Beginners Guide in Gardening with The Affordable Organic Store
“Gardening teaches not only responsibility but also discipline, because if you don't water the plants for two days, then well… it will die”
Mr. Shivam Gupta, Co-founder and CEO of TAOS.
Well, I can tell you this, he knows what he is saying. In fact, in my conversation with Ishika Garg, Co-founder and CMO of TAOS, she mentioned many similar points. The passion that she spoke with and the smile on her face as she realized that one of the aims of TAOS: Educating people about planting trees and plants and teaching them how to take care of them, was unfolding in front of her as we exchanged stories and incidents from when we started planting. This led us to make a guide for beginners in gardening.
She rightly pointed out that there are two major reasons someone who has done gardening before, doesn’t want to return to it.
1. Because they accidentally kill the plant and their conscience doesn’t allow it, but that is true for all hobbies, it takes a while before things align,
2. They give up either because of the money invested or the time invested in it. Which is the problem that The Affordable Organic Store (TAOS) wanted to tackle.
Ishika Garg and Shivam Gupta, a husband-wife couple started TAOS in 2020 with the idea that they wanted to reduce the investment that would go into growing a home garden as well as to educate people about how simple gardening is and the many benefits that come with it.
As Ishika rightly put it, having plants is like channeling your motherhood, like watching a baby grow, it teaches you patience and calm because you can’t see the fruits in one day, it’s therapeutic and it couldn't be more amazingly put by Shivam, one plant is the smallest and the easiest thing you can do for the environment and conservation.
We are going to start with eradicating some common misconceptions about growing plants. Fruits and Vegetables are not the hardest plants to grow, although they are a little more work than flower plants. But, if you are a beginner, you might not want to jump to oregano. Another common misconception is month-wise planting, okay I know that we Indians strongly believe in Vastus and calendars and Astronomy, unfortunately, plants don’t. The best way to select the plant you can grow would depend on factors like where you live, average temperature, season, etc.
So, are you ready to get your study on? In what I am hoping is not going to be more than a five-minute read (if it crosses that, sorry not sorry). The guide is divided into:
Best time to start gardening. (I challenge you to guess it before you reach there)
Common signs and mistakes to look out for (I have made them too, so no judgments)
How to start a garden for Beginners?
The first decision you need to make is whether you want to put more effort into it or less? If you choose more effort, then you can start with seeds, look at them germinate and turn into saplings and finally plants and if you choose less effort, you can get saplings from the nursery. However, what you do need to remember as well is that if you want flowering plants, it is usually better to get the saplings from the nursery but if you want to grow fruits and vegetables buying seeds is much better. (TAOS has some amazing selections of seeds you can try out... Wink wink)
Another piece of advice that Ishika gave is that you should start with 5 plants of your choice and see how that goes. Some that she suggested for people new to gardening are:
Whatever plants it is that you select, keep in mind that you have enough space to grow it as well as the selected space is completely pest-free. If you choose all 5 starter plants to be fruits and vegetable plants, add one more plant to your list, Marigold. It aids in pollination as it attracts a lot of bees and flies.
As a beginner, it is very easy to overwater/ underwater a plant. The aim is to keep the soil moist and different plants have different water intake, don’t rely on the gardener's words 100%, give it a spin. Water in the morning and come back in the evening to see if the soil has dried up or it feels damp or it still has a lot of water. Keep a track of this on a plant tag and attach it to the plant, this way you won't forget how much water to give the plant.
Voila! You are now ready for gardening.
How can you garden in an apartment?
Regardless of the type of house you live in, gardening can be easy peasy lemon squeezy! As long as there is some measure of discipline to it. According to Ishika, no matter which plant it is, with some timely pruning and proper spacing, you can have a garden in an apartment, even a creeper. In fact, it is now becoming a trend, where people have plants growing everywhere in their apartment, it is called urban jungles. It makes use of Vertical gardening. Feels like mumbo-jumbo, no worries, here is some ideas Ishika proposed:
You can use pillars and grills for creepers. Once they start flowering or bearing fruits, you might wanna remember to tie a thread around the stalk attaching it to the grill, so that it’s not bearing all the pressure, otherwise, it will break and die.
You can put up a net against a wall and decorate it with hanging pots. The most effective plants, in this case, would be flowering plants.
There are even people who have grown banana and sugarcane trees on their balconies. So in this age and day, no idea is too crazy. You just need to experiment to find what makes you feel awesome.
Best time to start gardening
I asked you to guess this one, those who guessed monsoon, I am so proud of you guys! However, there is a small catch. The best time to start gardening would depend on whether you want an indoor garden or an outdoor garden. For indoor gardens, all the conditions are completely under your control, hence this is more of you are a god situation. While, in case of outdoor gardens, monsoons would be the best time to start, however, do make sure that you are not leaving the plant directly under the rain. Too much watering is still a problem there.
