What you should be doing with your yard
By Chitwan Khosla, Features Editor
It’s a no-brainer that summer is the time for fun outdoor activities. It is also the best time of the year for vacations. What makes these outdoor activities even better is all the pretty flowers, bushes, lush green gardens, and bright green trees. The lovely butterflies and honey bees swarming over sweet-smelling flowers add to the liveliness of the scenery. Going to parks, botanical gardens, and creeks is a very calming experience in summer evenings. While most of us are planning on a holiday, those who can’t go for one due shouldn’t be disappointed. There’s lots that you can do right in your backyard to bring yourself the natural element that you would miss by skipping an outing. Gardening is a very productive hobby. Love for gardening is natural for some, but many people fall in love with gardening as they get more involved. It’s perfect both for those who like spending some time alone and those who are more social and enjoy the company of their near and dear ones.
Gardening it is very healthy for your mind and body. CNN.com and DailyMail.co.uk report various studies that echo the benefits of gardening on one’s mental and physical health. You get to spend time outside your house, away from bags of chips, idiot boxes, and computers. Whilst working in your garden, you can play with your pets or just watch all the cute animals that roam around scrounging for food. You get to breathe fresh air, which improves your blood flow; you get to eat the freshest and healthiest food; and you also gain a sense of responsibility that can bring great satisfaction. Along with this you also contribute to creating a nurturing ecosystem for other life.
Some refer to gardening as a complete spiritual process: you plant something and nurture it with patience and love. For those who want to give gardening a try but are apprehensive because they are confused about where to begin or how to begin, here’s a basic guide to get you started. Gloria Herman, my neighbour, who has splendidly maintained a lovely kitchen garden and a front lawn for last 18 years. shared some of her secrets to get a beautiful garden. Her first and foremost advice is to start with easier-to-grow plants so that you become accustomed to the whole process.
You obviously need some land if you want to grow trees, bushes, or tall plants but those who don’t have land or space in backyards for gardening can opt for pots or tray gardens and sow smaller plants or vines. You can also go for community gardens like those offered by DIVERSEcity, a not-for-profit agency, in Surrey. Ask around to see if you can find a local community garden!
The very first step to start gardening is to prepare your soil. You need to dig up the entire space in small patches. Check your soil. It should be a right balance, neither too wet nor too dry. Nutrient rich soil is a must for healthy plants and you must nurture your soil very often. Also, remove all the weeds and other unwanted growth from your garden. Add compost and natural fertilizers into the soil. You can put dead leaves or even peels of vegetables and fruits. Work up the soil again. It is important to note that it is not advisable to walk on your prepared beds. This inhibits the proper supply of fertilizers and water to the deeper regions of the soil, so leave your soil loose, don’t stomp on it trying to give it a neat look. If you are using pots or trays then you can skip this step and buy the soil from local nurseries. Next, water your soil for two to three days—keeping it in the sun of course.
Then it’s time to select your plants. Decide on what kind of garden you want and what you will grow where. Herman suggests that it’s better to keep your flowers away from your vegetables and herbs as they attract a lot of birds, which can dig and eat up your seeds. Once you have read the instructions about how to sow a plant, you can start seeding them. Prepare the rows by making furrows and start seeding one plant at a time, leaving enough distance between them. Usually the distance required is mentioned on the packet of seeds when you buy them, but the golden rule is at least six inches away from each other. This allows for you to easily reach them when they grow without disturbing the roots of the other plants. For the beginners who are not quite sure about the seeding, there are also set plants from nurseries. Then you just need to dig a hole in the soil and place the plant in it.
If you are growing flowers you must see if they are annuals or perennials. Annuals need to be sown every year while perennials last longer and bloom at their peak season (usually spring).
Looking after your plants is an on-going process and a test in patience, but the initial week or two is crucial. Herman tells that one way to protect your seeds from squirrels and other rodents is to place sliced lemon near the furrows. The strong aroma keeps flies, rodents, and even a few birds away. Herman also tells that sprinkling used tea leaves over your plants act as a great manure which can boost the plant growth significantly!
It is common for weeds to grow faster initially, but if you regularly remove them you will notice fewer. Water your plants daily during summer but remember not to flood your plant beds. About 500ml to 800ml of water is sufficient per seed before the shoot appears. Once the shoot surfaces, you can increase the water supply to a litre per plant.
During rainy season, water your plants only if necessary and even that in very small amounts as there is high moisture content in the atmosphere. Make sure your plants get ample sunlight.
Gardening gets you outside and appreciating nature in a totally different way than most other activities. Whether you start off small or leap right in with a bigger gardening plot, and whether you pursue it solo or find a community, soon the plants will start growing and you will get the ultimate satisfaction of contributing to life and growth.