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Garden Operation


The preparatory work for gardening consists of a set of planned activities to grow the garden and later maintain it in a healthy and skillful manner. Maintaining a garden can be challenging and daunting but learning a few tricks and techniques will go a long way towards having that gorgeous garden you always wished for. It is essential for a garden to be well-maintained for the plants to bear the fruits, vegetables and flowers. In order to successfully build a vibrant garden one can follow a step by step procedure starting with preparing the garden bed from scratch. One of the first pre-requisites of it is the owners’ active participation:

How to start?

  • Selection of plants
  • Preparation of soil
  • Planting
  • Watering and feeding
  • Mulching
  • Pruning
  • After- care

Before directly coming to the garden, it is advisable to understand the basic general physiology of the plants. It consists of the roots, the stem and leaves; and basic functions each perform such as photosynthesis, respiration, uptake of water, minerals and nutrients.


Roots are basically a part of the plant, which usually grows under the soil. The first root that comes from a plant is called the radicle. After germination radicle grows downward from the seed to form a tap root. Tap root holds the plant in place. The lateral roots, which branches out horizontally from the tap root, absorb food for the plant which is present in the soil in form of moisture and minerals. Some plants have aerial roots (growing up above the ground or especially above water) or fibrous root systems (formed by thin, moderately branching roots growing from the stem). However, their functions are same - to absorb moisture and nutrients for the growth and development plants or to store foodfor the plants (in some cases).


The plumule (the young shootof the plant) develops into its stem which further divides itself to form the branches. A stem is the main part of the plant which supports the elevation of the leaves, flowers, etc and transport of fluids. Roots absorb water from the soil, which is transported to the leaves through the stem. The stem also transports the food prepared by the leaves to other parts of the plant.


Leaves are the green part of the plant, which perform photosynthesis and gas exchange which are the two main functions. Photosynthesis is the process where the leaves use sunlight to make carbohydrates for the plant by photo chemically acting with chlorophyll, the green matter of the leaves. This process takes place when carbon dioxide and water are available to the plant. Leaves also take in carbon dioxide from the air and release oxygen.


Flower, the most beautiful and ornamental part of the plant is the reproductive structure. The purpose of the flower is to attract the pollinators – winds, birds, bees, insects, etc which feed on the nectar produced by the plants. Pollinators carry the pollen from one flower to another which leads to fertilization. As seeds develop, the ovary grows into a fruit after which the ovary withers.


Pollination is the process by which the pollen is transferred by means of insects, winds or any other agencies from the male anther part of the plant and is deposited on the female stigma of a the same or another flower. This enables fertilization which allows the flower to develop seeds.

GERMINATION: The process by which a plant grows from a seed when it is supplied with the right amount of water and optimum temperature is called germination.


The first stage of planting a garden begins with sourcing the right plant material alongside preparation of soil. Plant material can be sourced in the form of seeds, seedlings or potted plants. The material should be procured from a reliable source & it always advisable not to compromise with quality at any cost.

Since seeds retain their germination power only for a limited period of time, one must ensure that the seeds are not very old, and have been collected and stored properly.

Seedlings should neither be too small nor too big. A four leaves stage is good for transplanting with height of the seedling in between 5 cm to 12 cm. Always ensure that seedlings are erect and strong - stem should not be weak and importantly, free from diseases.

While procuring potted plants, ensure that it has been raised in hygienic conditions and is disease free. Leaves should be inspected carefully for pests and diseases. The pot should be clean, the plant should not be pot bound, the roots of the plant should not be coming out from the bottom hole.

SOIL & its texture

Soil is the uppermost layer of earth’s crust which holds the plants in place which performs important functions - it is a medium for plant growth; it is a means of water storage, supply and purification and nutrient necessary for its growth. Soils of different places vary in colour, texture and chemical composition. Before starting a garden, it is useful to have some knowledge of the soil, as different plants have different soil requirement.

