30 March 2017
Fabian Capomolla via realestate.com.au
As a gardener, I often meet people who claim to have black thumbs.
All sorts open up to me about the plants they’ve killed over the years – rattling off leafy victims like a list of their prior convictions.
But I’ve also noticed that so-called black thumbs share at least one thing in common: They genuinely want to change their plant-killing ways.
I have more than one story to share of a tragic plant loss. But does that make me a black thumb?
Personally, I don’t believe there are black thumbs, just lazy gardeners, and I mean that in the nicest possible sense.
The modern ‘garden’
No matter your lifestyle, or the amount of time you have available for gardening, there’s a perfectly matched plant for you.
Plants do make a great addition to any home. A healthy garden can improve the value of your property and also make it a nicer place to live.
Now, when I say ‘garden’ I mean something more than the typically Australian concept of sprawling front and backyards.
With increasing numbers of people living in apartments and smaller homes, I’ve noticed a real shift in the way we approach gardens. We’re starting to bring them indoors.
Indoor plants are great for cleaning the air of toxins, using up carbon dioxide and producing oxygen. They’re also great for cooling a space.
Overall, keeping company with plants is said to improve your mental health and make you feel good.
If you’re on Instagram, you might have come across the hashtag #plantsmakepeoplehappy, which sums it up in one, rather long word.
Green thumb vs black thumb
So, there’s proof that plants make people happy. But what about people making plants happy?
I truly believe that everyone has a green thumb and the ability to keep plants thriving. It just comes down to finding the right plant for you and your lifestyle.
In my experience, the difference between a green thumb (a good gardener) and a black thumb (a lazy gardener) is simply the process of observation, followed by informed action.
In most cases, people skip over the first step, and just do.
This might mean watering without checking to see if the soil is dry, or placing a plant that needs lots of light in a dark corner of the house.
Sometimes, people just forget, and plants die of neglect.
If you think you’re a bit of a lazy gardener, there are plants out there that can cope with some degree of neglect.
The reality is that there’s no such thing as “no maintenance plants”, just those that are naturally robust and require minimal maintenance.
So, I’ve suggested a few shortcuts to make the most of your low-key approach to gardening, together with a handful of plants that require little effort for maximum rewards.
Lazy gardening shortcuts
1. Choose low-key plants
If you’re a low-key gardener, choose plants to match. You’ll have the best chance of success with plants that don’t demand much attention, like mother-in-law’s tongue (Sansevieria trifasciata) or potted cactus.
2. Start slowly
Thriving indoor jungles look great, but require constant upkeep. My advice is to start small and gain confidence in your gardening first. Pick two or three plants and learn to look after them before investing in more.
3. Soil matters
Most plants set their roots down in soil. So, it’s important to pot your plants using a mix suited to their needs. Succulents, for instance, do better in a well-draining soil. Most other low-maintenance plants will be happy with good-quality potting mix.
4. The right light
Light is essential for plant growth, but some plants need less than others. To ensure your plants thrive, choose the right spot for them. As a rule, put succulents and rosemary in bright, sunny positions. Plants like mother-in-law’s tongue and Devil’s ivy (Epipremnum aureum) will be able to survive (and even thrive!) in medium and low light conditions.
5. Get a moisture meter
Over-watering and under-watering are two of the main causes of plant death. If you’re not sure when to water your plants, help is at hand! Soil moisture meters are a cheap and easy way to gauge when to get the watering can out. Stick the meter in the soil and let it do the work for you.
Or, rather than a machine, use your hands! Stick your finger on to the top of the soil, and if the soil sticks to your finger – it’s damp. If it doesn’t, it’s time to give the plant a good water.
6. Observe your plants
Observation is the first step towards becoming a better gardener. Instead of just walking past your plants, stop and say hi. Admire them and listen to what they have to say. Floppy leaves? The plant might need more light or water. Brown patches? The plant might be sunburnt, overwatered or diseased.
Observe your plants and then act on the messages they’re sending you. Like I say, I don’t talk to my plants, but they do talk to me.
7. Treat your plants (every so often)
Everyone needs a bit of TLC sometimes and that includes plants. You can treat your plants by fertilising them during their growth period, shifting them to a brighter spot now and then, and splashing them down in the shower after a long period indoors, to remove dust from leaves.
However, the number one killer of plants tends to be kindness. As for other relationships in your life, a little freedom goes a long way.
8. Get a plant-sitter for holidays
Remember to care for your plants even if you’re off on holidays. Recruit a friend to pop in and plant-sit, or give all your plants a good water before heading off on a short getaway.
9. Don’t worry
Gardening is all about learning. It’s OK to kill one or two plants along the way if you learn from missteps and mistakes. Keep things fun, keep learning and the plants in your home will be all the happier.