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Beat the monsoon blues and turn it into an advantage

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Beautiful Gardens of Doon-55

 By SUNITA VIJAY

The sweltering summer heat is giving way to monsoon clouds. The generous sprinkling of life-giving water from the sky is providing a new lease of life to the tormented plants and grass that has just recovered from the hot spell. Plants love the monsoon season’s warmth and humidity. This potent combination presents the best growing phase for them. A smart gardener or anybody who is a plant lover should use this phase optimistically, converting monsoon blues into a productive time. Monsoon season is not all green, it bears its own negative connotation too.

To take the garden to another level, I provide few handy tips that may help:

1. Double check the drainage system of beds and pots. In case of beds, either raise them or provide proper outlet for clogged water. In case of pots, take a screw driver and open the hole at the bottom of the pot to let the extra water drain out.
2. This is the time when fungus, mould and moss thrive. Keep the walking areas clean by scrubbing them regularly. Fungus may damage the plants. Use an organic fungicide or soap solution to be used as spray on plants.

3. Monsoon is an ideal time for mosquitoes to breed. Your yard or pots may hold stagnant water. Try to keep pots from water-logging. Do not use trays under the pots. It may hold extra water that drips from the pots and get accumulated, inviting mosquitoes to breed and spread dengue, chikungunya and malaria.
4. Avoid overwatering. The biggest plant killer is not lack of water but overwatering. It rots the roots or makes the soil compact and suffocating for the roots. Water only when the soil has turned absolutely dry. The humidity in the air during monsoon season is enough to keep the leaves hydrated.

5. Make the soil fibrous. If it isn’t – loosen it and add organic manure.
6. This is the best time for repotting. Prepare a good soil mix. Remove the plant from the pot carefully. Cut its extra roots. Place few clean pebbles inside the pot. Add the soil mixture and replace the plant. Water it. Keep in the shade for a couple of days to acclimatize and place it back at its appropriate place.
7. Earthworms are gardeners’ best friends. They provide fertilisation to plants at no cost. Look for them. If they are concentrated in one pot or one corner. Pick and spread them. Soon they will multiply to provide fertilisation to other plants.
8. Frogs and toads are very helpful in eliminating insects from the garden that pose a major threat to the plants. Let them be.
9. Monsoon season promotes un-shapely growth. This is the right time to prune extra branches. Remove all dead ends to promote healthy shape and provide looks. Give the desired shape to the unruly plants. In no time they will sprout and resume the desired shape.
10. Protect young plants from the piercing rain drops and clogged water. Young plants may rot and die. Keep an eye on these particular pots and try to protect them from direct rain hit.
11. Plants require a higher dose of fertilizer during rainy season. Most of the nutrients from the soil get washed away during this time due to rain. Keep refilling the pots with fibrous mixture. Add home-made compost, cow dung compost or vermicompost to the pots and beds. This is the best time for the plant to improve their health and vigour.
12. Do not let the water stagnate under the pots. Extra water will be absorbed by the pots and may give fungus a boost.
13. Snails and snugs may invade the garden. Keep spraying the plants and areas around them with neem-oil solution mixed with few drops of dishwashing liquid. Nip in the bud is the best prevention.
14. This is the appropriate time to replace, redesign and restructure your garden. Any plant can be uprooted and relocated, holding a good chance to survive and regrow.
15. On any day that passes without raining, turn over the soil to let it dry fully.
16. There may be some pots that require a relocation during this time. Be sensitive to their needs and act accordingly.
17. Prune the branches of overlooking trees, if any, to provide clear air and sun to your yard.
18. The bulbous plants or any other winter plants like begonias, geraniums, primulas, dahlias, chrysanthemums or lilies that have been kept aside as mother plants need special care. They may rot if kept in shade and in open during rainy season. Look for a strategic location.
19. Chrysanthemums saplings may not like more rain. They may turn black and die. Keep them under a roof or in a verandah where direct rain doesn’t affect them and sun reaches them too.

The above-mentioned handy tips are a mere revision for the seasoned gardeners and useful for the novice.
Monsoon season is not an easy-peezy period for the plants. But make the most use of it, clean up and reap the benefits later. Your plants will love you for this sensible treatment and your yard will glow with life.