Soil & its pH

Soil pH is the measure of acidity or alkalinity of soil. The chemical character of soil can be divided in three main categories - Acidic, Neutral and Alkaline. Every plant has a preferred range of acidity – some prefer slightly more strongly acidic while some do best in soil that is more alkaline or neutral.

Garden soil can be tested in the labs of local agricultural departments or other related government agencies. For this, the soil should be collected in a bag from three different places of the garden after digging about 20cms.

pH has a scale of 0 to 14. At 7, soil is considered to be neutral; above 7, Akaline and below 7 is Acidic. Most plants do well in neutral or near neutral soil that has pH 6.5.

Slightly acid soil can be improved somewhat by addition of lime. Slightly alkaline soil can be improved by addition of humus and gypsum. For improving the chemical character of soil, it is better to consult an experts.

2.1 Measure your soil’s pH scale:
14 - 10 Extremely alkaline
10 - 9 Very strongly alkaline
9 - 8.5 Moderately Alkaline
8 - 7.3 Slightly alkaline
7 Neutral range
6.7 Slightly acid
5.5 Moderately acid
5 Strongly acid
4 Very strongly acid
0 Extremely acid

Soil can be divided into three main categories depending on its texture –

Clay soil has very fine particles. Their closely packed form, makes them heavy. This kind of soil has some disadvantages - it retains too much of water, makes aeration difficult and roots are not able to spread properly in this kind of soil. In summers, the upper layer of clay soil cracks which damages the roots and results in loss of moisture. The texture of this kind of soil can be improved by adding humus in the form of farmyard manure and leaf mould. Lime is also a good option, the chemical action of lime with soil and moisture makes the soil friable by loosening the fine particles. Another way to improve this kind of soil is by adding sand which make it porous.

Sandy soil has particles much larger than those in clay. They are big enough to be felt in the hand or in the fingers. This kind of soil is very porous and does not retain water. This again is a disadvantage as the water drains so fast that the roots are not able to absorb the moisture properly. The nutrients also get washed away with water which leaves the plants starved. This kind of soil also can be rectified by adding humus and lime. In this soil, these two ingredients work in a different way. Humus or farmyard manure and leaf mould help in retaining moisture for a longer period of time. Lime in this soil gives a cementing effect by binding the sand particles together. Chalk also can be added to improve the texture.

Loam soil is every gardener’s dream as it is the ideal gardening soil. It contains clay and sand in equal proposition. It is neither too coarse nor too fine. It is porous and has right amount of water retaining capacity and is aerated properly. Farmyard manure and leafmould are added to this kind of soil.


A good garden soil is one, which is well dug, well drained and well enriched. To enable the soil to function properly, it should be dug well to provide an excellent rooting zone for plants. Digging makes soil porous and helps in removing the junk like old tree roots big stones, garbage etc. The depth of digging depends on the types of soil and the types of plants to be grown in the garden. Clayey soil requires deep digging to improve the texture of the soil. For deep rooting plants also, soil has to be dug deeply. There are various methods of working the soil. Digging and trenching operations are employed generally for home gardens. Whereas ploughs and tractors are used for agricultural purposes.

Simple digging can be done with a spade. About 30 cm of soil is loosened and turned uniformly. Plants with shallow roots are content with this level of dragging. If the land has to be dug deeper, then it should be ensured that the top 25 cm layer of soil remains on the top - this is important as this top layer contains the most productive part of the soil and has the micronutrients. This can be disturbed only in case of land where soil is uniformly good till the depth of 90 or 100 cms. In areas where soil is uniformly good, trenching can be done by transferring the soil from one strip of land to the other. After digging or trenching, the ploughed soil is leveled with the help of a strip of wooden beam and if possible, firmed up with a light roller.


