Thursday, November 03, 2016

A Novice Gardener's Mistakes

I consider myself a novice. I have no formal education in agriculture or plant science. I know little about soil and fertilizers, pests, diseases or best practices to produce great flowers and food crops. Yet my ignorance is no deterrent because I can access a wealth of free knowledge and advice from the Internet by googling my questions and keywords. I can also join Facebook groups or read gardening blogs to pick up ideas and tips.

When I started my mission in May this year I have in hand a sizeable collection of plants which I didn't spend 'quality time' to look after them. I remember I have several pots of adenium obesum or desert roses that were left sitting unattended on top of the dog kennel. It was one day in April I think when I decided to bring them down to clean them up and repot some of them that I felt I should start serious gardening. So here I am. Over the months I've made a few mistakes, overcame a few, but continue to challenge myself to perfect my skills. My aim is to know all my plants and deliver the right growth conditions to them so they, in turn, reward me with beautiful and healthy flowers and fruits.

Overly Ambitious
Today I have about 70 different plant types in my 'little garden'. At my age, I should be handling not more than 10 or 20 but I don't have the heart to throw or give the rest away. So I'm breaking this rule. I shall look after them as best as I can. Fortunately, most are easy to care and require little or no attention other than occasional fertilizing and pruning.

Fertilizer Mistakes
In the beginning, I thought all fertilizers are the same. Then it dawns on me that plants need different fertilizer formulations at different period of growth and production of flowers and fruits. I used to buy fertilizers without understanding their application. What's the difference between organic and inorganic? Japanese fertilizer? Animal manure? Liquid fertilizers? Growth inducers? Flowering fertilizers? Fruiting fertilizers? Mineral enhancements like calcium, magnesium, phosphate, lime, etc. General purpose fertilizers, balanced fertilizers. The names are confusing. I've made mistakes of applying wrong fertilizers or applying wrongly and excessively causing leaf burns. I am learning and still learning which fertilizer is best for which plant, the regularity and dosage to apply, and when to apply. My mistake is a tendency to over-fertilize. Certain plants really DON'T need fertilizing except once or twice a year, but out of love I've given them monthly or more frequently.

Watering Mistakes
My weakness is over-watering. But I learn this problem is accentuated by the soil drainage. Over-watering is less critical if the soil drains fast so the roots are not drowning and begin to rot, especially my desert roses which are very sensitive to excessive water in the soil. Now I ensure all the soil mix I prepare to have good drainage properties.

Wrong Planting Location
I am glad this is becoming less of an issue as I read up on plants preferences. Also with the preferred spots already taken up, I have fewer places to plant new flowers which I must then choose based on the available locations.

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