Tag Archives: Soil

Are your plants getting the right amount of water?

watering-can-old-manTending to a garden is a liberating experience and lets you bring out the eco-philic side of you. Although looking after a garden is not rocket science, care must be given to all aspects to ensure your plants look healthy and fresh. One such aspect that is generally overlooked by most of us is watering the plants. Although it appears to be a simple activity, it is in fact one of the most misinterpreted, often with disastrous consequences for the plant. When understood and carried out properly, it is capable of significantly influencing the relationship with the garden.

So let’s start at the very beginning. While we say “we’re watering the plants”, we don’t water plants, we actually water the soil.

Yes, that’s right. Plants take in their required amount of water from the soil so watering the soil around the root zone (away from the stem) is most beneficial to the soil micro-organisms, and therefore the plant.

Equally critical is knowing that plants need moist soil rather than wet or submerged soil. Moist soil enables the water to break down necessary components in the soil into a small enough size to be absorbed through the plant’s root system. Over watering can lead to loss of nutrients and minerals and also decrease aeration.

Plants should be watered early in the morning and not late in the evening. Plant diseases are known to spread in wet, dark conditions and when we water in the late evening, water tends to stay on the leaves, making the plant more susceptible to catch mildew (a fungal disease). In daytime, if water does get on the leaves, it has a chance to dry out in the sunlight. Also, plants need water mainly during daylight to produce food, so watering early morning would ensure that they are able to carry out their activity.

Gardens are completely dependent on our watering and so it needs to be planned and regular. Erratic watering stresses the plants. Allowing the soil to dry out completely between watering is not a good idea and works only for specific plants. Most plants require consistently moist soil conditions.

How do you water plants?

For an urban home garden, there are several ways to water from the simple bucket and mug or rose-can (can with a shower-head nozzle) to the more planned drip irrigation mechanism.

Adopt a method that is best suited for you and one that does not waste water. As far as possible, try to harvest rainwater. Reuse grey water – i.e. water used for washing clothes or vessels for use in the garden. But remember this is only if we avoid synthetic detergents and use natural alternatives or other powders.

Mulched soil has greater water retention capacity and also provides nutrients. It is best suited for a garden. If you have a rooftop garden, ensure windbreaks to prevent uprooting of plants.

Paying attention to the health of the soil is the most important aspect of a plant’s health. Ensuring a well-proportioned mix of sand, red earth, compost and soil-building material (like cocopeat) is essential to make the soil loose, porous and to increase its water retention capacity.

The needs of each plant are different and so plan your gardening activity accordingly taking care of each plant to have a healthy and lively garden.

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Slow poisoning of soils

It’s a strange world that still seems to require scientific evidence to show that synthetic fertilizers slowly poison the soil’s health though they may increase farm productivity in the short term.

One large study done by the Indore Agriculture College in 504 villages found 70 per cent soil samples deficient in sulphur and 50 per cent deficient in zinc after use of synthetic fertilizers. Continue reading

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Soil pH has declined significantly since 1980s in India & China

Fertilizer-Burn on a cannabis sativa leaf.

Image via Wikipedia

Each plant and its soil life form have a particular soil pH it is used to. It is like blood pressure in our bodies, that varies many levels even within a day. Any change can lead to complications in the organism’s metabolism. Decrease in pH modifies top soils, a major source of crop nutrients.

Soil pH declined significantly from the 1980s to 2000s in nearly all crop production areas in India and China. Average decline was between 0.13 and 0.8. Typically pH value hovers at an average of eight across most lands of the world. Continue reading

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Listen to the land breathing…

Try this sometime. Find a starry night, go outdoors, lie down with your ear to the ground on a quite piece of land, and listen to the soil respiring, beyond the sound of your own breathing.

The soil-to-air cycle of carbon dioxide or soil respiration is a major source of CO2 emission. Continue reading

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Monsoon rains set to change pattern


In 2010, the monsoon rainfall was 29 per cent below average. Rainfall is predicted to fall in shorter, more intense bursts, over several regions in the years ahead. This will mean more powerful surface runoff and greater soil erosion. Farmers have to deal with more barren lands.

Continue reading

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Borewells add arsenic to your rice

A tap with a trickle in a Bellary village that was severely affected by October 2009 floods.

That borewells have depleted groundwater reserves sharply since the 1980s when they were brought on a largescale is something we all know. What is not known is that borewells also increase the groundwater contamination levels and increase the threat of fluorides and arsenic.

An estimated 1000 tonnes of arsenic is pumped up by tubewells and borewells annually and added to fertile soils in many parts of the rice bowls of India. Continue reading

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