Basic Gardening Techniques

This article is an outline of the basic principles of gardening. It is aimed at providing a flavour of the techniques to be followed and  things to be aware of while gardening.

Garden Planning

Plan according to the location of your garden. There are hundreds of kinds of plants which can be grown in our home in any design scheme that suits. Sun is important to grow grass, fruiting and flowering plants, and vegetables. Availability of sun greatly affects the planning of a garden.

Apart from evergreens, aromatic and flowering plants, one must also grow some vegetables. Leafy vegetables can be grown as borders. A rock garden or water body can be a good focal point. Topiaries are another feature that can be added if space permits. Ground covers like peperomia, wedelia or coleus can be grown in semi shaded areas. Creepers and trailing plants used as a screen or trained on pergolas will enhance the beauty of a garden. At a time when space for growing plants is shrinking, we can extend a garden upwards by using walls and pillars. Delicate plants, herbs, flowers and vegetables can be grown in this way. Hanging baskets are also a good option.

Buying Plants and Sowing Seeds

Buy plants according to your requirements and conditions. Always buy healthy and pest free plants. Yellowed, spindly, wilted, damaged and pot bound plants should be avoided.

Whilst buying a grown plant is a good option you may consider growing plants by sowing seeds. Buy fresh good quality seeds. Seeds germinate much more readily if the soil is warmed with a sheet of black polythene for two weeks prior to sowing . Sprinkle a layer of compost over freshly sown seeds; this protects the seeds from light and prevents them from drying out. Collect your own seeds in paper packets instead of polythene bags and store them in airtight jars in a cool dry place.


Loam soil is considered to be the best medium to grow plants. To improve the structure of soil farm yard manure (FYM) and compost should be added. Plants also need macronutrients to keep them healthy and disease resistant; these include nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K). Nitrogen is needed for general growth and leaf development. Phosphorus promotes root development and the production of seeds and fruit. Potassium is essential for flower and fruit formation and also adds colour to the flowers and makes fruits juicier. You can use organic NPK to meet the needs of your plants. Organic NPK is eco friendly, long lasting and slow releasing. FYM, neem khali, bone meal, and wood ash are good sources of NPK. Liquid manure if given fortnightly enhances the vigour of plants. Apart from the above you should add trace elements to your plants. These need to be added in very small quantities once a year.


Most plants are lost on account of over watering rather than deficient watering. It should be remembered that plants like other living beings need most water when they are actively growing or when the temperature is high. Note that plants potted in clay pots will need more frequent watering as compared to those grown in plastic pots.

While watering you should ensure that the plants are watered thoroughly, i.e.  water reaches down to the roots of the plant. Evening and early morning is the best time to water.

Washing of leaves is also very important. Clean leaves help the plant absorb more light and keep  it healthy.

Pinching and Pruning

Pinching and pruning of plants on a regular basis is important. Pinching promotes strong, compact and bushy growth. It also promotes more blooms on seasonal flowering plants. It is important not to pinch plants during damp weather.

Plants should be pruned so as to keep them in shape, and encourage fruiting and flowering. The right time to prune is at the beginning of the growing season when the sap is rising. Always use sharp secateurs to prune and ensure that the cut is neither too close nor too far from the growing bud.


Mulch conserves moisture and improves the fertility of the soil. It suppresses weeds from germinating and repels slugs and snails. Various mulches like sawdust, bark, compost, stone pebbles and straw can be used. Coffee grounds and tea leaves also are good mulches for acid loving plants like Azaleas, Rhododendrons and Ferns.

Pest and diseases

You should as a matter of habit keep your garden clean. Remove and destroy  diseased or pest ridden plants to prevent these spreading to other plants. You may, as a last resort, consider using organic pesticides or fungicides to protect your plants.

Organic pesticides can be made at home by boiling neem, tobacco leaves, garlic, and turmeric to name a few, and storing in bottles. Do remember to dilute these with water before spraying  on plants.