The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, May 18, 2003
Garden Life

Prioritise your plants’ water needs
Satish Narula

Sun-burnt lemon leaves
Sun-burnt lemon leaves

OVER the ages, plants have developed many protective mechanisms to fight natures' vagaries. They have developed spines, have reduced leaf size in certain species, developed storage organs to fight moisture stress. They shed leaves to fight extremes of both hot and cold weather. Those growing naturally are more hardy than those pampered in the home gardens. One should provide external aids to help them overcome such maladies or else the damage, at times could be irreparable.

Summer is the testing time for the gardeners. This is more so when the water is in short supply and there are time restrictions in usage of water for gardening. Plants under such a stress may show the protest signs as burning of leaf and fading (bronze white spots) due to harsh sun. In case of young and recently planted plants, the bark of the main stem may split open and the scar remains for the rest of the life of the plant. There is a definite damage to the nutrients conduction channels affecting the plant growth in the initial years. This happens due to the exposure of the main stem to the sun due to insufficient plant canopy in the early years.

Cover new ground with duranta
May 4, 2002
Being led up the garden path
April 20, 2002
Pamper the papaya plant
April 6, 2002
Shrubs keep your garden colourful the year round
March 23, 2002
Fruit trees that are a must have
March 9, 2002
Watch out for pests on mango trees
March 2, 2002
Landscaping requires detailed planning
February 9, 2002
Let the ‘star of Bethlehem’ light up your lawn
December 22, 2002
Get the spring effect with winter blooms
December 1, 2002
For peach harvest next summer begin planting this winter
November 17, 2002

The damage in case of fruits is also tremendous. This is reflected as reduction in fruit size, fruit splitting or shriveling. Under stress conditions, there may be premature flower and fruit drop. At times, the skin of the fruit at the side that is exposed to sun burns, becomes weak and splits open. A close look at the fruit shows `watery skin' that splits open, more so when there is a sudden atmospheric change due to untimely precipitation. The fruit splitting is mostly met with in case of lemon, pomegranate, litchi, mango etc. The watering priorities are to be set in such cases. In case of fruit trees where these are in bearing, there is the need for frequent watering. Peach, plum, pear, etc need a good fill of water every four to five days and lemon and pomegranate need light but frequent irrigation. Litchi which is more prone to splitting due to water stress, may need heavy watering and more frequently. Ber goes dormant and there is no need to give water. Similarly you could skip watering guava to discourage summer crop which otherwise is infested with fruit fly maggots. Such a practice will also encourage winter crop, which is superior in quality. Citrus species fruits (other than lemon) may be irrigated at 10 to 15 days interval.

In case of ornamental plants also the priorities should be fixed. Plants like coleus, aphelandra, spathyphyllum etc need frequent irrigation, at least once everyday. This is more so when these are planted in pots. You can skip irrigating asparagus, Ficus species plants like Ficus elastica (rubber plant), Ficus benjamina, Ficus laryata, Ficus retusa etc. A good fill at least once a week will do provided these are planted in big pots. Plants like dieffenbachia, dracaena, monstera, salem etc that are kept in shade may be watered every third day. In case of such plants, at least one shower a week will tremendously help keep them in good shape. Bougainvillea needs water once a week. Do not think cacti and succulents do not need water. This is the growth period and if you can manage a shower a day, it will help. Most of the shrubs may be watered once a week. In case of bonsai plants they may need syringing at least twice daily.