Best tools to use.
“Hands are the best tools”
Ishika Garg, Co-founder and CMO, TAOS
For Ishika, her hands are always far more effective and efficient than any tool. However, as a beginner she does suggest some tools to make the process easier. If you are using a seed to make a sapling, seedling trays or coir coins are extremely helpful as they help give the seeds enough space and nutrients to start germinating and turn into a sapling. You are not investing in large amounts of mud without a guarantee. Other tools she mentioned are Trowel, Cultivator, Pruning scissors, and Spade.
Common signs and mistakes to look out for
Now that you have the confidence, you have decided which plants to plant first, you know the best tools, here is the sad part- Common mistakes. I wonder if these signs and mistakes are what separates a green thumb from a not-so-green thumb. Well, let’s see what we have to watch out for.
According to Ishika, the most common mistake happens while watering the plant. Beginners in gardening often end up overwatering the plant.
Did you know that plants can actually tell you if you are overwatering or underwatering the plant? If the leaves are curling upwards, that would mean you under-watered the plant. If the leaves are curled downwards that would indicate that you over-watered the plants. Downward curling would also indicate over-feeding the plant. In the era we live in, we have a tonne of information being thrown at us, especially from youtube and it’s natural to want to try it out, but you need to be patient, and once you have tried something give the plant some time to get used to it, instead of overloading it.
Another important thing to remember is the correct time to water the plants, in the morning it would usually be before 7 and then in the evening after 6. This ensures that the plant is not being disturbed during its process of photosynthesis.
The next sign to look out for is over-exposure to the sun. If the leaves have started turning brown, that indicates that the plant is burning and you might want to shift it to a place with less sunlight, similarly, if the plant has stunted growth, or the leaves and buds are falling like hair fall, that would indicate under exposure to the sun, so might want to move that around too.
Remember I mentioned downward curling leaves indicating overfeeding, well to avoid that, you should add the vermicompost only twice a month.
And finally, when you are adding seeds to the soil. You might not want to use garden soil because even if it looks like it is all fine, there may be weed seeds in it, which would lead to a competition for space, sunlight, water, and nutrients between the two seeds, eventually resulting in one killing the other or both dying in the process. Reminds me of “THIS IS SPARTA!!”
Some neat tricks!
I know the signs and mistakes section was a little heavy. But don’t get overwhelmed just yet! We have some awesome tricks to help you and advance your dream: Early morning sitting near your green patch in the house, sipping on hot tea and the fragrance of flowers all around you.
When choosing pots always choose Terracotta pots, unlike cement pots it doesn't get hot.
Cover the hole at the bottom of the pot while filling the soil, leaving only enough space that the water can come out.
While choosing the mud, a big no-no is river sand because of the amount of salt, always check the acidity and the pH level of the soil you choose!
If you are bringing a sapling. Keep it in the container from the nursery for a week till it gets accustomed to a new surrounding. Don't give it a culture shock.
One of the best ways of maintaining your plant's health is keeping it with its own family. This means if you have two gourd family plants make sure they are together, similarly if you have two plants of the same flowering family, keep them together.
Do not put soap water on your plants unless there is a pest attack. Just use normal tap water to water the plants.
Do not use a bottle to water the plants as it would create a pool of water stagnant in one place, instead sprinkle the water all over the soil with hands or use a device to do that.
Wash the leaves of your indoor plants twice a week but only in the evening.
You can use marble granules or coconut husk pieces to retain moisture in your plants in case you are running out of time.
Repot your flowering plants once they have flowered.
Simplest trick for repotting ever: Water the plant in the morning, in the evening, take the plant you want to repot, compress the pot gentle to make sure all the soil has clumped up around the roots of the plant, take a pen and push it through the holes in the pot gently. And Voila, the plant will come out intact!
While repotting make sure to not injure the main root of the plant, if that breaks, the plant would die.
With this, we have almost reached the end of the guide. All you have to know about pest attacks is 1. Earthworms are not pests, they are actually very good for your plants and 2. You will be able to clearly see it, they would be small white insects also commonly called millie bugs that attack the stem and under the leaves. All pesticides would be effective as long as you do it during the night and wash the plant with fresh water in the morning. In case the threat is major then the plant would probably need an amputation.
That was a bummer note to end on. But the good part is, you are now ready to start exploring the world of gardening. If you have any doubts you can always reach out to them on Instagram and Facebook, or attend their workshops that happen every Saturday or watch their youtube videos. Or simply just visit their website!
This content and infographics belong to The Affordable Organic Store and Khakhed.