Growing potted plants
Many people enjoy growing potted plants and I am one of them. I have always love to see what I can get to root and to flower and fruit.
I have often been said to be "green-fingered" but that was mainly because of my success as a home gardener when I lived in Ely in Wales. Surprisingly, since I have lived in Tenerife, where there is a much better climate, my efforts at growing plants in pots and containers have gone decidedly downhill. However, recently I figured out why!
Gardening tip: use real soil to grow your own pineapple
Real soil can be a lot better for plants than compost bought from the shop. It has all the natural minerals and nutrients plants need.
Growing potted plants
Problems with pests
Gardeners and farmers on Tenerife have terrible problems caused by insect pests. We have white fly, aphids, mealy bugs, red spider mite, caterpillars, scale insects and ants that transport the tiny insects they farm on to the plants you are trying your best to grow.
Getting rid of pests
The answer many resort to is to use insecticides but I don't believe in that approach. The problem is all the non-harmful methods of pest control don't make much progress in stopping the invading armies of bugs.
But I have realised it isn't just the numbers of pests that are to blame because many of the plants grown in pots are simply not very strong specimens. I have had plants with yellow leaves, spindly stems, poor growth and rotting in the soil.
Recently I was thinking about this and realised it was quite possibly due to the various potting composts I had been buying from shops here. You know the sort of stuff that comes in plastic bags in various sizes. Perhaps this was why my plants were not doing like I expected?
Now admittedly I have only got a balcony to grow my plants on but it gets plenty of sunshine and light. The strange thing is though that I have done much better on a windowsill of an unheated house in Cardiff in Wales.
A Welsh pineapple grown by the Bard of Ely
Homegrown pineapple oh the TV news
A homegrown pineapple
On HTV News
In those conditions I twice grew pineapples and made the HTV Wales news headlines with my achievement. I naturally thought I could do better again in subtropical Tenerife but I was wrong and lost the pineapple plant I tried growing here.
A big difference apart from the location and temperature was the growing medium. In my house in Cardiff I grew all my plants in simple soil I got out of the back garden and just filled the pots up with the stuff. Any earthworms that were included I thought would be beneficial in their new potted homes just as they are in a garden. The soil is as it is in nature.
Contrasting this with what you get with a commercial potting compost today is a growing medium devoid of all life. It has been sterilised. There are definitely no worms to circulate it with their tunnels and move nutrients around. The compost that comes in a bag is dead.
A solution from Mother Nature
And a problem
The solution I decided to try was to quit using the stuff from the shops and go back to using what comes out of the ground and is provided free of charge by Mother Nature. So when I go out for a walk in the neighbourhood I live in I take a trowel and a strong bag with me and collect some earth from any areas of waste ground I pass.
Now admittedly this type of soil has the seeds of weeds in it but I simply pull them out as they germinate. But what a difference it has made to my plants that are all looking stronger and have dark green foliage like they should do now. So my advice, if you are having problems growing house-plants in pots and containers and have been using compost you bought from a shop or garden centre, is to try using some ordinary soil out of the garden.
It makes good sense because it is full of natural minerals and plant nutrients and it's free!
Copyright © 2012 Steve Andrews. All Rights Reserved.
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