Beginner’s guide to taking care of plants
By Maria Montemayor
Posted on May 24, 2021
If you’re looking to pick up a fun and fruitful hobby, growing and taking care of a plant or two might be a great option for you. Gardening betters your mood and increases your self-esteem. For young adults, taking care of plants can reduce stress. When interviewed, gardeners who emigrated said that bringing things from their native country to their gardens allowed them to feel more “at home” in their new country. So, gardening is a great hobby to consider!
Picking your plants
Whether you aspire to create a greenhouse or tend to some plants indoors, the first thing you need to do is choose which fruits, vegetables, or plants you want to try to grow. In the summertime, you can easily harvest zucchini, tomatoes, or peppers outdoors in Canada. If you don’t have a backyard, you can still grow vegetables and herbs indoors like green onions, lettuce, and mint.
For outdoor flower gardens, you can plant annual flowers, which are flowers that bloom throughout the summer but don’t come back after the winter like petunias, begonias, marigolds. Alternatively, you can grow pansies or perennial flowers, which are flowers that bloom for a shorter period of time but come back each year, such as:
- coneflowers (native to Saskatchewan)
- hairy-beard tongues (native to Quebec)
- prairie crocuses (the official flower of Manitoba)
- Canada lilies (native to eastern provinces, extending all the way from Ontario to Nova Scotia)
If you want to take care of decorative plants, peace lilies, orchids, money trees, snake plants, and succulents are attractive indoor and low-maintenance options. If you have young kids or pets in your home, you must also ensure that the plants that you select aren’t sharp or toxic in case they touch or try to eat them.
Buying the materials
Once you have thoroughly researched and decided which plants you would like to grow, you can start buying the necessary seeds, pots, and soil. Make sure you purchase the proper soil for your plants. There are many different types of potting soils and mixtures. You can find specific mixtures for succulents (like cactus soil), flowers (like orchid mix), and seed starters. You can also buy fertilizers for your plants, vegetables, and flowers.
If you are able to examine the plants before purchasing them, choose those with healthy-looking leaves. Some retailers glue stones to the top of plants to make them look more appealing. Avoid buying these because glued stones can limit plant growth and weaken their ability to reach water. Try to buy plants without any extra decorations (glued parts, painted leaves, etc.), since those decorations can hinder their ability to thrive.
Growing plants outdoors
Since Canada has four seasons, if you would like to do outdoor gardening, you can start in the late spring for vegetable seeds and perennials. Annuals can be planted after the last frost date (a frost date is when temperatures fall to 0 °C or lower). Some species can be grown indoors during the winter time and moved outdoors during the summer like asparagus and parsley.
Make sure you select a flat area in your yard for your garden because it’s harder to work with a sloping garden. Put the garden in a sunny spot that is noticeable for you (e.g., just outside your kitchen window, where you’ll see it, near your mailbox, etc.).
Once you have chosen your area, remove the sod (the surface of the ground with grass growing on it) and—to keep weeds and grass from growing—cover the area with cardboard or newspaper sheets. Spread compost on the sheets and wait. You are starting a lengthy process known as “sheet mulching” or “layering.” It will take approximately four months for the compost and newspaper to decompose. Sheet mulching attracts earthworms (beneficial creatures for plant growth) and helps the soil hold onto water and nutrients.
When the compost and newspaper have decomposed, you can start planting seeds and transplants. Seedlings should be watered daily, and transplants can be watered every other day, but as roots become established, you won’t need to water it as often (e.g., once a week depending on the soil, rainfall, and humidity). Regularly inspect your garden for any insect pests or other issues.
Growing plants indoors
For indoor gardening and plant care, you have to consider the lighting in your home. All plants need light, although some, like succulents, prefer more light than others. Plants usually like to be located nearby south- or east-facing windows. You can invest in LED lights if you don’t have bright windows.
When it comes to watering, give your plants a good soak (make sure water comes out through the pot drainage holes), and empty out any extra water gathered in your plant saucers. Don’t water it again until the soil is dry to the touch.
Regularly inspect your plants. If any of the leaves become dusty, you can clean them with a damp cloth, toothbrush, or paintbrush. You can remove any dead or dried-up leaves. Now, whenever you examine your plants, check to see if they are growing properly and if they need any special care or attention.