How can I grow Plants for free?
Annuals and bi-annuals
What are they? Annual plants are those that live for only one year. Bi-annuals live for two or sometimes three years. Many vegetables and some of the most colourful flowers fall into this category. These plants should be grown from seed.
Can I get seeds for free? Store-bought seed will produce uniform results since these plants are hybridised for a specific purpose: bigger fruit, a specific flower height or colour and so on. Most seeds are relatively cheap, but you can also harvest seeds from friends' gardens or even from vegetables such as tomatoes that you have bought and which are now beginning to go off. You can also save the seeds from fruit and vegetables like red peppers (the green ones are unripe, so are less likely to have usable seed), chillies, pumpkins, squash and melons.
When should I plant them? Check what the correct time of the year is to grow these plants in your area. Lettuce and peas, for instance prefer cooler weather, whilst tomatoes, basil and marigolds love hot weather. If you live in a mild climate, some annuals such as spinach, beets and radishes can be grown all year round.
What if I have to store them for a few months? Make sure that the seed is clean and dry and store it in paper bags rather than plastic ones to avoid mouldiness.
How do I get them growing? As a rule, sow seeds on well-prepared soil and cover with just enough soil to conceal the seed. Bigger seeds like peas and beans can be pressed into the soil with your fingers. Water them well, and don't let them dry out until they've grown proper roots.
When growing vegetables, don't sow all your seed at once ' space out your sowings by two to four weeks so that your plants won't all be ready for harvest at the same time.
Do I really have to thin them out? Once the seeds come up, make sure that the spacing is right. If you've sown too thickly, this might mean pulling up a lot of your lovely little seedlings and throwing them away! You can try transplanting them to a place elsewhere in the garden if you've got space or you can bundle them with the roots in damp newspaper and give them to friends.
What are they? These plants live for more than two to three years and range from herbs like lavender and oregano to shrubs and trees.
How do I grow perennials? Perennials can be grown from seed, divisions (in the case of clump-forming plants like grasses and bulbs) or from cuttings.
Why grow from seed? Seed-grown plants tend to be bushier, but may take longer to mature. When plants are difficult to grow from cuttings, seed may be the answer.
What's the best way to do it? It's best to sow such seeds in containers and transplant into larger containers before placing them where they are to grow since this makes them easier to look after.
What sort of things can I grow from divisions? Bulbs and rhizomes like Ginger, Irises and various lilies can be grown from root divisions. Clump-forming plants that root as they go can also be divided as can grasses.
How and when do I do it? If the bulb has a dormant season, the time just before it is expected to sprout is the best time to divide the clump. Evergreen clump forming plants can be divided after flowering. Water them well after planting.
Is it difficult to grow plants from cuttings? Many plants are easy to grow from cuttings, but there are some that will require special care and attention and even special facilities such as bottom heating and climate control. Try a few of everything you like to grow and see which plants are easy and which are difficult. Results will range from 100% to 0%. Try the ones that didn't work out at a different season.
How does one grow plants from cuttings? There are many different types of cuttings: root and leaf, hard and softwood. Your approach will depend on the plants you are trying to grow. African violets and certain succulents, for instance, grow easily if you pick a leaf and plant it. This won't work for everything!
What works most of the time? Use firm, green tips of plants 3 ' 5cm long. Some people say you need to have at least one leaf-node under the ground, but in my experience propagating plants commercially, this is not usually necessary.
Plant the cut tips in rich potting soil and water well! Place sticks or a wire hoop to support a clear plastic bag with which you will cover the container to keep the cutting's environment humid. Make sure the container is in a cool, shady place. Remove the covering daily and check for rot. If rot has begun, uncover and hope for the best!
Usually, you will water your cuttings once to twice a day for the first two to four weeks. After that, you should be able to begin reducing watering.
When the cuttings begin to show new growth, uncover them, but keep them in a shady area until they are growing strongly. Put them in a sunnier place that still gets filtered light for at least two weeks, and then they can be moved into the full sun!
Written by : Andrea Durrheim, South Africa
Edited by: Rajesh Bihani ( Find me on Google+ )