How to establish young plants

Image of a plant in a small container

You’ve just bought a young plant from the nursery, and want to establish it so it has good growth, becomes strong and shapely, and produces well in subsequent months/years. What do you do? Follow the steps below:

Give it good soil

For good growth, it is very important that a plant is given the sort of soil it likes. Many plants will tolerate other types of soil, but they’ll never reach their full potential in them. So, when you buy a plant, look up what kind of soil it likes – including soil texture, composition, and pH. Of course, there are many other factors involved, but these three are the most important. Keep in mind that if your soil isn’t the best, it can always be amended (often with free resources). It needn’t be replaced. A tie-in point here is that place the plant in an area where its light requirements are met. Put a sun-loving plant in direct sun, and a shade-loving plant in a shady nook.

Water it regularly

A young plant is sensitive, and therefore needs to be watered regularly. Ensure that it receives neither too little, nor too much water, for both of those will lead to its untimely demise. For most plants, when you water them, water deeply, so the roots grow down in search of water. If you water little and often (which is suitable for plants such as strawberries), chances of root rot are minimized, but the plant doesn’t develop deep roots, and so is likelier to dry out when water isn’t available.

Fertilize the soil

Give the plant fertilizer at regular intervals, as per its requirements. Most people agree that fertilizer should be given once a week during the growing season, once a month during winter, and not at all when the plant is dormant. If you want to grow it organically, you can fertilize a lot oftener, as organic fertilizers are a lot milder, and take more time to break down and become available to the plant. Another thing you’ll need to keep in mind is what fertilizer to give it when. For instance, most plants need Nitrogen when they’re growing, and Potassium when they’re flowering or fruiting.

Remove flowers, fruits, runners, etc

A lot of the time, nurseries sell plants that bear flowers or fruit, despite their being very young. This is done to make the plants seem attractive and healthy, but it is in fact detrimental to their long-term health. Flowers and fruits waste a lot of a plant’s energy, and a growing plant can’t afford that. If you let a young plant bear flowers and fruit and have baby plants, it’ll grow weak, and may die sooner as a result (and give poor harvests in addition). Remove all these in the plant’s first year – or in the first few months, if it’s an annual plant.

Trim it regularly

Trim the plant regularly to ensure healthy new growth, and so the plant doesn’t get leggy or woody. However, not all plants need to be trimmed, so look into whether your plant needs this. When trimming, the best thing is to remove any unhealthy growth, and pinch off the tips of stems just above a node. However, if you’re trimming heavily, or trimming a small plant, keep in mind that you must never trim more than 30% of the total plant. Note also that trimming is different from ‘cutting back’.

Keep pests and diseases away

Keep your young plant safe from pests and diseases, as these can weaken a plant significantly. A lot of diseases are caused due to excessive moisture or mineral deficiencies, so make sure you follow proper instructions for watering, fertilizing and hygiene. As for pests, most can be removed manually, but if that’s not possible, you can use organic insecticides such as diatomaceous earth, neem oil or chilli powder, or prevent pests from getting to the plant in the first place, by using netting or by practicing intercropping.

Bonus: If you want to grow more plants from it, just take cuttings when you prune. Win-win!



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