Drainage is critical to plants’ well being. Efficient drainage is also one of the important pre-conditions for a good garden. Most plants hate water stagnation. Plants are very often killed by overwatering than under watering. Stagnant water suffocates the roots. And the lack of air kills the beneficial microbes in the soil die which results in rotting of the soil. To ensure good drainage, following steps should be taken:

  • 1. Usually a well dug soil is also a well-drained soil because during the course of digging, it is loosened to some extent. So dig the soil well.
  • 2. Manipulate the texture of soil, if the soil is clayey improve it by adding sand, humus and lime etc.
  • 3. Plant Beds should be prepared well and the base should be lined with gravel. If needed, the level of nursery beds can be raised by about 8 cms.
  • 4. It is ideal to give the lawn a slope of 5 to 10 cms depending on the size of the lawn.
  • 5. If the problem of water stagnation is acute, provide a drain around or on the side of the garden.

Good soil, apart from being well dug and well enriched should have enough nourishment for the plant to grow. Most importantly, it should be able to retain moisture. Soil mixture has to be prepared according to the plant type since different plants have different nutrient requirements. Some plants like nasturtium, clarkia, godetiaetccan thrive in poor soil. For most other plants, the soil has to be enriched by mixing the right kind of manures. For doing so, we must know about the basic needs of the plants and elements essential for plant growth.


The elements essential for plant growth can be divided into four groups:

Available in air and water
Called big three or macro-nutrients.Available in soil & in organic and inorganic manures.
Available in soil as micronutrients
Trace elements available in soil


Compost is organic material that can be added to soil to help plants grow - garden clippings, dry leaves, kitchen vegetable scraps, shredded paper -- and a dash of soil to create a concoction that turns into humus.

Things to keep in mind for making compost:
3.1 Where to make the compost Pit?

Any unused area in the back lawn may be utilized to form a pit for the compost pile. Earthen pots or drums with holes can also be used to make compost which should be kept on bricks or on an elevated surface so that the container is above the ground and the holes are not blocked.

3.2 Size of the Pit?

The length and breadth of the Compost Pit depends on the available area but the depth of the pit should be 3 feet. If one side of the depth 3 feet then the other side should be 3 and ¼ feet to give a little slant at the bottom in order to avoid stagnation of water.

3.3 Material to be used

All organic materials - house hold and soft garden refuse which is liable to quick decay should go into the compost pit. It may include vegetable and fruit scraps, fresh decayed or semi-decayed leaves, straw and farmyard manure.

For leaf moulds use only dry and fresh leaves, grass, and garden sweeping. Bamboo, Tamarind and Casuarinas leaves are the best to avoid.

3.4 How to fill the Pit?
  • When the pit is ready, start by spraying malathion (a pesticide) to make it free of insects. Then, put a layer of 1” to 2” of sand at the bottom.
  • Now, spread the garden and kitchen refuse upto to 10”-12” in height evenly. Sprinkle a handful of lime and neem cake.
  • Add 1 spoon of urea and 1 tea spoon of B.H.C. If the pit is big you may increase the quantity.
  • Now top it with a layer of cow-dung manure about 1”, spread it in such a way that it forms a layer.
  • Repeat this process three times.
  • In the end the pit should be 6” to 8” higher than the ground level and should be sealed tightly by cow-dung manure.
  • Except the top layer of soil, the other should not be too compact otherwise bacteria will not develop for want of enough aeration.
  • Turn the pile regularly, once every week or two.

Sprinkling of ashes or lime on each soil layer will keep material sweet and accelerate its decomposition. Woody branches and other material difficult to decay may be burnt and the ashes may be added along with the rest of material.

Leaf manure can be made similarly. The compost in the pit will be ready in six months. To get the manure throughout the year you may have to make two such pits. While the compost is being made in one, the compost already in the other pit can be used. You can hide the pit by any flowery or vegetable creepers.


Liquid manure are used extensively to accelerate growth at a time when the plant is well established as a nutrient enriched fertilizer. It not only provides nutrients to the plants but also serves as pest control.

For flowering plants it is given when buds are forming.

For ever green, it is given during their most active period.

For fruiting trees when fruits are setting till they change colour.

To vegetables during the period of active growth.

