Grow your own

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

It is the time of year of when we make resolutions to be healthier, eat better and exercise

It is a fact of life that most of us do not keep to our new year’s resolutions, but there is one catch all resolution solution which could allow you to eat better and get a little more exercise and fresh air.

 

That solution is gardening. Yes, it is possible, even in Dubai, if you are dedicated about your watering regime and shop around for the right plants to suit the Emirate’s climate.

 

Even the smallest of outside spaces, such as balconies, have gardening potential, if you are willing to put in a little work to get the conditions right.

 



 

Here are 10 top gardening tips to start you off.

Pottering

If you live in an apartment, the chances are your landlord or your building management will not be particularly happy if you cover your balcony in soil to start a make-shift flower bed or vegetable patch. So, the best solution is to buy yourself a selection of pots to get yourself started on the road to a greener balcony.

Terracotta army

China pots, although more expensive and heavier to carry, are better for our hot climate as the substance is porous and therefore breathable, meaning the heat can escape from the soil and your plants will be less dehydrated and require less water. They also look a lot nicer than their plastic counterparts, and providing you have no breakages will look better for longer.

Take heart

You will have noticed that our fair Emirate is home to hundreds of beautifully tended flower beds and shrubs that seem to survive despite the fierce summer heat and, the chances are when you start your garden you will not be able to achieve the same results. Look closer at the public flower beds and you will see sophisticated irrigation systems, hours of work from gardeners and that the flowers change regularly which all takes a tremendous amount of effort. So, if your blooms are not brilliant to start with, do not be downhearted, keep going.

Think local

Generally speaking, if you see a plant growing locally, you can probably grow it in Dubai yourself.

A rose by any other name

Desert roses are a common site in Dubai and can make great balcony or garden additions. The key is not to over water or over prune them - in other words, leave them alone - and you can expect a crop of flowers at least once a year.

Blue summer

Another plant that will survive on your balcony all the way through the desert summer is the blue agave, also known as the Agave Tequilana. This may not be suitable to a home with young children or pets due to its spikes and, it is super sensitive to touch and will shed a spine at the slightest knock.

The benefits of annuals

You will notice, once you get your garden going, that a fierce sandstorm can play havoc with your plants, turning them crusty and brown and all but killing them off. Concentrate on annual flowers like petunias, which you will see decorating many of the beds in Dubai’s residential areas, the delicate looking zinias and golden marigolds. While they too may fall victim to a sandstorm, they are so fast growing that you can plant new seeds directly in a trough or large pot and have replacements in no time.

We all say tomato

Tomatoes are often the first thing that young gardeners grow and for good reason as they are hardy plants. Plant seeds in a seed tray, water regularly, then, when the seedlings appear and have at least four leaves, plant out in separate large pots or troughs or a mulched bed if you are lucky enough to have a garden. Water regularly, fertilise when the first buds of tomatoes appear, and snap off the “side shoots” to keep the plants in a regular and manageable shape.

Grows like a…

Rocket and other small green leafy salad leaves are particularly satisfying to grow in pots because you can simply sow them and wait a matter of weeks, watering regularly, before you have something fresh and green to cut and add to your salad.

Finally, the flavour

Herbs can be challenging to grow as their small stature means they lose water quickly in the heat and are susceptible to desiccation (a state of extreme dryness). However, they are also fast growing and whatever comes up in your pots will probably taste great picked fresh. Dill is often very successful when planted in Dubai. Grow plenty in a pot, and when ready, cut and use when cooking fresh fish from Dubai Fish Market for a real home grown treat.

Filed Under: Lifestyle

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