Few hobbies offer the rewards of seeing the fruits of your labour flourish. Here, Rachel Eapen reports on how to make your own outdoor area a garden of calm and colour.
Winter in Oman is at its peak, and that makes it a great season in which to get your green finger out.
Plants are sprouting up in gardens, and patches of vegetables are being lovingly cultivated by ambitious-but-practical householders keen to get it right.
Nurseries are selling plants, seeds, soil, fertiliser and pots for urban denizens to do up their back yards, balconies and terraces.
And gardening is a great way to unwind, detox from the digital world and get together with the family as well.
If you have never tended a garden, just get in there and get your hands dirty; quite literally. It’s a therapeutic, fun hobby and can boost your health.
1) Choose your plot or location with care
You need to access your garden patch or balcony and estimate how many hours of direct sun your space gets. Accordingly, plan the type of plants that will thrive as some grow well in semi-shade while others require more hours of sunlight. If your plant is languishing in the scorching sun, move it to a shaded area or install a shaded net. Start slowly and get a feel of what works.
2) Take care of watering
During winter, hydrate your plants carefully. Smaller plants are prone to over-watering or under-watering. Water the plants at the right time, preferably early-morning or evening. If the soil contains moisture, you won’t need as much water.
3) Potting soil
Invest in good nutrient-rich potting soil that is well-drained. Prepare your soil with fertiliser and compost by September before you plant seeds. Use a seed tray until they germinate and then transfer to your garden patch or pot.
The best winter garden fertiliser is compost. It contains all the kitchen scraps like vegetable and fruit peels or rotten veggies and will provide the best minerals to aid plant growth.
5) Prune and trim
Trim and prune once in a while, especially the dried branches, twigs and blooms. Doing so will boost growth.
6) Garden pests
Pests love gardens so look out for holes or cuts in the leaves to identify if your plants are being invaded. And if so, use Neem tree oil spray to keep them at bay.
7) Remove weeds
Weeds grow in every garden. They make our garden look unattractive and tend to share the water, nutrients and space from our plants. Pull them out but make sure you do so by the roots.
Start with a winter flowering plant like petunias, which can be grown from offshoots. They are very manageable and will bloom throughout our winter season. Similar choices abound, such as marigolds, chrysanthemums and Zinnias.
These trumpet-shaped flowers will bloom first thing in the morning. Sadly, they last only a day but will be replaced quickly with a fresh bloom. They can withstand heat during the year, but place them in a shaded area during the summer.
Bougainvilleas are known for their explosion of vibrant colour. They bloom all year round, and can be grown on your fence, balcony or even as a bonsai. A taller one will have to be tied up for support. Bougainvilleas need pruning occasionally but watch out for those thorns.
This thrives well both in summer and winter. It is a lush and enchanting plant offering splashes of vivacious shades. It’s easy to maintain and doesn’t always require water. Unfortunately, its sap is poisonous so keep it away from children and pets.
Known for its striking colour, the stem and succulent leaves are purple in hue, with lavender-coloured flowers. It thrives well in full sun, multiplies easily and looks great in a hanging basket. Easy to maintain, it needs more water during dry months.
This one gets ‘superstar’ status because of its health-giving properties. This grows best in large pots or in generous garden spaces as it keep multiplying and producing baby aloe vera plants. Its upkeep is straightforward and it grows easily.
Herbs are easy to grow as they need sun. All you need is a container with ample drainage holes. You can grow them in empty cartons or plastic bottle cut-outs. Types include lemon grass, mint, coriander and basil.
Home-grown vegetables are toxin-free. The right time to sow seeds is October and November, and you will reap the benefits before the summer. Broccoli, cabbage, capsicum, cauliflower, tomatoes, aubergine, ladyfinger and green chillies can all be cultivated.