By Mr Cash
Plants grow themselves all the time, all over the planet, without any help from the human race, but if you are considering capturing a few specimens from the wild and keeping them (alive and flourishing) in captivity, here’s what you need to keep in mind….
People often get themselves all tied up in knots when attempting to cultivate a plant or a couple of plants, often decide to do so rather whimsically and very often subsequently run into the jumbled holy grail of fragmented collective wisdom we call the internet, leaving them more agitated than ever, but FEAR NOT, for enlightenment is at hand!
Firstly, realize that when growing any plant, you’re actually growing 3 or 4 plants (or at least creating 3 or 4 environments for the plant), because just like us, plants go through different stages of life, and their needs differ slightly between these stages
Plants, during any of these life-stages, really only need 4 or 5 things to work, so simply repeat this 4 or 5-word mantra whenever you feel confused or defeated, and you will overcome all obstacles…
“ Earth – Air – Water – Fire - “9-1-1-! ”
Almost all of the other complicated and confusing technicalities are only going to provide you with only marginal gains and could almost be completely ignored (at least until you turn into an ADVANCED grower yourself) and who really cares about that 33rd potato that never happened when you’ve just managed to harvest 32 amazing potatoes with your first attempt at growing them?!
You’re going to want to stick your roots into something yum
As man cannot life from water alone, so do plants need some solid sustenance to keep them healthy and growing well. In nature, fertile soils and loams provide plants with all the mineral blocks they use to build themselves, so you are going to want to replicate this with…
A healthy organic soil mix (eg. Floragard BestGreen). Just add water…
OR a full-blown “the food is in the water” soilless hydroponic setup.
“We need to breathe man!”
Plants are weird, they need nice fresh air for both their root systems and also for their leafy bits.
Fluffing out your soils or substrates with airy stuff ( Perlite and/or LECA ), or aerating your nutrient solutions (your “food-water”) with air pumps and air stones when doing hydroponics, will go a long way towards achieving this goal without any real fuss.
A fan or two to suck stale air from your grow area (if you are indoors) will take care of the leaves’ breathing requirements.
Don’t drown your soils or substrates with water, don’t let them dry out either. Maintain a “slightly moist” feel to them.
In hydroponics, design and operate your system to always have at least some roots out of the water…. Just another way of saying… don’t drown things.
There is water in the air… avoid dessert or sauna air as a general rule of thumb
Fire is magic!
For plants, the magic is two-fold, it not just the warmth of fire (the sun), but also the LIGHT ENERGY that they use to magically transform rocks into Strawberries!
Everything has a temperature… earth, air, water… and all this is regulated by… THE FIRE. Keep your root-side around 22 degrees Celcius and your leaf-side around 24-27 and all should be well. Temperature controllers are great for these kinds of things.
Light IS energy… The sun provides us with around 1000 Watts of energy per square meter! Some plants love the full force of this, while others have evolved to grow with less, due to circumstances I would guess, so KNOW YOUR PLANT when trying to mimic a miniature sun if you are indoors and try to match its preferred natural light requirements.
We commonly measure light with a Lux-meter (Even using free apps that work with most smart-phones)
For indoor growing you would need :
15 000 to 20 000 Lux for lowish light plants or younger plants
30 000 to 40 000 Lux is a good average for the indoor growing of developed plants
60 000 to 80 000 Lux is a LOT of light
( PLEASE CALIBRATE YOUR PHONE TO READ 100 000 LUX IN DIRECT SUMMER SUN, if you choose to use this “ballpark” method, BEFORE measuring your indoor light source )
The COLOUR of your light is also important. If you choose to stick to “Blue & Red” instead of “Full Spectrum White” MAKE SURE your light has MULTIPLE HUES OF BLUES AND REDS IN IT, preferably with a bit of infra-red thrown in as well, not just one tone of blue and one tone of red.
The COLOUR and DURATION of your light cycle also becomes important when trying to imitate the change of seasons while indoors, when you are attempting to trick your plants into flowering and subsequent fruiting. Plants normally flower either in Fall or Spring, so knowing your plant once again will guide you through your lighting regime.
“We need a doctor in here, stat!”
Just like we humans need a good bit of medical attention every once in a while, your plants may need a bit of medical 9-1-1 every now and again… to basically not die when preyed upon by pests or diseases.
These things have a tendency to creep up on plants from unseen corners and can happen at the roots, on the stems and leaves, even INSIDE the plant, sometimes rapidly, so always keep an eye out for signs of ill health and treat accordingly a.s.a.p.
Insects are quite common… worms, flies, aphids, etc…insecticide!
Bad Fungi also happen… molds, rots, etc…fungicide!
Sadly also terminal cases, like Mosaic Virus or Black Rot… R.I.P, sorry.
Plants will also show sign of unhappiness because of an imbalance of the other 4 elements, and a distinction needs to be made between the two. Plants also naturally cannibalize and then drop their own lower/earlier leaves as they grow and this is nothing to be worried about.
Each species of plant on earth has evolved to “fit” into some permutation of the earth-air-water-fire combo over millennia.
Thus, when attempting to cultivate any plant in captivity, try to imitate the conditions of the four main elements that it has learned to love for each of its life-stages.
Happy GROWING !!!