Liquid manure not to be given when the plant is small or is in a dormant period. The soil of the plant must not be dry when liquid manure is given. Water it an hour or so earlier. For a big tree never near the stem but away to the extent of the entire spread of the branches.

4.1 How to make Liquid Manure

Liquid Manure may be organic or inorganic. Fresh cow dung is the most common organic liquid manure. In case of non-availability of cow dung, neem cake soaked and fermented may be used, although it will take little more time to get ready.


Take a 16 KG Ghee tin or a big earthen pot. Cut the plants into small pieces and fill the pot. Add water to fill up till the top. Wrap ash and cow dung in a muslin cloth and tie a knot with a string and suspend it in the container. Keep the container in a corner and cover it. Stir the water every day. It will be ready after 5 to 6 days if the weather is not very cold. Add water to form a mixture so that its colour is that of pale tea.


  • Planting work to be carried out in late in the afternoon.
  • Provide little shade till it is established.
  • The soil where the plant is to be planted must be prepared in advance.
  • Plant to be uprooted be watered in advance. Ideal condition is that the soil is moist and the plant is dry.
  • Dig the plant with its roots intact.
  • Spread the roots as they grow and do not let them crowd, twist or interlock.
  • If a stake is required, stake the plant as soon as the roots are spread.
  • Hold the plant in the left hand and spread the roots with the right hand.
  • After the last lot of soil mixture has been added, firm the soil.
  • A safe guide regarding the depth of planting is that the portion inside the soil should be up to the original soil.
  • After planting, water gently with a can.
  • Put the plant in shade.

Staking should be done elegantly. It is an essential gardening procedure for some plants. The main purpose of staking is to provide support to the plants. So it is better to plan for staking early in the season especially for plants which are weak or plants which are tall or are hybrids with large flowers.

Staking should be firm.

Length of staking depends on plant.


Stakes may be bamboo, cave wood or sarkanda. Naming of plants can also be done for identification.


Light watering before sun rise for a plant subjected to heavy frost at night is essential to remove the after-effects of frost bite.


Terrace gardening is an urban phenomenon. With the shrinking landscapes and emergence of multi-storey buildings, the culture of having a kitchen garden in the backyard gradually got lost. Garden lovers are nowadays slowly shifting to terrace-gardening. A terrace garden may be a continuation of the ground garden for those who have an advantage of possessing both. Or, it may be a substitute for a ground garden.

Pot-culture includes garden created on concrete and stone, inner courtyard, balconies, verandas and on roof-tops. All broadly come under terrace gardens. One can build a garden on several levels and by using varieties of containers well-suited to the architectural designs of different houses. Like ground garden, terrace garden can also be ideal with proper landscaping.

  • Scarcity of water supply.
  • Difficult to transport of loam, manure etc.
  • Difficult to transport heavy containers.
  • Limited choice of plants as plants with deep roots will not be able to grow.
  • Requirement for more labour.
  • More cost of garden operations.
  • Special shade arrangements for the plants during summer or winter.
  • Special requirement of leak proof and load bearing floor.
  • Special requirement of drain pipes.

These limitations, however, can be overcome with the will and determination to have a beautiful vibrant garden and the love for nature.

6.1 Protection of your Ceiling

Terrace gardening require some preparatory work such as leak proofing the terrace and ensuring a load bearing floor with suitable drain pipes. If your terrace meets these basic requirements, it can give you the same thrill as of ground floor garden. Pots and containers should be kept in such a manner that excess water does not stay on the terrace. To avoid this, every container should either have plastic plate or wooden or iron stands so that pots and containers are not placed directly on the roof.

6.2 How to select the right Location

Usually on the terrace, there is plenty of sun light. Depending on the needs of the plants, one can place the plants in shady corners or on areas receiving more sunlight. Another problem in terrace gardening is, in summers there is too much of sun and in winters there is a fear of frost bite. Small green house like arrangement is required to provide shade. This may be arranged with a light, mat-like material of nylon net, through which air and sunlight can filter supported by a frame. Material popularly known as “Sirki” with Bamboo supports may also be appropriate. Grape-wine can also serve as a Green house, water-supply.

