The Tribune - Spectrum


, August 18, 2002
Garden Life

Make hay even if the sun doesn’t shine
Satish Narula

The spider plant is propagated through separation
The spider plant is propagated through separation

THE weak, and in some places elusive, monsoon has been a big disappointment for gardening enthusiasts. They have been waiting all through the year to perform certain gardening operations specific to this period. They need not, however, despair.

Provide a conducive environment to the plants as far as possible and even intermittent showers will help. One of the major monsoon operations is the propagation of the plants. The most popular methods are through cuttings, division, layering or simply separating the young ones from the mother plants. A few precautions will double the rate of success in each case.

Tip of the fortnight

Most of the shade-loving plants do not need strong nitrogenous fertilisers. So do not be overenthusiastic about them. Avoid using urea for potted plants. You may end up killing them. Use CAN instead.

When it comes to preparing cuttings, take the traditional length of six to eight inches but give a slant cut at the base of the cutting, in the portion that will go underground. This will provide more surface area for water intake and for rooting . Put two-thirds of the cutting below the soil or whatever medium you are using and keep it moist and in shade. This method is employed in case of most of the shrubs.

In case of chrysanthemums, carnations, coleus etc, however, the size of cuttings could be small— four to six inches. In case of philodendrons, dieffenbachia etc, it could still be smaller— two or more segments—kept straight or in lying position.

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In the layering method, an inch or so of the bark is removed all around the stem, about a foot or so away from the terminal end. It is very important to scratch the area thus exposed with the sharp edge of a knife to remove any 'thread' left behind. This is then covered with wet moss, wrapped in 100-gauge four to six inches wide polythene strip and secured at both ends.

Division and separating are easy methods and are mostly employed for all kinds of ornamental grasses, bamboo, calatheas, marantas, anthuriums, aglaonema, chlorophytum (spider plant), etc.

Another important operation is feeding the plants in this season. Most of the shade-loving plants do not need strong nitrogenous fertilisers. So do not be overenthusiastic about them. Avoid using urea for potted plants. You may end up killing them. Use CAN instead. A teaspoon full applied twice or thrice near the rim of the pot at 15 days’ interval is sufficient. Do not go by the saying or advise of the horticultural quacks, who will advocate the use of various types of cakes, bone meals, peat and what not. They will also tell you to add urea and super phosphate, etc, while preparing liquid manure. Making formulations is not everyone's cup of tea. It has to follow certain principles of nutrition wherein any deviation from the requirement or excess of even a few grams of a particular nutrient may block the absorption of others, thus affecting the lifecycle of the plant. Moreover, the plants for which these are being recommended are expected to give results in the form of blooms over a short period of time and slow- release fertilisers like cakes will be available when their time is past. Such practices are followed mostly in case of chrysanthemum, dahlia etc. No doubt , these are perennial plants, but the time between planting the cutting and blooming is short.

You can make liquid fertiliser by adding eight parts of water to one part of fresh cow dung and keeping it undisturbed for about two weeks. Then decant it, that is remove it without disturbing the upper water. It will be of deep tea colour and should be diluted and then added at weekly intervals— at one litre to a pot of chrysanthemums till the buds appear. Beware, it should not touch the foliage, which may get burnt due to contact. Use of farmyard manure and vermicompost is immensely beneficial. But avoid using the latter at places where the earthworms that company the compost may become a nuisance, like golf greens.


This feature was published on August 11, 2002