When I read last week's column, I realised that I had been day-dreaming at the keyboard about what I would include if I were to write a book on plants and gardening in Thailand and did not actually answer Jan Steuten's letter. A resident of Chiang Mai for 21 years and an avid gardener, he wanted to know how to take care of indoor and garden plants, which was why he was asking whether there was such a book in English to guide him.
TIME TO SHINE: Right, above left and below left: Flowering plants like hibiscus, plumeria and golden dewdrop need full sun.
Like people, plants have their basic needs. These include soil, water, light and air, although not necessarily in that order. Tillandsia do not need soil and are happiest hanging from tree branches or perched on chicken wire; vegetables can be grown in just water and nutrients through hydroponics; and plants like the invasive water hyacinth just float on water. But most plants need soil to thrive. These days, many gardeners are using soilless media, such as chopped coconut husk, for their plants, but in such cases they need to be watered and fertilised more often than those grown in a mixture of loamy soil and organic matter such as compost or leaf mould and decomposed animal manure.
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