Sat | Oct 23, 2021

Getting an indoor garden started

Wally grows a green haven; shares how you can too

Published:Saturday | August 14, 2021 | 12:08 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer
Wally’s Garden does not have many succulents, but he does have small ones like this cactus planted in a personalised teacup pot.
Wally’s Garden does not have many succulents, but he does have small ones like this cactus planted in a personalised teacup pot.
A home office can benefit from having a few potted plants whether on the table, floor or hanging from the ceiling.
A home office can benefit from having a few potted plants whether on the table, floor or hanging from the ceiling.
Andrew Walcott has earned the name ‘Plant Dad’. The hobbyist gardener takes extra care of his ‘green’ children by bathing them and making sure they have the right temperature, pH and a good supply water.
Andrew Walcott has earned the name ‘Plant Dad’. The hobbyist gardener takes extra care of his ‘green’ children by bathing them and making sure they have the right temperature, pH and a good supply water.
The task of taking care of an indoor garden is made easier with this soil meter.
The task of taking care of an indoor garden is made easier with this soil meter.
Andrew Walcott says although he does not spend a lot of time in the outdoor garden, he finds it relaxing to see the plants flourish.
Andrew Walcott says although he does not spend a lot of time in the outdoor garden, he finds it relaxing to see the plants flourish.
The Philodendron Xanadu is a large, compact, easy to grow plant but can be better trained with moss sticks.
The Philodendron Xanadu is a large, compact, easy to grow plant but can be better trained with moss sticks.
Every Jamaican should have an Aloe Vera plant at home and it can add to the aesthetic by the way it is potted and presented, like this is, on an old wooden chair purchased at a yard sale.
Every Jamaican should have an Aloe Vera plant at home and it can add to the aesthetic by the way it is potted and presented, like this is, on an old wooden chair purchased at a yard sale.
The Dieffenbachia amoena or ‘dumb cane’ is beautiful and survives indoors. However the story behind every plant is important, this one has a poisonous extract and is not recommended in homes with children and pets.
The Dieffenbachia amoena or ‘dumb cane’ is beautiful and survives indoors. However the story behind every plant is important, this one has a poisonous extract and is not recommended in homes with children and pets.
The Monstera are common house plants that can brighten up an entire space.
The Monstera are common house plants that can brighten up an entire space.
The button fern is beautiful when it receives proper care. It loves water but does not like soggy soil. It also does not thrive in direct sunlight.
The button fern is beautiful when it receives proper care. It loves water but does not like soggy soil. It also does not thrive in direct sunlight.
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In the middle of noisy construction coming from several housing developments in residential Kingston, marketing entrepreneur Andrew Walcott has made his home into a leafy haven full of charm and personal touches, and developed a life-changing love for plants in the process.

Created over the past four years, his plants have grown in parallel with his interest and knowledge in plant care and propagation. “I think my upbringing may have had an impression on my interest; my father was into plants, and he got that from his grandma, who was always taking care of plants. I wouldn’t say I was into it then, but appreciated what plants can do for a space. So, when I was moving into my own place about four years ago, I focused on getting plants I liked; those with big green leaves make me feel better. The surrounding atmosphere is warmer while the temperature is cooler,” Walcott told The Gleaner.

Walcott, affectionately called ‘Wally’, had no idea this passion would shape his life, to the extent that, from the entrance door of his residence to the kitchen and living room (and even his bedroom) to his home office, is generously filled with pots and plants. While leaf and stem succulents like the painted-lady (Echeveria derenbergii), cactus plants, and aloe vera are a first choice for many homeowners because it is believed they are easier to care for, he chose species that require a little more care. How did Wally select the plants he has and find time to care for them? “Gardening is learning,” said Walcott. “Start by researching indirect versus direct light and having no light and which plants prefer these types of lighting.”

Research never ends, he reiterates. “It gives me downtime to meditate, and I am an active rest person, and gardening is one of the ways I am able to do so. Throughout the day, when I take little breaks, that’s when I would water the plants and, on the weekend, I may take on bigger tasks like to repot a plant.” There is a huge plant community on social media where he has been given tips and information on plants within his home and offered some advice of his own. Here are five tips to growing a green haven like Wally’s Garden:

1Find out what plants best suit the décor of your home; take into consideration the availability of sunlight and temperature of the room. Having children and pets can make a difference (and not because they may damage the plants, but because there are some species that the florist or plant nursery may tell you can be harmful because of the extracts in the leaves, for example, the Dieffenbachia amoena or ‘dumb cane’).

2 Invest in the proper tools, not only pruning tools, hand forks and trowels, but soil meters. These will prevent a first-time gardener from making the mistake of potentially overwatering the plant. Another way to prevent overwatering is to allow the top portion of the soil to dry out in between watering for plants like the button fern. Testing how alkaline or acidic the soil is may also be useful.

3 Plants love a good bath. Walcott said, “I use a little liquid soap in water and gently wash or wipe the leaves of the plants. When there is dirt on the leaves, which is obvious when they are not as green, that means there is less photosynthesis happening.” It is also a good way to remove scales and small pests like spider mites that are not always visible to the naked eye. A soft cloth or even hands may be used.

4 Experiment with planting in old pots, broken bowls, teacups, or, if you prefer, start by planting seeds in store-bought trays in a small amount of organic potting soil and be sure to monitor their growth. Using a spray bottle that diffuses a small amount of water is the best option for watering.

5 Choose plants that fit into your schedule and ones you can possibly get new plants from. When you get deeper into gardening and planting, you will find plants like orchids, ferns or creepers like pothos and philodendrons can be propagated. Check out next week’s Saturday Living for Part Two, when Walcott shares how to propagate plants.

stephanie.lyew@gleanerjm.com