Different types of containers

Earthen pots are best as they retain moisture and are easy to shift and move around.

Cement Pots look better, but are heavy and have less water retention capacity.

Ceramics Pots are used for ornamental Bonsai Plants. Pots should be properly washed and soaked in water before use.

Wooden Basket or Boxes – two things need to be kept in mind while using this. First, before using wooden baskets, its inner surface should be coated with a mixture of kerosene and Charcoal and outside with green paint. This is to prevent the baskets from rotting as well as to give them a good look. Second, wooden baskets should be of good quality which will be durable. For preparing seedlings shallow containers are ideal.

Hanging wire baskets are baskets are good for flowers, vegetables and green plants which have tendency to fall down.

Drums- large drums cut half from above and marked with three to five holes to let the excessive water pass. They are good for fruits and citrus fruit trees.


Use clean pots: New clay pots should be soaked in water for about half an hour, otherwise they absorb too much of moisture from the soil. Old pots should be scrubbed both inside and out with coconut fiber and even washed in hot water to remove all dirt and moss, which would otherwise prevent good aeration of the soil. Cleaning also removes remnants of past disease, fungus spores etc. But on no account should the pots be wetted immediately before use as the new soil would stick to the pot and would interfere with aeration.

Use clean crocks.

Use suitable soil. It is necessary that each king of plant should be grown in a soil mixture which is best suited for it.

Potting soil should not to be very dry, wet the soil before potting and repotting. It should be moist, not too dry and not too wet.

Pot firmly.

Allow space at top for watering.

Don’t use oversized pots.

Don’t plant too deep.

Put in shade after potting. The plants should be removed to a shady place until root action commence afresh.

7.1 Potting Procedure

Fill the pot with crocks, add suitable compost to a sufficient depth with its centre somewhat elevated to a point.

Hold the Plant in the centre with its roots carefully distributed round the conical shaped soil. Sprinkle fine sand over the roots covering them.

Add compost all around, gently firming with the addition of each layer till about 2 cms of space is left on top in case of small pots and 3 cms in case of larger pots.

This space is required to hold water while watering.

Ensure that too much space is NOT left above the soil surface, it will make the water accumulate in the pot and cause root rot. It will also cause leaching of the nutrients. When potting is finished, check that the level of the soil is up to the first pair of true leaves in case of seedlings; and in the case of all other plants replanted, it should be upto the level of the mark on the stem upto which it was earlier buried in the previous pot.


Water the plants which is to be repotted an hour or so before the operation for easy removal of the ball of earth from the pot. If the soil is dry, it is just likely that the ball of earth will not come out easily and pulling the plant might damage the roots. Moist soil will give way for the soil to pull out easily if watered immediately before repotting.

Now keeping the right hand under the surface of the soil and holding the pot in an inverted position with the plant between the first and second fingers, gently tap the rim of the pot against a protruding object such as the edge of the potting branch or the edge of another pot, keeping the other hand on top of the inverted pot.

The ball of earth comes out clean from the old pot, if however it does not come out, push the soil through the drain hole with the finger or a blunt stick. If it still does not come out, break the pot to free the soil from it. Gently remove all crocks under the ball of earth and all the superfluous and old soil. Carefully draw out the decayed and superfluous roots around the ball of earth. Now the plant is ready to be repotted.

Repotting why and how it is done:

When a growing plant fills the pot with its roots, it means that the plant needs a larger pot for its growth. Repotting can be done when weather is not very cold or very hot.

Repotting is also done when the soil has gotten old and turned sour in which case the ball of the earth is broken up to free the roots from as much of the old soil as the safety of the plant permits.

Repotting is also done to provide fresh rich soil for the roots in which case, the ball of the earth is reduced in size, and the plant is put again into the same pot. This should be done when the roots are in active growth.