much sunlight is also harmful to the vegetables. One way to check whether there’s too little or too much sunlight is to observe the leaves. The leaves of plants lacking sunlight tend to look pale and limp, while those of plants receiving too much sunlight tend to have brown edges, suggesting that they are dried up and charred.
TOP 2 Don’t Over Water
Water is vital to the growth and survival of plants. However, just like sunlight, too much water can also spell trouble for the trouble. Plants that are overwatered sit in soil that is perpetually wet and often have root rot where the roots are black and limp due to prolonged exposure to wet soil. To avoid overwatering, test the soil before watering to see if it is sufficiently dry as it is best to allow the soil to dry through in between watering. Use a pot with drainage holes so that in the event where overwatering occurs, the excess water can be drained out through the holes and there is more leeway before root rot develops. It is also helpful to read up on the water requirement of the plants as different plants thrive in different conditions.
TOP 3 Use Suitable Soil Type or Soil Mix
Soil is another vital component when it comes to gardening. Most vegetables prefer well-drained soil where excess water can be drained off and there is enough air and space in the soil for the roots to grow and breathe. There should also be enough nutrients in the soil for the vegetables to absorb as they grow. To achieve this, there has to be a mix of different types of soil such as compost to provide moisture, nutrients and improve structure, top soil and garden soil to provide nutrients, and other ingredients such as sand and rick husks to create space and lower the density of the soil for roots to grow and breathe.
TOP 4 Use The Right Pots
The type of pots used can affect the growth of the plants significantly. The first factor is the presence of drainage holes to drain away excess water. This is important to prevent water logging and root rot. The second factor to consider is the size of the pots. If the size of the pots is too small for the plant, the plant may become root-bound and unable to get enough water and nutrients. In this case, you might need to transfer the plant to a bigger pot and this carries a risk of damaging the root system and hurting the plant. Conversely, a pot that is too big may dry out too fast and result in insufficient water for the plant. Next, the material of the pot also matters. Avoid using clay pots as they are good at trapping heat and excessive heat can hurt the plant. It is recommended to use plastic or ceramic pots instead.
TOP 5 Make Compost Using Kitchen Scraps
In addition to buying compost from the gardening shops, you can actually make good compost on your own using kitchen scraps. Leftover food, old vegetable leaves, fruit peels, egg shells, kitchen towels and even fish and chicken bones can be used to produce compost as they contain a lot of nutrients. Simply bury these ingredients in soil for a period of time (usually around a month) for them to be broken down and transformed into compost. During the process, you might even notice composting worms helping to break these materials down. At the end of the process, all of the kitchen scraps would be transformed into a rich, black organic matter (compost). If you do not have the luxury of land, you can also extract the nutrients from fruit peels by immersing them in a mixture of water and sugar for a period of time and opening the cover every day to release excess air. In the course of a week, the water would be teeming with nutrients and you can then use it to water the plants to give them an extra boost.
TOP 6 Observe and Modify The Conditions
The environment can affect plant growth greatly, so it is important to observe if the plants are growing well in its designated spot in the house. A plant that is not getting enough sunlight will thrive when moved to a place with ample sunlight, while a plant that is placed at a hot area such as the kitchen or beside the dryer may show stunted growth but this condition can be reversed when it is moved to a cool and windy place. Hence, it is wise to observe the conditions and make suitable adjustments from time to time for optimal plant growth.
TOP 7 Stagger Your Plantings
Staggered planting is a strategy that allows you to have a continuous supply of home-grown vegetables year round instead of planting too much at one go and ending up with too much harvest at any one point in time. It works by estimating the maturing dates of the vegetables and starting the planting process accordingly. It can be as simple as planting the same type of vegetable in batches that are 2-4 weeks apart. Alternatively, you can also plant two or more types of vegetables at the same time, with the maturing time of some of the vegetables being significantly longer than the others.
TOP 8 Guard Against Plant Diseases
As much as we hate to admit, plant diseases are a common reality faced by gardeners. They are commonly caused by fungi, bacteria and viruses, resulting in a host of diseases such as white rust, leaf spots, anthracnose and bacterial wilt. To counter these problems, it is recommended to use a combination of measures such as exclusion (making sure that the soil and equipment are free from pest and fungus prior to using), eradication (destroying or controlling disease agents using biological or chemical methods) and avoidance (practice crop rotation and remove and dispose infected plants and contaminated soil properly to stop the disease from spreading).
TOP 9 Use Grow Lights
This tip is for people whose house do not have spots that are sunny enough for vegetable growth, or people who stay in areas with unpredictable weather and heavy rainfall. Grow light can make up for the lack of sunlight and encourage the growth of plants. You can even turn them on for longer hours for the plants to grow faster!
TOP 10 Grow Vegetables That You Like
This tip sounds like a no-brainer, but it is important nonetheless as you wouldn’t want to waste your precious space and resources on vegetables that you and your family don’t like to consume. In fact, the type of vegetables to grow should be one of the factors that are considered first, together with the amount of space that’s available in your home and whether there’s enough sunlight to support the growth of your desired vegetables. Planting your favourite vegetables gives you extra satisfaction both when witnessing its growth and when you finally get to harvest it!
Photo credits: SilverKris, Smart Garden Guide, How Gardening, Do Not Disturb Gardening, istockphoto/Janine Lamontagne, Organic Authority, Mother Earth News, NC State Extension Publications, GrowJourney, Here in The House
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