Gardening as a hobby is fast growing in Qatar. From large farmers and community gardening to home gardening, growing plants, herbs and vegetable scontinues to gain momentum.
It, however, comes with a price as the hot and humid weather often badly affects outdoor plants here, and home gardeners in particular need more knowledge and skill to take good care of their plants during harsh weather.
Vicky Damalou, a Greek agronomist based in Qatar, has long been a part of different projects related to agriculture and gardening. She believes that in a country like Qatar, where the weather is great for outdoor gardening eight months a year, gardening can offer many benefits, both mental and physical.
“Activities such as carrying soil, digging, bending over the plants and walking around the garden offer an opportunity for a workout. For the outdoor gardeners another benefit is the boost of Vitamin D.
“The mental benefits include a sense of achievement. Nothing feels better than knowing that what you see, or, even better, what you eat, was grown by you. Instant availability of organic food is another advantage. You can grow your own organic fruits and vegetables at home by skipping the chemical fertilisers and pesticides.”
The weather in Qatar in the summer can get really hot for the plants, just like for humans. “The soil dries out really fast and the plants lose a lot of water from respiration. This leads to increased water needs. The sun is also very strong and a plant located in a sunny spot will suffer during the summer, so it is better to place younger and more sensitive plants in shaded spaces and only leave established trees and shrubs under full sun exposure,” the agronomist underlines.
According to the expert, lots of plants might suffer during the summer, but people should not be discouraged by that, as in colder climates plants also suffer from low temperatures. Sharing her piece of advice on how the plants can be protected from harsh weather, Vicky said: “When you start, you need to choose the right plants. I always suggest to start with cheap plants and the plants that are hard to kill. As the possibility for a beginner to kill their plants is always high, it is wiser to choose seasonal plants, aromatic plants, vegetables or indoor plants like Zamioculcas or Sansevieria, and experiment on them.
“The second step is to read about your plants. Learn about them and their needs for light, water, soil, and temperature. Some plants like more light, some do not like wind. Some others need acidic soil. Most of the indoor plants need very little water.”
She further said: “People need to know if the space is very sunny, dark and if it is protected from the wind. We need to place the plants in a suitable spot.
“Watch your plants regularly and continue with their maintenance, which includes watering, fertilising, repotting, pruning and much more. These are few steps that will always help people take care of their plants during summer.”
Vicky also underlines the importance of consulting some experts to take good care of home plants. “Finding proper gardening advice online can be really confusing, especially when someone lives in the desert, and has to deal with extremely hot weather conditions. Consulting an expert when someone starts their gardening trip will definitely shorten the learning curve and save money from products that are unsuitable for the condition of your plants or, even worse, from killing plants.
“Most people might reach out for experts’ advice when the plants already show signs that there is a problem, but sometimes it is late by then. It is much better to learn the basics about gardening and the plants before actually bringing the plants in your house. An expert’s advice will give a good start for your plants in your home and save you a lot of time from worrying about them. Correct plantation and correct location of a plant in your space can save plants’ parents from many issues that might come up as a result from using the wrong soil or pot, or placing the plant in an unsuitable location in terms of light or wind.”
All of Vicky’s gardening workshops and consultations can be booked through www.hadiqaa.com
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