• Thursday, July 24, 2014

LOVING AND LIVING WITH PLANTS

Response to readers

By Laila Karim

Dear Readers, I thank you for your interest and love for this column. In today's piece I am going to respond to the inquiries of my readers   

To Kazi Shamsuddin, Gulshan:
Q: I would like to acquire a couple of bamboo plants and would remain grateful if you could inform as to where bamboo plants are available so that I may buy a few. Thank you.

R: Dear Mr. Shamsuddin, thank you for your mail. These days you can find bamboo plants in all good nurseries of Dhaka. There are several types. Some are bushy, and some grow straight and tall with slim bodies. You may select your type according to the space available for the plant. If you do not have space outdoors you can raise the bamboo in a large container -- ask the nursery staff to fix the plant in an appropriate pot with the right soil mixed, along with compost fertiliser. Later, from time to time provide small portions of urea or compost soil to raise a healthy, green plant.  Please note that bamboo plants need sunlight and air. For lucky bamboos, visit 'Kanon' BRAC nursery just opposite Mohakhali Aarong, and at the small outlet of the same in the Aarong parking lot. Nowadays you can find lucky bamboo sticks at shopping malls or superstores like the Aagora Gulshan outlet. As per the Chinese belief, the meaning of lucky bamboo is tied with the number of stalks and associated arrangements of those.  It would be good to remember the number first and match your purpose.  

Usually, nobody buys one stick. Two stalks represent love; three stalks represent Fu (happiness), Lu (wealth), and Soh (long life); five stalks represent the areas of life that represent wealth; eight stalks are for growth; nine for great luck; 10 stalks represent perfection; 21 stalks for a powerful blessing.

Lucky bamboo plants are never arranged in four stalks. In Chinese, the word four is close to the word for death. So be wise and remember that to avoid any blunder!  For further information you may visit:  http://archive.thedailystar.net/beta2/news/lucky-bamboo/

To Rohinee, New Bailey Road
Q: I am an avid fan of your column 'Loving & living with plants'. Thanks to you, I'm much more aware and conscious about living green. But sadly, I do not know why, I have not seen your column published on Star Lifestyle for too long. I am eagerly waiting to see your column again soon.

Could you kindly give me a short suggestion about pot-planting strawberries, capsicum, bitter gourd and spinach? I have an open balcony and I want to fill it up with these beautiful veggies and fruits. But I have no idea what kind of soil they need, when the fruits will grow or whether I need any kind of inorganic fertiliser to boost cultivation. I would be really glad if you gave me instructions about them.

R: Dear Rohini, thanks for your appreciation and encouragement. Perhaps you have noticed that I am back to writing the column.

As you are planning to convert your balcony to a green and colourful garden, the first thing is to revisit the space and check whether the area is getting enough sunlight and air during most part of the day. For any fruit-bearing plant this is the first and foremost criterion to fulfil -- the rest is selection of saplings and ensuring regular nurturing and nourishment.
I appreciate your idea of having strawberry and bitter gourd, capsicum along with fruits.  Great idea! You can add guava, mango, lemon and also keep a place for the olive plant. Have a map of the place -- for these high yield fruit plants you need large containers like drums. Then decide the area where the sunlight is brightest so that it can penetrate the soil and give life to the plants. Mark and measure the drum/container area and calculate how many you can place there.
Then create the second line with adequate space to create this line of veggies -- like capsicums, chillies, eggplant. On the other side of the balcony you can have the grape vine -- provided you have the required climbing support to this hardy and long -ife plant. You can plant your bitter gourd in the same manner.
For strawberries I would suggest a raised bed built in wooden fruit cartons with cement bag lining filled with sandy soils mixed with cow dung or compost soil. Remember that strawberry plants grow flat and with time creates new shoots to cover the soil. Later you can use those for expanding your area to grown strawberries. For eggplant or capsicum types you need medium-size containers available at all nurseries. If you have access to rooftop gardening, you can plan a whole list of things to play with your imagination. Regular and everyday care of your plants is necessary, not only in terms of watering, but for the good health and to keep them insect- and bug-free. Check the leaves of the plants regularly, wipe out the unwanted spots or guests and also check the soil once a week -- loosen the upper soil so that air and sunlight can be let in. Give some fertiliser in 6 weeks in 5/6 intervals. This nourishment is necessary for the roots to expand and be strong. Initially you may need assistance of the skilled people. These days, nursery staff are available on weekly contracts. Make some connection and get one for weekly maintenance of your balcony garden. He will guide you on everything necessary. For a larger space like in rooftop gardening, engagement of a regular person is necessary.

I forgot to mention that for strawberries and spinach used bathtubs are also good.  These are occasionally available at the open roadside space at Progoti Shwarani where old construction materials are sold. To grow capsicum and eggplant, individual containers/pots are good.
  Quality seeds are available in established nurseries located in different parts of the city and also from BRAC outlets and from the seeds shops. Best wishes to you Rohini!     

Please feel free to send me emails to share your thoughts, feedback, and photos of your garden, or to tell your story; or ask a question on the garden issue. Email: lifestyleds@yahoo.com

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BY THE WAY

Monsoon greens

Monsoon is the best season for planting, and also for preparing the existing plants for taking in the full pleasure of nourishment. Planting trees this season takes less effort on their establishment and maintenance.
Check your garden’s drainage system. Water mustn't stagnate in the garden: it can make plants rot easily.
Use the rain water for watering the plants by storing this water for few days during monsoon. You can store the rain water by filling big buckets kept out in the rain.
On the other hand, we should consider the level of rainfall the plants are exposed to. Erosion of fertile top soil in the garden due to heavy rains might occur and then the plants might be deprived of their natural nutrients in the top soil.

Published: 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2014

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