Joburg Ash shares his top five plant care tips so you can be the ultimate Plant Parent
Ashleigh Machete might be better known to you as Joburg Ash, but he is the co-founder of the Jozi Food Farmer (JFF) and the ultimate power plant parent. A green-fingered entrepreneur, Ash has helped transform numerous unused Jozi inner-city spaces – from rooftops to alleyways – into micro-farms and gardens. The verdant JFF Rooftop in Braamfontein is Ash’s first public rooftop garden, a space that is part plant nursery, part teahouse, all gorgeous.
Ash is the first to confess that being aplant parent is a lifelong journey. Hands will get dirty. Roots will be pulled. Leaves will wither. Tears may be shed. This is why Ash encourages first-time gardeners to trust their instincts and not lose their sense of humor.
Here are Ash’s top tips to help both you and your plants thrive and grow:
1. Take time to get to know your plant
Do some research about your plants. Find out about their ideal growing conditions. Do they need to be indoors or out? Do they like light and if so, how much? What common problems do they experience? Do they like heat … or prefer humidity? Do they like direct or indirect light? Remember, plants originated outdoors and with indoor plants we’re trying to mimic their perfect growing conditions, indoors.
2. Spade Up
Fresh soil is really important, think of it like the foundation of a house. Your plant’s health depends on the nutrients and soil structure of your potting soil. One way to check if your soil is healthy is to make sure it isn’t dry and compact. Air and water need to be able to move freely in the soil to ensure healthy plants. Use a chopstick or gardening fork to create air pockets in your soil; do this before watering your plants, to help evenly distribute water.
Soil also needs nutrients. Fertilizers give your houseplants a good nutrient boost naturally and you can find many sources of nutrients in your kitchen, as well as your local plant shop:
- Aquarium water is high in nutrients and can be used to water houseplants.
- Seaweed based plant food and fish emulsion plant food are excellent organic fertilizers that can be used on ornamental and edible plants.
- Worm tea and worm castings are fantastic organic soil amendments, these can be purchased from a local nursery or harvested if you own a worm farm.
- Crushed eggshells are good for lowering acidity and adding calcium.
- Used coffee grounds for adding nitrogen
- Use used cooking water for a general dose of essential nutrients.
3. Dying for a drink
Know when to water your plant. Not all plants will need the same amount of water and the most important thing to remember is NOT TO OVERWATER YOUR PLANT. Overwatering, in simple terms, drowns your plant. If there is too much water or the soil is constantly wet, there are not enough air pockets, which results in a limited oxygen supply and plants are not able to breathe. Overwatering also increases the chances of your plant developing root rot, which can cause significant damage to a plant.
When plants have too little water, leaves turn brown and wilt. Incidentally, this also occurs when plants have too much water. The biggest difference between the two is that too little water will result in your plant’s leaves feeling dry and crispy to the touch while too much water results in soft and limp leaves.
So ensure you read through the care card information for your specific plant and pay close attention to the watering instructions.
4. Prune Away
Pruning, as defined by dictionary.com, is to trim a plant by cutting away dead or overgrown branches, stems or leaves. To keep your houseplants healthy and living their best lives, you should prune them regularly as dead leaves take away the nutrients needed for the new ones to grow. So in addition to helping plants grow faster, it also helps prevent disease and pest problems. Another reason to consider adding regular pruning to your plant chores is aesthetic; dead blooms and dead or yellowed leaves are simply not appealing to look at, pruning ensures that your plants stay looking as good (or even better) than when you first brought your plant home.
5. Bust the dust
Though tedious a task it may be, it’s important that you clean plant leaves on a regular basis. A layer of dust on the leaves of houseplants will block sunlight and reduce the plant’s ability to photosynthesize. Dusty plants also look dull.
By far the easiest way to wash a lot of house plants is to give them a shower – either indoors or out as mother nature intended. If indoors be sure NOT to use any soap and the temperature of the water should be lukewarm. Depending on the plant, other ways to clean your plants include using a damp cloth, misting or brushing.
And while you’re at it, inspect your plants for pests and fungus. Pests can lay eggs in the soil. Get yourself into a pest management routine. I do mine once a month. I’ll inspect the whole plant and if I see something, I’ll manually remove it with a cloth. Neem oil is an effective pesticide that gets rid of over 200 species of insects, not just a few. I put some in my watering can before watering but you have to ensure that the ratio is right so if you’re not sure, find out.
Bonus tip: ask for help
Whether you are a new plant parent or an experienced plant expert there’s always more to learn. Hook up with other plant parents on the free gardening app Candide.
Candide is a global community of plant enthusiasts who love to share knowledge, inspiration and advice. It has a Plant ID function to help you identify plants within seconds and you can also explore
their comprehensive knowledge base featuring thousands of plants, pests and diseases, as well as step-by-step how-to guides. If you don’t already have Candide, download it from the Apple App and Google Play Stores.